I’ve always been nostalgic when it comes to sneakers, really, when it comes to everything. There’s something I find incredibly important about the stories that got us here and acknowledging the people that paved the path for the journey. While today is the official 5 year anniversary of me starting Sneaker History, the idea had been in the works for much longer.
For me personally, I became fixated on sneakers as a kid. My brothers and I would draw them nonstop. Back then I loved drawing early Air Max models. We would even create our own concepts, imagining that we had the job of designing the new models. The commercials, magazines, and the kids at school that had the latest Air Jordans, it made us want sneakers. Our family was nowhere near a position to spend money on sneakers for us kids, not even close. We had $30 per year to use to buy a pair of shoes. Drawing the sneakers, cutting them out of the old J.C. Penney and Eastbay catalogs, finding them on sportscards, and trying to spot them on TV anytime a sporting event was nationally televised, became our ways of feeling connected to the “cool” that sneakers were. As someone who moved around a lot as a kid (13 schools K-12!), sneakers connected me anywhere and everywhere our family went. They were like sports taken to a whole new level. I didn’t have the latest and greatest, but I knew what they were and I could always talk to the new people I’d meet as I moved.
The idea for Sneaker History started the summer of 2010 on one of those sleepless nights that I would spend digging through the Sole Collector and NikeTalk forums looking for random sneaker photos that people were trying to identify. As an employee of Sole Collector, I took on the task of creating the Eastbay Blog with the help of guys like Jordan Hagedorn and Brandon Richard. It was right up my alley, talk about nostalgia. Talk about a dream come true. However, the thing I noticed pretty quickly about the corporate world is that everything needed to align with a sales goal or marketing campaign. For instance, what happens to the stories of sneakers that are not releasing this season or may not have a re-release scheduled for the near future? It was realizing this that I began to think about what I would do if I had my own site. I could tell the stories of any shoe, not just the trends or the new releases, but all of the shoes in my collection that weren’t really special in terms of monetary value or hype (most were things I found on sale). I could tell the stories from people that shared this crazy passion and had their own unique stories that connected us. That night, I signed up for @SneakerHistory on Twitter.
In the spring of 2011, I began working with Foot Locker on their Sneakerpedia project (who remembers F5toRefresh?). A Wikipedia for sneakers seemed like something that was right up my alley, plus at the time, there were no sales goals attached to our work. We truly were just building a community around the site and social accounts that we managed. Just a few months into the project, there were challenges between New York’s Foot Locker and Foot Locker Europe. Like most businesses, there were people on both sides wanting to move in different directions, both with good reasons. It was around this time that I registered the domain name for Sneaker History. Foreseeing the challenges of a corporate-backed project intended to be for the community, with no monetization plan, I knew Sneakerpedia wouldn’t last forever. Although, we did help to keep it going for a solid 3-4 years before it met its eventual demise.
Although I had the social handles and the domain name, it wasn’t quite the right time yet.
I officially launched @SneakerHistory 5 years ago today…
Thank you to everyone who has supported! pic.twitter.com/hQGZa5mIxQ
— Nick Engvall (@NickEngvall) January 7, 2020
In the summer of 2012, Russ Bengtson asked me if I wanted to work for Complex. FUCK.YES. I moved to Brooklyn with the intention of proving to everyone in the world that I, a kid from Sacramento, deserved to be a respected part of the sneaker world. Behind the scenes, I had already started making a name for myself but Complex was a magazine that I had always wanted to write for and my experience at Sole Collector, although it’s probably one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, didn’t have a place for me to grow at the rate I was excited to do so. Moving to New York City meant that Sneaker History would have to be put on the backburner for a while longer but my intentions in NYC were to show that I could outwork anyone, prove that I knew the business better than anyone in the editorial space, and expand my network in ways that can only happen in New York City.
Another opportunity a few years later, as a Digital Content Manager for Finish Line, added another delay to me really putting any effort into Sneaker History. As much as I wanted to work on it, I never wanted it to come across as me competing against the companies that employed me. My experience with all of these companies through the years made it obvious that there was an opportunity to do something community-driven without a hidden agenda or the “pay for play” coverage that exists on most of the internet today. I never wanted to be viewed as competition to the Nice Kicks, Sneaker News, Sole Collector, and Complex type of blogs. They all have their place and they have their audience. I wanted to make Sneaker History for the stories by and about people that made me love sneakers and the friends I gained along the way. I wanted to create a platform, a community, a network, that would be able to support people who shared the passion for sneakers, open doors for those that couldn’t find a way into the business of footwear, and elevate some of the creative people who were being overlooked.
As my time with Finish Line was nearing its end, I finally launched the site in January of 2015. For the last 5 years, it’s been a place for me to share my thoughts about the sneaker business without worrying about offending an advertiser or someone in the sales department. It’s been a place where I can teach others about blogging, writing, SEO, and digital marketing. It’s been a place where I can partner with people and brands that wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the thousands of dollars it costs to have a post on more famous sneaker Instagram accounts. Most importantly, it’s been a place for me to connect with people that have a passion for sneakers and the stories surrounding them.
I feel confident in saying that 5 years later, I’ve been able to accomplish those things and I am looking forward to doing even more in the future. Time really flies! Thank you to everyone who has supported. Here’s to the next 5 years!