Why is sneaker culture booming in Singapore and how to spot 'Fufu' from legit

Young folks looking to strike gold with resale market and the rise of hypebeasts

Air Jordan 1 retro black red sneakers (left) and row of sneakers (Photos: Getty Images)
Air Jordan 1 retro black red sneakers (left) and row of sneakers (Photos: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE - Sneakers seem to be the real deal these days by becoming the must-have commodity recently, with sneaker culture infiltrating popular culture and social media. From Sneakertopia at Marina Bay Sands to Southeast Asia's first Sneaker Con happening this weekend, are sneakers the social currency of today?

Local sneakerheads shared their insights with Yahoo Southeast Asia into the hype behind the demand for these cultural commodities and offered tips on how to spot real from fakes. They also gave advice for new sneaker collectors looking to enter the community.

Why sneaker culture is getting its moment

From Travis Scott to Billie Eilish, celebrity brand endorsements have infiltrated the sneaker market and integrated sneakers into popular culture.

Excitement over new releases can be seen across social media chatter. With new releases being announced almost on a weekly basis, sneaker culture has exploded in popularity with groups and forums have sprouted up discussing latest models and price predictions.

Social media platforms, such as Whatsapp group chat 'What's On Your Feet?' and 'Yeezy Boost SG by AMME' on Facebook, serve a secondary purpose – a marketplace for resellers.

"With sneakers, it is somewhat achievable and attainable by the common man. You could walk into a sneaker shop and grab a pair off the shelf and rock it," according to sneakerhead Syafiq Azahari.

"The joy in buying a sneaker is in exercising all the resources I have in terms of context and knowledge. The euphoria comes from knowing I got it at retail price, not at an inflated price."

The rise of resale capitalism and 'hypebeasts'

People outside a Nike store as they draw lots to buy a newly-released Nike sneaker in Shanghai (Photo: Getty Images)
People outside a Nike store as they draw lots to buy a newly-released Nike sneaker in Shanghai (Photo: Getty Images)

The increase in sneaker demand has developed new business ideas. Digital natives who are financially equipped to fund their collection hobby are making good bank from reselling new collections.

But with many young resellers, aged between 17 and 23, entering the resale market space, artificial competition and scam cases have also risen, Azahari also noticed.

"It's a little bit annoying because of the artificial competition. That is the nature of capitalism. At some point, someone will try and take advantage to make cash," commented Azahari on his thoughts behind buyers purchasing and reselling for profit.

Sourcing for sneakers at retail price can be a challenge, especially for new sneakerheads who are not engaged in the community or actively on forums.

Scam cases have also been found on Carousell and Facebook groups. To combat these issues, a sneakerhead recommends seeking help from friends in the community or purchasing from reliable platforms.

Jack Chin, another sneakerhead who goes under the moniker 'Uncle Jack', identified that the community experience of queuing overnight for shoes and engaging in conversation over history and sneaker design has diminished over the years.

"A lot has changed in the past ten years. We don't queue to make friends anymore. People queue to ask how much they can make from reselling a pair of shoes," shared Chin.

Sneaker culture has thus shifted into a 'queue, buy, resell' culture at conventions and online.

How can one identify a 'hypebeast'? It is usually someone who dresses up in a bunch of brand names from top to bottom without thought to functionality and style.

Childhood nostalgia and identifying real sneakers from fake

True sneakerheads would organise their entire wardrobe around a chosen pair of sneakers, according to Azahari. They would also be aware of the culture and idea that surrounds a particular sneaker.

Nostalgia also plays a part in purchase decisions.

"When we were young, we didn't have the luxury to buy such shoes. Now that we're adults and earning our own money, we can afford it," said Chin.

Did sneakerheads buy into sneaker NFTs? The short answer – no. Both Chin and Azahari identified that buyers of sneaker NFTs largely comprise of crypto investors.

To identify "legit" from "Fufu" (fake sneakers), Chin recommends conducting the "smell test". The idea is to spot an easily identifiable smelly glue used on fake sneakers.

Another method is to use a UV black light to legit check the stitching, colourway, printing, logo, glue marks, font size and insole printing.

For scam prevention, collectors can use various apps such as Legit Check and Check Check to authenticate their sneakers.

Advice for new sneaker collectors

For newbies, both both Azahari and Chin advise against the rookie mistake of buying sneakers worn by celebrities or driven by hype. Instead, they recommend understanding the cost of a shoe based on the model first and then the hype that surrounds it.

Additionally, they suggest making friends in the community, as most people are friendly and more than happy to share their knowledge. Finally, they encourage doing research and joining communities to find the right sneaker and ensure a positive experience.

"Start making friends. Most of these guys in the community are super friendly and more than happy to share the knowledge they have," shared Azahari.

"Understand the cost of a shoe based on the model first and then the hype that surrounds it after. There are plenty of options now in the market, so go do your research and join communities."