If fashion is a form of self-expression, then style can represent mood and personality. The sneaker is an all-encompassing lifestyle according to the founders of Sneakerplay, the web’s first and largest social community for sports shoe enthusiasts.  Adidas Superstars, old skool Nike Cortez, the Original High Top Reebok Pump, Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star as well as some of the newer collectors editions that have heads camping out on city streets are all rated and compared. Like all the best secret societies, Sneakerplay operates on an invite-only basis, so you have to know someone who’s already been initiated before you can be connected yourself.
Format spoke with Robleh Jama, one of the site’s founders about his own fascination with kicks, and his plans for SP.

“Whether you choose your outfits from the sneakers up or the top down, you are sharing with the world your energy, feelings, state of mind, at that particular time.”  

Format: How did you discover that a sneaker culture exists globally?
Robleh Jama: I never looked at it as a culture because it was the norm for me in Toronto when I was growing up. Basketball was what started it all off. If you played ball, had hoop dreams growing up or followed the NBA (in the 90’s) then, you automatically had an affinity for kicks. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it to the NBA but my interest in sneakers never faded, it only grew and the focus became more about style, comfort, and design versus the more functional ball shoes.

Format: What was your original intention for creating an online kicks network?
Robleh Jama: Sneakerplay was what I called a “wouldn’t it be cool” idea. It was an opportunity to create a community for people who were into the same things as me. Our options, at the time, were either to stick exclusively to MySpace Books or old school message boards. Sneakerplay allowed us to combine our interests in sneaker culture and passion for the web.  It’s been an amazing experience building two foundations which now is a vibrant and growing global community of about 20,000.

Format: Why does Sneakerplay operate by invitation only?
Robleh Jama: We’ve always wanted to make Sneakerplay different from other social networks and to make sure we kept true to our goal of creating a family-like vibe, we made SP invite only.  Our invite only system has worked really well for us because it attracts members who seriously want to be a part of the growing community.  Plus exclusivity and sneaker culture are two themes that naturally go together so it just made perfect sense.

Format: Do you have a favorite sneaker brand?
Robleh Jama: I don’t really have one favorite brand.  I appreciate a few independent brands that are taking chances and putting out quality product like Ubiq, Visvim and Clae.


Format: Why do think some sneakers or brands are overrated?
Robleh Jama: Like it or not, we live in a consumer culture where it’s all about buying the latest, greatest and most limited.  I think some brands end up getting more attention than they deserve because of what a certain few people say or do, whether it’s websites, some kids on a forum or your favorite celebrity.  I prefer to rate brands on their execution and output. Support your independents!

Format: Have you ever found the perfect sneaker, and if so what is it?
Robleh Jama: I don’t believe in the perfect sneaker. Perfection to me is relative to a certain time, feeling, mental state. A pair of Reebok Kamikazes that were perfect for me 14 years ago might not be perfect for me now (even though I’m still a fan).

Personally, I was never satisfied being just a customer, a fan, or observer, I’d much rather be an active producer and participate.

Format: Would you agree that a person’s shoes say a lot about him or her?
Robleh Jama: I would say so. Sneakers to me are all about self-expression. Whether you choose your outfits from the sneakers up or the top down, you are sharing with the world your energy, feelings, state of mind, at that particular time.  The best way to illustrate this is by looking at fashion as an art form and yourself as the blank canvas and artist.

Format: Through Sneakerplay, it is clear that the sneaker culture has a huge following. Where do you hope do you see the culture going in the future?
Robleh Jama: I’m an optimist so my hope is that we’ll find more positive outlets for our passions whether it’s entrepreneurship, art or giving back. I’m all for consuming quality products but life shouldn’t be all about consumption and over indulgence, that’s exactly what killed our economy.  Personally, I was never satisfied being just a customer, a fan, or observer, I’d much rather be an active producer and participate.

Format: Do you think we’ve entered a sneaker revolution or that we need one?
Robleh Jama: I think we need a social and economic revolution. Sneakers have been evolving and progressively improving over time. I just hope the same happens with our economy!

Format: Rumor has it that Sneakerplay is up for bids, why?
Robleh Jama: You heard correct.  SP is looking for a new home. Why? Building Sneakerplay has been an amazing three year journey and learning experience.  We recently started working on some new web projects that have been taking a lot of our time and effort.  A community like SP deserves and requires complete focus, which we just couldn’t provide on a full-time basis.  We’ve spoken to a few prospects over the past few months and will be announcing our next steps soon. At the end of the day, it’s the community that makes Sneakerplay what it is and that’s not going to change.


Deepi Harish

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One comment

  1. Great article. Wish I could read/see more about the website and secret society. As a collector (PUMA 160pr), I totally get what they’re doing. Finally someone who is on the same wave pattern that I’m on. Suits shorts, slacks, or jeans, I’m always wearing sneakers.

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