MelissaChanelknows there is power in numbers. So when the content creator started getting into sneakers — a space so often dominated by exclusivity and know-it-all men — she knew she didn’t have to do it alone.
“I grew up in a very small town where the community was everything,” Chanel told HuffPost. “So I wanted to cultivate that community aroundsneakers, and let other women know there are women like us that have that same passion for sneakers. That love sneakers, love learning about them, educating themselves on them,creating sneakers. Women work everywhere, from Foot Locker all the way toNike.”
The founder of Kicks & Fros, a sneaker collective celebratingBlack women, Chanel is busting open sneaker culture and encouraging women everywhere to ditch tired of stereotypes of femininity to embrace their own style.
“Being a younger kid, your family always separated, ‘This is for girls’ and ‘This is for boys,’ and I feel like that kind of bled over into sneaker culture,” she said. “A lot of young girls weren’t wearing bulkier basketball sneakers like Jordans and Scottie Pippens. They weren’t as dainty.”
Chanel knows these deep-seated ideas about who’sallowed to wear certain shoes can make it challenging for women and non-cis dudes to feel comfortable engaging with sneaker culture. Encouraging women to be comfortable learning about and styling sneakers is the mission of Kicks & Fros, which has a podcast, style blogs, sneaker guides and, now, in-person events, all centered on celebrating women, specifically Black women, and sneakers.
Given that sneakers are shoes designed for comfort, Chanel laughs at the implicit irony in the gatekeeping and elitism that happens in sneaker culture.
“Sneakers bring comfort,” Chanel said. “If you like comfort, this is where you need to be. I always tell people, wear what you like. It doesn’t have to be the latest Jordans. Don’t be so caught up in the proper names, or ’Is this shoe cool?′ — you make it cool. You bring that cool factor to the sneaker.”
Essie Golden, content creator and founder of Thick Laces, a sneaker collective centering plus-size women in streetwear, said that making sneaker culture more accessible also means rightfully centering and giving creative credit to people of color. While it’s great to see sneakers on runways and red carpets, it’s imperative to remember the origins of this style.
“I think people forget that streetwear and sneaker culture was started by Black and brown people, I think it’s kind of gotten away from that,” Golden told HuffPost. “It sucks that we’re able to be the inspiration, but not always be a part of the overall culture.”
Golden also shared the importance of size accessibility in shoe wear. Because so many sneakers are unisex, it’s easier to find actually good-looking shoes in a wide range of sizes, compared to, say, heels or flats, which often don’t run past a women’s 11.
“I’ve been plus-size my entire life. You know, when you finally find something in your size, like it’s life-changing,” she said.
Alysse Dalessandro, a content creator, sneaker collector and Thick Laces member, said that fatphobia can still permeate footwear. When the hottest style of sneakers runs super narrow, it’s easy to feel like you literally don’t fit in.
“But it doesn’t mean that you’re good or bad or your feet are good or bad or your body’s good or bad,” Dalessandro said. “It just means that there are certain styles that work best.”
Dalessandro noted how inspiring and helpful it’s been to see other plus-size people style streetwear. She suggests DMing or emailing your style icons about their process, and encourages people to do the same to her. Chanel and Golden are open to messages, too. Through the groups’ hashtag #thicklaces and #kicksandfros, you can check out posts from women all over rocking sneakers.
And if you’re to get some new sneaks for spring, the trio shared the kicks they’re loving right now.
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"Right now [March], it's Air Max Month, and I'm always so excited to see what they create and what they drop; it's usually surprises. I saw their Air Max 1s that they're gonna release soon that I'm super excited about. That's probably mostly what's on my list." — Chanel
These come in a ton of colors of sizes, including women's 5-12 and men's 6-15. Pictured are the Concepts x Air Max 1 Mellow, $170 which drop on March 12 in the Nike Snkrs app.
"I absolutely love, love, love love what Salomon are doing. And I like that there's space for a brand like Salomon. I think a few years ago, a sneakerhead would have been like, 'If it's not Nike or if it's not this particular brand, it's not working.' The space is wide open for anybody to come in and change the game." — Golden
These are men's shoes that come in sizes 4-13 and in six colors. Pictured is the Nimbus Cloud.
"I'm really right now obsessed with Cardi B for Reebok. They are so comfortable on the inside. They have this scuba material, almost, on the inside. They're really really easy to get on.
"If I have to sit there and spent 15 minutes to get it on, I don't want to wear that. And there are certain collectors who don't care about that, and I get it. But like, I don't want to spend that much time getting my shoes on. I don't care how cool they are, how collectible they are. I don't want to spend that time. So when I can find ones that look cool, fit well and are easy to get on — that's like the golden ticket." — Dalessandro.
These come in nine colors in women's 5-11. Pictured is the Fluid Blue.
"Don't feel like you have to spend a whole bunch of money to fit into this particular community. I wear everything between, Converse, which I absolutely love. I don't care what anybody says.
"Converse has been killing it, too. I don't know if you're into platform shoes, but they have this high-top with a thick platform. I've seen men and women killing it. So the rules are changing. I'm here for it." — Golden
"Air Force 1s are having a moment right now, and honestly, they're one of the best wide-foot speakers that Nike makes. They come in a bunch of different colors. I have them in holographic almost. A classic white is a really good way to start. You can add some charms on the laces. Air Force 1s [are] like a really good place to start if you have a wider foot. That is pretty much going to fit a wide variety of plus-size babes, specifically, who may have wider feet. So start with an Air Force 1. You can't go wrong.
"They happen to be very trendy right now. That was not the case maybe four or five years ago. I still liked them, by they were not the moment. But now they are! So might as well take advantage of that, ride that wave that a super wide-foot friendly speaker is trendy. Take advantage of that." — Dalessandro
"I love the Disruptors. They come in so many cool colors. I have them in polka dot. I have them in cheetah print and zebra on the same shoe. Like there are so many cool styles. And I know that that one fits for me. So it's OK, and definitely, most sneakerheads have the same shoe in many different shades or styles or colorways. If you find one you like, buy it again in a different color!" — Dalessandro