Kick-Game/ Sneaker City: Sneakerhead 101

Let’s Talk the Talk

Before we get the jump on this new section, you might need to know a couple of things. There’s a lot details to a sneaker and it would be a shame to try to break it down with weak descriptions like “that metal thing on the laces”, when I really mean Deubré or, “the outer part of the shoe” when I should say Upper, or maybe just “the side of the shoe” – but which side? The Medial side or the Lateral side.  It all depends.

Aside from that, there’s a lot of other terms that come with this sneakerhead thing. Restocks, Player Editions and Player Exclusives, Beaters, Retros and the often forgotten Aglets.

I know, it all sounds a little complicated for a start, but bear with me for  a minute.
Before I can really start writing about sneakers and breaking down their details, we’re going to need a break down for the break down.

You don’t have to memorize every term you read, so try not to freak out. Like everything else, you’ll probably remember what interests you the most, and you’ll pick up the rest as we go through some of the best, and probably some of the worst, sneaker releases in 2017.
And no matter how bad your memory is, Ill always leave a link to this post at the bottom of every post. Even with memory of a goldfish, you can still scroll down the page in a new tab as you read along.

If you’re like me, broke and in college, you probably don’t have the cash to walk around in a pair of Jordans. But with or without a pair, we can still talk the game just as well as the best of them.


AF1 – Air Force One

One of Nike’s first trend setting shoes that traditionally comes in White-on-White, but can be found in 3000+ other colorways. The shoe is one of Nike’s all-time best sellers.


The little things on the end of shoelaces that stop the thread from fraying out into a miniature-size tangled beast. You’ve probably come across the plastic ones on regular shoes. But after Yeezy taught the world a lesson about them, they now come in everything from carbon fibre to custom labelled to Jesus piece-matching gold on the Nike Air Yeezy II.



The pair of sneakers you wear almost every (if not every single) day. They’re still sneakers of course, so it’s not that you disregard their care, but you also don’t mind how dirty, beat up, stained or scuffed they get. For the most part, you probably appreciate the shoe’s individual “personality”. Someone might have a similar pair, but what they don’t have is your girl’s nail polish glitter stain on the toe box.

Usage: No matter how many kicks you’ve got; everyone ends up with a pair of beaters.


This is a one-of-a-kind Air Force 1’s designed at Nike’s 21 Mercer Location in New York. At the store you can design a personalised AF1 with a range of materials, finishes, stitching, even your own label.

Bespoke basically means “custom made”/ “made to fit”/ “made to order” in reference to suits and shoes – but more like Italian shoes, not sneakers. But these days some sneakers could give Italian shoes a run for their money, so I guess the comparison to custom Air Force 1’s kind of makes sense. Point is, a Bespoke is not your regular off the rack sneaker.


There’s a general agreement that when you reach a certain level of awesome, you don’t need to use real words anymore. Example: Bred stands for “black and red” in reference to pretty much any Jordan shoe that comes in a black/ red colorway.


A B-Grade is supposed to be a discounted sneaker store quality sneaker that had a flaw of some kind and didn’t meet quality control standards. But because of the way the world works these days: a certain number of shoes produced in any factory have to be marked as “B-Grade”, even if that means marking a couple that have absolutely nothing wrong with them. On the upside though, you can get yourself basically the same sneaker for a discounted price.



The combination of colors applied to a shoe to create different styles. Sometimes the nickname of a shoe comes from the colorway found on the box, for example: the Oregon, the Black Cements and the True Blues are different colorway’s of the Jordan III Jumpman logo. But more than that, it serves the important role of helping us argue about what colors look best on a sneaker without going into math-geek hexadecimal color codes.



Deadstock, means brand new sneakers. Or more accurately, “unworn” sneakers. It’s another one of those sneaker words that used to actually mean something before sneakerheads decided to bend English to their will. “Dead stock” used to stand for shoe stocks that don’t sell and sit on shelves. Basically, never worn, never tried. If a sneaker has been worn even once, it loses the title “deadstock”.


Nike has always been on top of the game when it comes to adding details to their sneakers. The iconic Air Force 1 features on of the most misnamed details in sneaker culture, the deubré. Sure, “lacetag” gets the job done as far as definitions go, but deubré just sounds so much cooler. Because, who doesn’t like at least one French word in their vocabulary?



Euros are sneakers released exclusively in Europe. You can check out a collection of 50 of the best Euro exclusive Nikes released on Complex’s website.


Eyelets are common on most sneakers and are used for speed lacing to add more stability. They may look small but just like with aglets, it’s the little things we’re thankful for; especially for those of us who know how hard it is to lace up shoes with no eyelets and aglets that gave up on life a long time ago.



A common adjective, or emoji, used to describe a pair of killer sneakers.

Usage: Man, those new Yeezys are FIRE.

FSR – Full Size Run

The amount of sneakers a retailer, or a reseller, has in stock in terms of sizes available. For men’ s shoes, a full size run would mean the store has sizes 6 through 12 and may even include half sizes. The term has a couple of variations, like partial size run, when some sizes aren’t available, and no size run, which happens when the *Hypebeasts and *Resellers beat you to a sale.

*See: Hypebeasts; Resellers.


GR – General Release

Sneakers put out through general release are the most commonly available and found at pretty much all sneaker retailers. For the most part, Nike, produces them in generous amounts and making them easily available. This is in contrast to, obviously, *Limited Editions and, Nike’s famous *Quickstrikes and *Hyperstrikes.

*See: Limited Edition; Quickstrikes; Hyperstrikes.

GS – Grade School

A term originally invented by Nike that refers to sneakers produced in sizes for infants and children.


These are your bucket list sneakers, the sneakers you live and die for. They’re fire, without a doubt, and they have both sentimental and monetary value topping any shoe out there. For sneakerheads, grails are that final unattainable piece to their collection.

Of course, no standard GR could ever be considered someone’s grail, so grails tend to be unattainable because they’re almost always an extremely limited sneaker; either because of their release, or because of a rare colorway.

Example: 1985 original Air Jordan 1 Royals should be your grails.


High-Tops/ Highs

Back in the day high-tops were made to give additional ankle support in the game. They were also actual high-tops, meaning the height of the sneaker was well above the top of the ankle. These days, true high-tops are hard to find. The only one’s people probably recognize are the Supra TK Society, which are made for skateboarding. You remember Supras right? Those ugly shoes Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne used to put on? Yeezy is trying to bring it back with the Yeezy 3, but again, not exactly made for the game. It’s sad to see that for true performance shoes, what passes for a high today would have been a low way back when. Thankfully, by the looks of the Lebron Soldier, it seems that Nike might be trying to bring it back.

As you can tell, I’m old school so I love the Highs. I’m the kind guy who ties my laces all the way up for extra support before any practice, and any game. I’m not about to let anyone claim they broke my ankles on the court just because of a lose shoe.

Off the court I like to make the shoe tongues stick out, that’s a look you can never really pull off with lows.

House of Hoops

House of Hoops, a partnership between Nike and Foot Locker originating in Harlem, that has resulted in some great exclusives, long lines, and lots of violence.


Hype is the amount of attention a shoe receives before its release date. It may seem like crazed sneakerheads overreacting to a new shoe, but the effects of Hype can be pretty interesting. In most cases Hype drives the value of any sneaker up because it’s so highly sought after. More than that Hype is infectious just sitting near a sneakerhead who’s going on and on about a shoe can get you interested in it, if you don’t end up loving the shoe altogether.


Hypebeasts are the life force of Hype. They create it, and they consume it. A hypebeast is that one friend you have who’s always in on the hype, letting everyone know how great some new sneaker release is going to be. If they’ve got the cash, you know they’ll always step it up by wearing the latest limited edition kicks out, even if they have to sell the pair they bought just last week.

I am without a doubt, a Hypebeast. Even though I can’t afford every new release. But I figured for the sake of keeping my friends, I had to do things a little more low-key. And so here I am, blogging about sneakers.


Hyperstrikes are Nike sneaker releases that drop with pretty much no warning. No Ads, no promotions, just one, big, BANG. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, the sneakers drop in extremely limited quantities at specific Nike stores. Just to put it into perspective: “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”. By the time you hear about a Hyperstrike on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram – don’t bother – the last pair is long gone.

Hyperstrikes only drop at Nike stores with Tier 0 or Tier 1 accounts. Not many stores have these accounts because they’re really hard to get. By estimates which I have no way of confirming, a shoe classifies as a Hyperstrike if Nike only drops about 500 pairs or less. So if you want to be a true Hypebeast, you’d better be camped outside the right store roasting marshmallows the night before.

Usage: You know your favourite store is legit if they get limited Hyperstrike drops.



Insole: A layer of material that sits inside the shoe that creates a layer between the sole and the wearer’s foot. The insole adds comfort for the wearer, while hiding the join between the upper and the sole.

ID – Individually Designed

This refers to sneakers made on, where you can customize a number of Nike shoes any and every way you like.


J’s – Jordan’s

Any shoe part of the sneaker line based around Michael Jordan.


Everyone knows the Jumpman. So I don’t know why I’m writing this. But that’s the Hypebeast in me talking.  The Jumpman, is his highness himself, Michael Jordan. The iconic logo was created by Nike’s Peter Moore and is a silhouette of Jordan from his rookie photo shoot. The logo first appeared on designer Tinker Hatfield’s Air Jordan III.



I’m pretty sure this one doesn’t need any introduction. Unless you were one of those Velcro shoe kids.

Lace Swap

This one is really simple. It means swapping out the original laces of your sneakers for some new ones.

I don’t know how useful a term it is in the USA where the sneaker culture started, but I added it because it has everything to do with life in Nairobi. Almost everyone has ‘their guy’ when it comes to replacement laces for their shoes. Most people buy second hand, and when you’ve been down that road, you know that laces are always the first to give up on you, even on the best shoes you can get off the street.

Lateral Side

In technical terms, the lateral side of a sneaker lies on the outside of the foot, i.e. the side without the arch.

For the layman, it’s the side of the shoe that is best used for stunting on IG

Limited Edition

Shoes produced in limited quantities and only available a select number of stores. Hyperstrikes and *Quickstrikes both fall under this category.

See: Quickstrike


The lining of a shoe is the inside material that surrounds the foot and touches the back of the heel. The main purpose of a lining is to cover the inside seams of a shoe and is made of special materials with comfort features such as additional padding, or the ability to pull moisture away from the foot.

Lows/ Low-Tops

Once you know what highs are, you know what lows are. Low-tops are cut below the top of the ankle or even lower.


Medial Side

The part of the shoe on the inner side of your foot, which shouldn’t be focal point of your Instagram pics.


Not quite highs, and not quite lows. Mids came in a little late to the party and tend to be an acquired taste. But seeing as true highs-tops are rarely made, modern sneaker designs place most shoes in the mid category. But I’ll have to draw the line at sneaker designers labelling newer mid-cuts as highs.


The part of the shoe located between the *upper and the *outsole. It’s easy to recognize because it’s used to house a brand’s cushioning technology, e.g. Nike’s Air or more recently Adidas’ Boost.

See: Outsole; Upper.



Because typing out the whole name would be too much work.

Near Deadstock

This describes shoes with some wear, but not overly worn and uncared for. For example, Beaters, which are worn consecutively and show some wear but can pass as deadstock if cleaned and worked on.

Usage: I only ever wore these when going to the mall; so they’re pretty much Near Deadstock.

NIB – New in Box

NIB is short for new in box, or new in the box. As opposed to those of you that put your dirty ass sneakers back in their boxes. If a shoe has been taken out of the box, as long as you didn’t try them on and you put them back exactly as they were, they can still qualify.

Shoes that are never taken out of original packaging are offered to consumers using the aforementioned terminology

Usage: I got Yeezys for sale, NIB.


OG – Originals

Originals. Not a *retro *(or throwback, or release). A sneaker bought the first time it gets released is the only time it’s called OG. The term is best associated with Nike shoes

*See: Retro.


The bottom of the shoe that makes contact with the ground. Like other parts of the shoe, outsoles can be made from a variety of materials. The properties needed of an outsole are: grip, durability, and water resistance.


PE – Player Edition

A player-edition sneaker is one that is designed for a specific athlete under their supervision and then made available at retail, often as a Quickstrike or limited release. They sneaker is also customized with colors and patterns designed according to the athlete’s team or country affiliation.

The Ray Allen Jordan 13’s are a great example; they come in the green-white Boston Celtics colors, and have Sugar Ray’s signature on the tongue. They were released in limited quantities so that a couple of fans could get a chance to wear their hero’s shoes.

PE – Player Exclusive

Slightly different than player editions but still abbreviated with the same PE acronym. A player-exclusive sneaker is designed specifically for a player and never intended for retail. Colorways are unique and details are even better, nothing but the best. More than that, they’re only available in the size of the player they were designed for.

Every so often a pair might just land on eBay. Sometimes, should the high lords at Nike (the product line managers in charge of production numbers and orders for different sneakers) look down in our favour, Nike might drop a few limited numbers, maybe even in other sizes.

Be prepared to spend some serious bread though, even on eBay, there’s usually only a handful of these made in the whole world. And Nike only makes a drop so they can sell them at ridiculous prices.

Usage: Any MJ player exclusive Jordans are grail status.



Quickstrikes work the same way as Hyperstrikes. Sneakers are released only at special Nike account stores, and pop out of nowhere in limited numbers. The term Quickstrike dates back to the early 2000s when it began showing up on Nike boxes.



In short, resellers are entrepreneurs that worked harder to make connections than most sneakerheads are willing to work.

A reseller buys sneakers (usually in bulk) with the intent to resell them – and obviously not at a discount. Before you start hating, some of them provide you with a chance to get a pair of OG releases that you won’t find anywhere else. But most times, they walk out of your favourite store carting a full size run of those retros you won’t be able to get, gloating and taking pics for Instagram along the way.


A restock is when a store acquires a couple more pairs of sneakers that recently sold out. In other words, if you just missed out on a release, you might get lucky and find them available for retail again.


A retro model is a sneaker that is re-released and moulded to the specification of the original model. A retro model, aka a throwback, rerelease, gives you the chance to grab a pair of shoes you either couldn’t get before, or that you wore so much you need to have a backup pair. The only downside, they’re definitely not OG.



A sneaker for future release that is produced to physically see how the style, materials, or design would feel and function. Sometimes companies go all the way and release them for promotional or wear test purposes. Player samples are just another way of testing upcoming Player Exclusives. Samples occasionally turn up on eBay or at company sample sales and are definitely sought after in some circles.


Toe Box

The toe box is the part of a shoe that covers and protects your toes. If it comes with a few little holes on it, that’s to help your feet to cool down and not stink up the whole room when the kicks come off.


When a sneaker comes in a single-colour makeup. Kind of like two-tone, but really with only one tone. Basically one colour. For example, Kanye’s Red Octobers, although not released in October (you know how Kanye is), are tonal red.

Usage: Why say all black when you could say tonal black and sound so much cooler?


The tongue is normally found under the laces and provides comfort, protection while securing a good fit.



When describing a shoe, the upper is essentially any portion above the outsole that wraps the foot and attaches to the midsole. Upper or uppers, usually consist of uniquely designed materials, colours and sometimes even straps. It’s great for spilling coffee, ice cream or nacho cheese on, and is best to floss when treated with some Crep Protect.


Uptowns is an ancient nickname for the most iconic Nike Air Force 1. The term Uptowns came from the popularity of AF1’s in uptown NYC hoods like Harlem, where the white-on-white AF1 low was always a favourite sneaker.


Very Near Deadstock

This refers to a sneaker that has been worn very few times, or even once and as such lost the title Deadstock, but is still far from being considered worn or second hand at a sale. The term began popping up on for sale postings throughout sneaker forums many years ago.



White-on-Whites Air Force 1s in their iconic tonal white colourway.


Terminology courtesy of:

Letter images:

Other images:


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