Sneaker culture has fans in Montreal

Sneakerheads meet to buy, sell, and celebrate the shoes they love

The Sneakpeak Universe event assembled Montreal’s sneakerhead community. Photo VxsualsbyKobe

Since the release of the Air Jordan One in 1985, sneaker culture has been on the rise.

Sneakerhead culture has grown in Montreal to the point that some of today’s young Montrealers will look down at your feet before making eye contact. An annual event, Sneakpeak Universe, brought them together at Montreal’s Barley Bar on Sept. 3.

It’s one of the only annual events for diehard sneaker fans in Montreal looking to buy and sell, whether hunting for something specific or just looking for a bargain.

“I saw a video of Sneaker Con on Youtube and I realized none of these types of shows were going on in Montreal and I said, ‘Oh my god they are not going on in Montreal and there is a community here,’” said Yohan Rebboh in explaining the creation of his annual event.

The large, U.S.-based Sneaker Con made its way to Montreal in 2018 and 2019, a sign of the culture’s expanded importance in the city.

Sneakers can now be resold for an inflated price seconds after they are released, and some vendors specialize in repairing broken shoes or trading them. Rebboh got the idea to offer these services as an annual event in Montreal.

What makes the sneaker culture unique is that people are drawn to it for different reasons; some have a genuine love for shoes and are fascinated by the materials used to create them, while others use it as a form of self-expression. Sneaker culture has even propelled some Montrealers to creating their own shoes and clothing.

Rebboh’s appreciation for sneakers began in middle school, when Nike introduced enhanced customization options, with different colours and features.

“It started because of my love for art actually, I was drawing a lot at the time and NikeID launched, and it blew my mind because you were able to customize sneakers anywhere. […] In class, I would just do that all day long,” said Rebboh.

Yohan Rebboh, creator of Sneakpeak Universe, was one of the animators at the event. Photo VxsualsbyKobe

“I did not even go to school for that. I did it all by my hands—I learned everything from Youtube.”
Lou Gagne

The event featured a creation station, where vendors had space to create clothing with custom details and sneakers with imitation animal parts.

If you wanted a sneaker nobody has, the vendors at the creation station could make you something nobody else will be rocking.

Octavious Jones creates paintings and customizable animal sneakers. In the past, Jones created a pair of animal-inspired, customized Jordans, with imitation crocodile legs and glue. People complimented his creation and it showed how simple art and sneakers combine to show a person’s individuality.

“I started making boats with legs two years ago, just by chance I had Crocs before a show and I had these legs, and I said fuck it and I put it on the Crocs, and people just loved it,” Jones said.

Jones does not have a hard price in mind when selling these modified sneakers or Crocs.

Sneakers can be very pricey when they are in high demand, and it’s a little bit harder to be a sneakerhead in Montreal because of availability and foreign exchange fees and import taxes.

Events like Rebboh’s are important to the sneakerhead community because they give people with the same interest the space to interact with one another.

But what happens when you do not have the money to buy high-priced sneakers?

Éric Eugène, founder and creative director for Unlike General Norms Inc., was in that situation a few years ago, when he and his brother Billy were unable to afford luxury shoes.

Photo VxsualsbyKobe

To add insult to injury, when they did have the funds to purchase sneakers from their local shoe shop, Eugène said they were discriminated against and the store refused to sell to him. Instead of going to another store, the brothers created their own brand, turning their negative experience into something that can be shared within the community.

The pop-up shop offered a wide price range, making sneaker culture more accessible to a wider audience.

Digital platforms that facilitate teaching and learning have also played a role in this.

Lou Gagne from Endz.Co taught himself how to create clothing this way, and he now offers both high-end fashion and everyday wear to go with the various selections of sneakers at the event.

He demonstrated his entire creative process at the event, from sewing to embroidery.

“I did not even go to school for that,” he said. “I did it all by my hands—I learned everything from Youtube.”