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How Sneaker Culture Found a Place in Country Music


In the past I’ve been hyper critical about celebrities looking to hop into the sneaker world by popping up at a red carpet event in a pair of Off-White Nikes or something that’s hot at the moment. And I still am.

I don’t think a country music star who’s not into sneakers wearing a pair of Air Jordans is instantly cool just because I’ve found myself listening to more country as of late. But I think it’s interesting to look at from a storyline standpoint. Country is all of a sudden the flavor of the month and the biggest artists making the music are dressing in a way that appeals to those who don’t typically listen to it.

While it might be jarring to see country artists getting into sneakers and hip-hop culture at large, let’s not forget that sneaker culture can’t be pegged just to rap artists. Sneakers have their place in heavy metal, punk rock, hardcore, too. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Slash from Guns ‘n Roses were both known for wearing cool sneakers in the 1980s. Air Max 90s and Nike Dunks have played a huge role in hardcore music. And Liam Gallagher from Oasis is viewed as a sneaker icon.

With that said, it’s still viewed as odd in country to see someone in sneakers. Not only are cowboy boots part of the dress code, but they were a functional part of rural living. And in country music, authenticity is everything. Rodeo Time podcast host Dale Brisby has recalled people criticizing him wearing sneakers to a rodeo. And there’s even an Instagram account and podcast called Converse Cowboy, where the host’s defining characteristic is that he wears sneakers, not boots.

People are still surprised that today’s country stars are wearing cool sneakers. But they shouldn’t be. Country has become pop culture. The Película del Oeste drama Yellowstone is the biggest show on television. And country artists have branched out to mainstream culture. Jelly Roll’s sound is just as much hip-hop as it is country. And Morgan Wallen can be found singing over standard hip-hop drum kits. Just listen to “Cowgirls” for evidence. 

We’d be remiss not to mention that country music, like the culture of hip-hop where most modern sneaker obsessions trace back to, was invented by Black people over a hundred years ago. And there are still Black stars in country music today. Kane Brown is one of the biggest names in the genre. And his personal style relies more on jerseys, Air Force 1s, and Air Jordan 1s than it does traditional country garb. Jimmie Allen, another Black country star, can be seen in Jordans and playing in custom sneakers at the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game. 

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