Back at it. For Part 18 we took a look back at ‘The Place To Be Online’ and today we look back at Sneaker Nation. Ah, Sneaker Nation. This is one of the earliest sneaker blogs/websites on the net and one of the best from the era -its also still active somewhat-. Founded in 1997 the sites founder Jane is one half of the blog today (apparently her husband is the other half) but I’m not quite sure that was always the case. Apparently she was located in Stockholm during the sites infancy but was born and raised in New York and it appears she may have moved around a lot (I know, a lot of ‘apparently’s’; we’ll get to that later).
Early on the site looked in line with what was available of the day, MS Paint like graphics with a rather simple straight forward design that was probably super complex at the time lol.
As you can see there was a forum of sorts -which wasn’t quite as advanced as sites to follow such as NikeTalk or Sole Collector- that as a 16 year old I was still leery of in regards to doing transactions on the net -you can see why below-
but I did find it to be interesting given the high volume of international traffic to the site.
In addition to the forum there was of course fliks of shoes we all lusted over
-but most interesting- the world sneaker report that featured a ‘best places in the world to shop for sneakers’
as well as an earlier look at bootleg kicks from around the globe and interesting stories to go along with them.
word to Reetok?!
What the site was most famous for (at least for me) was the Sneaker Freak section – which, for all you Snapple Fact aficionado’s pre-dates Sneaker Freaker by about 3-4 years-.
It was here that individuals from around the world
shared their likes and dislikes for kicks as well as a look into their personal life, what was going on where they lived and in some cases what influenced their footwear decisions. A few of these individuals would actually go on to design positions and or positions in the footwear industry, such as Nick Woodhouse whom at the time was lead footwear buyer for the Forzani Group
and eventually would go on to lead the team
that integrated MVP.com (Company founded by Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and John Elway -MVP.com was eventually converted to sportchek.ca- ) and down the line to President and Chief Marketing Officer of Authentic Brands Group.
Then there was Nartano Lim who was an industrial design major and now
head of design at a company in Malaysia. What was really amazing at the time was how these short interviews not only schooled you on what was popping globally or brands you may have never heard of before, but they also featured female shoe enthusiasts (something that wasn’t common back in the day).
Eventually the site would be updated both on appearance and what was covered.
Take for instance a comedic section dedicated to why we should be happy that animals don’t wear sneakers
Sneakers of the moment -which if you notice wasn’t solely focused on Nike or Jordan-
sneaker reviews with great acquisition stories
The sites following would grow so large that eventually there were contests that pre dated any social media like Facebook or Instagram to promote
and eventually Sneaker Nation gear for purchase (wonder who still has this tee).
As the years passed other sites would break out on to the scene and somehow overshadow this pioneering site but it never fully went away and was still being updated here and there. Fast forward to 2018 and Sneaker Nation has a much more modern layout but with less content and much more insight into the person or people behind the site which is the ultimate exclamation point on this whole feature
Jane is apparently running the site with her husband these days (not sure if she was married at the time the site was initially launched) but instead of taking bits and pieces from her ‘about me section’ here it is in her own words.
“I used to be a corporate manager until I got my dream job in Brooklyn, felt restless, decided I needed a complete life-reboot and jumped at the first idea I had: to become a writer and photographer. So… I bought a camera! I sold our stuff! My husband cheered me on and helped me carry the luggage! At the time, he was a work-at-home graphic designer for a big company, so for a few years we traveled like this, with two dogs, laptops and enough camera gear to make your average TSA agent break into a sweat.
Then we had a baby. (His name is Cole)
We kept traveling! Well, without the dogs this time. (The dogs live on a farm in Oregon now, where they are getting really fat.)
One day, we decided to film a documentary about other people who had quit their jobs and decided to work online while traveling. We raised $10,000 through the generous readers of this site to buy the video and audio equipment necessary to create a theatre-ready full length feature film.
Three months later, Drew lost his job! We panicked. Hard. It still worked out. Between our joint efforts, we found a way to work on creative projects — writing to photography to video — and get paid for it. While traveling. With a toddler.
We are as surprised as you.
We finished filming the documentary, I am working on a book for Gotham/Penguin that is due to the publisher in 2014 and Cole hasn’t lived in the US since he was four months old.
At the moment, we live in Mexico. Cole and I are trying to learn Spanish. Drew is trying to finish editing the film to submit the film to festivals.
I’ve been writing about all of this, here on this blog, since the very beginning in April 2008 just one month before I quit my job. Whirlwind? Yes, absolutely. What have we learned? Anything is possible.”
From pioneering female shoe blogger to corporate manager to writer & photographer and world traveler Jane’s is one of the most unique journey’s in footwear blogging. I’ve reached out to sneaker nation a few times over the past year but unfortunately haven’t heard anything back. Hopefully one day there will be an update but for now let this serve all of us as inspiration that no matter where you are in life, no matter what you are doing right now that its not only never to late do what you want, but if you decide to take that leap and there are bumps in the road, its ok. In addition, there will always be that ‘what if’ factor with Sneaker Nation. What if the site continued to grow? Would other blog’s have thrived the way they did? Could Sneaker Nation have changed the entire landscape of product offered for women? While we’ll never know for sure there’s no denying Sneaker Nation’s place in the history of Internet Sneaker culture and the footwear industry as a whole.