First Steps: Sneakerhead Culture in the Philippines is Still in its Infancy—Where Else Can It Go?

If the shoe fits, wear it.

Aside from their religion, Filipinos “worship” basketball.

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Courts of all sizes—from college to pro, down to the barangay level—regularly draw Filipinos who have their eye on the ball.

Hoping to one day match the height, skill, or even just the vibe of the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, the Philippines has fallen in love with the phenomena that are sneakers.

Big shoes to fill

“With some of the biggest names in basketball…having one of the biggest sneaker lines, it is but natural that Filipinos get themselves involved in the sneaker culture,” Duey Guison, who runs the sneaker and streetwear-focused lifestyle platform This is Hype PH, tells Lifestyle Asia.

Filipinos have also been impressionable to other influences aside from basketball, both from the West and the East.

“We love consuming any content coming from the West, and Filipinos themselves would like to own a piece of that culture–be it through sneakers, apparel, or any other form of exclusive merch. These days, with the rise of Eastern Pop culture like K-Pop, Filipinos also are inclined to be part of the sneaker culture…because of what their favorite idols wear both on and off-stage,” Guison explains.

An enthusiast himself, Guison has spent around P250,000 on sneakers in the span of 13 years since he started collecting these back in college.

The appeal for him is owning a part of pop culture that resonates with his lifestyle preferences. A big fan of the simplicity of Dunks and Air Jordans, he would monitor their upcoming releases, mark his calendars, and hope that he manages to cop them at retail.

“Speaking of copping sneakers at retail, one particular sneaker I’m proud of owning is the Pirate Black Yeezy Boost 350 from 2015. While they have seen better days…it is one of the very few hype sneakers I have in my collection that I was able to purchase at retail price,” Guison elates.

Head over feet

Notwithstanding its impact on the Philippines, sneakerhead culture is still in its infancy stage in the country.

“Sneakers have been a staple globally since the ’80s to ’90s. Only until recently did it proliferate in the Philippines when we as a country can now enjoy sought-after pairs without going out of the country to get one,” Michael Maglipon, president of lifestyle sneaker boutique Sole Academy, historicizes.

When Sole Academy started a decade back in 2011, there were only around 25 generic sneakers stores offering entry-level items. Now there are over 150 stores nationwide, retail price-driven and resellers alike.

Moreover, according to This is Hype PH’s head, local personalities like Julius Babao, Martin David, Jeffrey Cariaso, Carlo Ople, and Bigboy Cheng are proof that sneakers have finally landed in the Philippines.

He said the local sneaker reselling industry has even grown to offer a wider variety of sneakers beyond the typical Air Jordan retros and Yeezys.

“What makes them quite essential in the country is that a number of top resellers do have access to some sneakers that are not officially sold in the Philippines. Aside from that, the nice thing about being friends with resellers is that you get insights on what’s the latest hype and the latest trends in sneakers and streetwear,” Guison explains.

In a documentary, Jed Oblinida explained the lucrative side of purchasing then flipping shoes for a higher amount, which he would then use to buy even rarer kicks.

“It became an addiction until it grew so big without me noticing. From my hobby, I jumped to applying a formula to earn even more,” Oblinida, owner of sneaker reselling platform Mendiola Carter, recalled.

Oblinida even sold sneakers to high-profile customers like Vice Ganda, Shanti Dope, Gloc-9, Ronnie Alonte, and basketball players.

“We are a nation of followers. We follow trends and hype dictated by the global fashion scene. The consumer is so educated given the information out there that they exactly know what they want. Our consumers whom we call guests take pride when they purchase sneakers as this is a status symbol of sorts,” Maglipon concludes.

Banner Photo by Sole Academy via Instagram

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