What To Read: Michael Sykes is studying sneakers

This week, we interviewed Michael Sykes, who writes The Kicks You Wear, a publication and community hub for sneaker lovers.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What’s your Substack about in one sentence?

The Kicks You Wear explains the sneaker industry and all of its intersections in language that connects with the average person.

Why are sneakers so special to you?

Falling in love with sneakers had everything to do with my identity and my own independence as much as it did with shoes or style. In 2007, when I was 15 years old, I worked so hard cutting grass, taking out the trash, cleaning, and doing chores around my house and my neighborhood, to scrounge up enough change to buy a pair of Aqua Jordan 8 shoes. That was the first sneaker I bought with my own money, and it was so liberating. I felt fly, but more importantly, I felt proud of myself. I'd set a goal to get these shoes, and I reached it. That's where this all sort of starts for me – an experience everyone can relate to, even beyond sneakers.

Today, sneakers are like badges of honor. Sneakerheads all enjoy getting that "Wow, where'd you get those?" question while out and about.

These kicks are also becoming financial assets. The industry is being disrupted on a monthly basis. It's so fascinating, and it’s also a lot to keep up with.

What is an exciting trend that you're tracking right now?

Sustainability. It's fascinating to watch brands turn all of their processes green as people become more conscious about the environment. Nike's Space Hippie line is probably the most prominent example, and it's also my current favorite. Adidas has Parley gear. And Veja has taken the most comprehensive approach, building a model that prioritizes both quality and sustainability.  

The sustainability trend can be ironic, because the real answer isn't green materials – it's people owning fewer sneakers, which goes against the sneaker industry’s general ethos of encouraging everyone to buy and collect.

You describe The Kicks You Wear as more than a newsletter – it’s a “community hub.” For example, your posts include a #TheKicksWeWear section that spotlights readers’ own sneakers. Why do you do that?

Sneaker culture started as a grassroots subculture before it blew up into this multi-billion dollar beast that we know it as now. In that transition, I think the community aspect got lost along the way. People stopped communicating as generously and freely. Instead, we see each other as a transaction opportunity. Who can I sell this pair to? Where can I buy this from?

I wanted to create a way to stop and appreciate the kicks we have instead of having folks obsess over the ones they don't own. And that's what the #TheKicksWeWear section at the bottom of my posts aims to bring to life.

What's your dream pair of sneakers?

My biggest grail so far is the OG Raygun dunks from '05. I've got the re-release from 2019, and they're dope, but they just don't hit the same. 

Who's another Substack writer you'd recommend?

Clayton Chambers writes a brilliant newsletter about menswear – Sprezza. It's super clean, and he gives amazing recommendations. Everyone should check it out. 

Subscribe to Michael’s newsletter, The Kicks You Wear, or find him on Twitter and Instagram.