What role do brands play in shoe buying for guys?

Nike continues to rule the shoe industry. Then comes everything else: Jordan, Sperry, Adidas, Converse and Vans, among others. It is not unusual for guys to pay over $100, or $200, or even more, for these brand names.

The swoosh is a trademark, one of the most noticeable logos in the world. Nike has come under fire for child labor and brutally low wages, yet the multibillion dollar company continues to thrive. Why do brands like New Balance, that are made in America, continue to lag behind. How do Jordans release an old shoe for upwards of $300?

How is it possible for Jordan to release a shoe, take it off the shelf, then re-release the same shoe for an increased price? How has Converse withstood the test of time, through different generations and fashions?

To many people, shoes are just what they are–shoes.

But to others, shoes are much more. Todd Clark, senior and self-proclaimed ‘shoehead,’ echoes these sentiments.

“Shoes say something about your style, and put you all together,” he said. “They tie your whole look together.” Clark, who has over 20 pairs of shoes, says he’s even spent $300 on a pair of Air Jordan Concord 11s.

The shoe was released in 1996, and like many Air Jordans, has been re-released multiple times, the price never decreasing. This is common with Air Jordans. An old shoe will re-release in a different colorway or with a different feature, and will captivate shoeheads around the country. People have been known to camp for days inside of malls to get their hands on the newest pair of Jordans first.

The kind of shoe that Michael Jordan wore as he hit “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo in the 1989 NBA playoffs are still selling out to this day. The shoes, Air Jordan IV’s, can be found on EBay for over $5,000.

Brand names are, of course, the main factor to why we wear the shoes we wear. To some, it’s the only factor. In some ways, this is a positive.

Brands like Sperrys are known for their dependability and thus have remained a top seller of shoes. Kasey Singer, senior, loves his durable Sperrys. “They look fly, and they’re comfortable,” he said. “When someone looks at you wearing Sperrys, they’re like ‘man he’s got [style]!’”

Vans also have been in style for a long time–the simplicity and cheapness of the shoe never goes out of style. “They’re cheap, real comfortable and nice,” said Chris Jeffreys, senior, of his Vans. “They [match] with everything.”

Chuck Taylor All-Stars are still being worn regularly, despite its seemingly never changing appearance. After all, Chuck Taylors were being worn by World War II soldiers in-training and NBA players in the 1960’s.

So what separates Nike in many peoples’ opinions?

Todd Clark says it’s their versatility. “They have every single sport and every single style. They have casual to performance.”

It is truly fascinating how large a role brand names play in why guys buy shoes. While it is sometimes looked down upon to buy a shoe solely for its brand name, it is not necessarily fiscally irresponsible to do so.

Benjamin Klein, professor at UCLA, wrote an article about brand names as a whole. “Because brand-name companies have a greater incentive to ensure high quality, consumers who buy brand-name products are necessarily paying for something:” he said. “The added assurance that the company has taken the necessary measures to protect its reputation for quality.”

Simply put, you know what you are going to get with brand names. They are consistent. The real question is, are they worth the sometimes excessive amounts of money guys pay for them?

Sperrys continue their popularity through comfortability and dependability. Vans have become synonymous with cheap, yet high quality and stylish shoes. Jordans remain some of the most luxurious sneakers available. And of course Nike, through their thousands of styles of shoes, are known for all of the above.

While some may buy shoes just for the logo, the logo contains a proven and consistent reputation. Each of these brands are popular for a reason, they have carved their own niche in the shoe industry.

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