Donald Trump’s sneaker stunt stole from the Black culture he’s vilified

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I can’t quite get over the fact that former President Donald Trump showed up at Sneaker Con this weekend — and debuted a sneaker.

The tacky gold kicks with red bottoms — Oh, how I wish Christian Louboutain could trademark the red sole — and American flag motif don’t bother me. Not all must-have kicks are fly, just look at Kanye West’s ugly Yeezys.

The $400 price tag doesn’t really bother me either. Louis Vuitton charges $1,300 for fancy Converse knock-offs. And so what that Trump is a politician, fashion and politics have been strange bedfellows forever.

What unsettles me is the former president’s golden sneaker is a clear nod — albeit gaudy — to hip-hop culture, a culture he’s spent years vilifying. Yeah, I know. Why can’t Trump’s Sneaker Con appearance be about him connecting with his homies over footwear. Why are you making it about race?

The truth is, if it wasn’t for hip-hop culture, sneaker culture wouldn’t exist. And if it wasn’t for Black American culture, hip-hop wouldn’t exist.

Trump is a friend to neither, period. In fact, Trump and many of his Republican supporters are actively trying to wipe Black culture off the American landscape, most egregiously through continued attempts at voter suppression and banning books. Black people benefitted from slavery, so many say. Black history is not American history, they argue.

But sneaker culture is ripe for the taking?

The hypocrisy is astonishing.

Or, is it? Trump’s colonization of sneaker culture is totally on brand. All 1,000 of the limited edition Trump sneaker, made my CIC Ventures LLC, have sold out, netting the company at least $400,000. According to the website, the sneakers are not designed, manufactured, distributed or sold by Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their respective affiliates or principals. But Trump reported owning CIC Ventures in his 2023 financial disclosure.

Sneaker Con was founded by brothers Alan and Barris Vinogradov and friend, Yu-Ming Wu in 2009 to spread sneaker culture across the world and provide a destination for sneakerheads to buy and sell sneakers. Today Sneaker Con is in 30 cities, boasts more than 4,000 exhibitors and draws more than 300,000 attendees. Annual revenue is reported in the millions. There is no mention of hip-hop in any of the marketing, like this important part of sneaker culture was wiped away from the history like the burning of so many Black businesses in America at the beginning of Jim Crow, stunting Black economic growth.

Alan Vinogradav is an on-the-record Trump supporter who over the course of a year has donated about $1,570 to the former president’s political fundraising.

There is no way I am going to let Trump or the cats at Sneaker Con ignore sneaker culture’s Black history, especially in Philadelphia — the home of some of the most dedicated Sneakerheads I know —and especially during Black History Month.

In 1982, Nike tapped 76er Moses Malone as one of the five players in the NBA to introduce Air Force 1s to America and white-on-white Forces became Philly’s unofficial kick. Many say, that sneaker jumpstarted sneaker culture in Philadelphia. Yet it wasn’t until RUN-DMC’s 1986 single, “My Adidas” did sneaker culture — the practice of buying sneakers to covet and style in rather than wear to play sports in — was truly born.

During the last 40 years, countless brands from Pumas to Converse, LA Gear to Etonics, Nike to New Balance and A Bathing Ape to Reebok have fastidiously released styles that appealed to hip-hop connoisseurs. The more popular sneakers are with rappers and ballplayers like Alan Iverson, who were inspired by hip-hop, the more valuable the shoes were.

There was a time when Trump cozied up to hip-hop artists because they gave the shady Jamaica Estates-born business man street cred. Black rappers continued to mention Trump in their music even after he took out ads in New York papers calling for the conviction of the Central Park Five, the five Black teenagers who spent 13 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. Trump was a symbol of wealth. A role model. He was the epitome of life goals.

Yet, despite the fact that rappers worshiped Trump’s golden altar, he has spent the last 10 years dismissing Black history and running a campaign that hearkens back to a time when it was OK to lynch Black men, stop them from going to school, or pay Black men fair wages, all the while advocating laws that would make it harder for Black people to vote or learn Black history.

Trump standing at the Sneaker Con podium calling himself a friend to sneaker culture is disingenuous.

But then again, what else is new?

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