Sneaker Terminology Every Sneakerhead Should Know

If you intend to hop on the sneaker game train any time in the near future (or already have, considering I drafted this in 2016 but never published it till today), there are a few sneaker terms you should know, just like every other sneaker head.

This is, in no way, an exhaustive guide to sneaker terminology. Just words I have known for a fair bit and some I have learned in recent times. So while I was putting them together to upgrade my sneaker vocab, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to compile a list consisting of sneaker terminology, every sneakerhead should know!

  1. Hypebeast – The kind of individual who gets all excited about a sneaker release or silhouette because every single person in the community is excited about it. This person doesn’t care for relevance or history and only buys what he thinks another hypebeast would love or would give him/her bragging rights.

    Supreme Box Logo Tee India
    Freebies make me happy!
  2. Mid, High, Low – This refers to the ankle height on your sneakers. A Low is cut below the ankle, a Mid at the ankle and a High above the ankle. Like the Powerphase Calabasas is a Low, the Jordan 1 is a High and the Riccardo Tisci Air Max 97 is a Mid.
    Yeezy Powerphase CalabasasAllen Claudius

    Indian Hypebeast
    Riccardo Tisci Air Max 97 Mid
  3. Colorway – Defines the color scheme of the sneaker. Like this sneaker has the Mystery Ink / White Colorway, which means to say it is a blue and white colored sneaker.

    EQT Boost Mid
    My first pair of EQT Boost collabs and I love them.
  4. TTS – Short for True To Size, refers to the fit of a sneaker. If you wear a size 9 on the regular and ask someone how does a particular new-to-market sneaker fit and they say True To Size it means you should stick to your size. Size up and Size down are when you need to either go up or down your regular size by 0.5 or 1. Like on the Yeezy Boost 350 V2, you would need to go up half a size.
  5. Deadstock – Refers to a sneaker that is new, unworn and in it’s original box. Has never been worn or slipped on feet and has never made contact with the floor.
  6. Aglets – The ends of a shoelace that is often not given much thought to, till recent times. Now you see chrome bits or detailed branding on what was otherwise a basic plastic wrap around the tips.
  7. Daily Beaters – Sneakers you wear every day or very often and therefore they tend to take a lot of beating. And with use and age, they develop a character of their own which is unique to you. Some people use Converse Chuck Taylor‘s as beaters while others use Jordan 1‘s.
    Converse All Star Chuck Taylor 2
  8. Upper, Heel, Lateral, Medial – Used to define the various sides of a sneaker. While the upper and heel are self explanatory, the Lateral side refers to the outer sides of the sneakers and Medial refers to the inner sides.
  9. Insole, Midsole, Outsole – Everything that matters to the sole of your feet. The in-sole rides within the sneaker and provides direct cushioning. The mid-sole is sandwiched between the in-sole and the outsole that makes contact with the ground.
  10. General Release – Multiple pieces, multiple sizes, usually sit on shelves for a while rather than getting sold out real quick. These kicks have next to no hype and are produced through the year at times. Like a Superstar or Air Max.
    Bowties and Bones
  11. Bred – Refers in particular to the Jordan 1 Retro Black and Red colorway. Although this term has been used in recent days on Yeezy Boost 350s.
    Air Jordan 1 Bred Banned Retro Jumpman 23

    adidas Originals Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black/Red BRED
    Dark Tones!
  12. Yeezy – A Kanye West designed sneaker for adidas Originals (was Nike in the past) which has limited numbers of each colorway and has a lot of hype around it. Although this has changed in the recent past with frequent (large quantity) restocks of the said Yeezy sneaker.

    Allen Claudius
    I broke out my Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Cream White for the event.
  13. Tonal – Refers to a sneaker that is all in one color. Red laces, red upper, red sole, like the Red October for instance.
    adidas Originals EQT Triple White
  14. Reseller – The individual who buys sneakers with the “sole” intention of flipping them at a high markup to people who were less fortunate when they dropped. A much-hated group, resellers are.
  15. Restock – When a particular sneaker has sold out and the brand decides to make a new batch and cash in on the hype around it. Like with the NMD OG that dropped first in December 2015 and then again in January 2016. Or like the Silver Bullet Air Max 97 that I picked during one of the restocks in the second half of 2017.
    Allen Claudius
  16. On Ice – Put a sneaker in storage right after purchasing it and then bring them out when the hype has died and everyone else has beaten their pair up. That way, you have a fresh pair of sneakers, when everyone else has worn theirs in. Sometimes, people double-up on a pair so they rock one and stock one (on ice).
  17. New In Box – Almost deadstock but has been tried on and the tags are pulled off perhaps. The lacing could also have been changed over as per the buyer’s style. The Jordan 1’s, for instance, come with the laces only on the first two eyelets of the sneaker. The buyer might have laced them up completely.
  18. Grails – The most coveted of sneakers which have iconic relevance and often times are sold in limited numbers. Think Bape X adidas Originals NMD.
    Allen Claudius
  19. Flip Flop – Going back and forth on your decision or preference for a particular sneaker. Like I was not too crazy about the Pirate Black Yeezy 350 V2. But after it released I regretted the decision of not picking up a pair because I thought they looked pretty cool. And then began my search for a deadstock pair.
  20. Dubrae – Another word for the lace-lock. Actually, the word Nike came up with when they slapped it on an Air Force 1.
    Nike Air Force 1 Wheat Workboot
  21. OG – The first time a sneaker is released is when it is rightfully called an OG. Although there has been a lot of debate especially on the usage of the term when the first NMD was released and later retro’d with the tag “OG” to it. Short for “Original”
  22. Retro – Where people blur lines with an OG. A retro is essentially an OG that has been recreated and released in the current day. A pre existing sneaker with either the same or improved materials and dropped in the market to satiate the hunger of sneakerheads who couldn’t get their hands on the OG.

    Bowties and Bones
    Time to address the elephant in the room!
  23. Size Run – The range of sizes that a particular sneaker is going to be released in. For example, sizes UK 4 to UK 11.
  24. Factory Lacing – As the name suggests, a sneaker that has it’s laces intact like when it came out right out of the assembly line and has not been redone by the buyer. People believe this means the sneakers are crisp and not tampered with.
  25. Friends and Family pairs – Brands make exclusive colorways or renditions of a new sneaker release/drop that are seeded to their primary influencers or friends and family members of the artist collaboration / the brand. These are extremely limited in number and resell for a rather exaggerated price because of inaccessibility.
  26. Js – Refers to Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers that are named after the greatest athlete of all time, Michael Jordan.

    Air Jordan 1 Bred Banned Retro Jumpman 23
    Hare Jordan 1 VS Air Jordan 1
  27. Replica / UA – These could range from cheaply made fakes to good quality duplicates put out by the same factory that makes the real deal. With the increase in Yeezy’s popularity and production, the market has been flooded with replicas. UA stands for Unauthorised but they too are replicas.
  28. Boost – An adidas speciality, this material looks like styrofoam or thermocol hard pressed together. It is actually made up of several bits of Thermoplastic Polyurethane which is super bouncy and make you feel like you are stepping on marshmallows.

    adidas Originals X Porter NMD C1 Chukka
    My all new go-to daily beater from Warsaw Sneaker Store, Poland
  29. PK, FKPrimeknit by adidas Originals and Flyknit by Nike, these are sneaker-uppers that are made from a knit material that makes them very stretchy and therefore extremely comfortable + breathable. Once you slip your feet into knit uppers, I don’t think any other form of upper would come close.
    adidas Originals EQT Ultra PK Turbo Red

    Nike Air Max 1 Ultra Flyknit Sport Red OG

      Give me some sun and air!
  30. Looksee, Weartesters (Sample) – Before going into full-fledged production, brands develop samples that are used internally to test for fit, durability, feel and appearance. The brands sell these samples (unworn and fresh) through their Friends and Family access events. This is how most pairs are teased or seen in the market before the actual launch.

So there you go guys, that is a ready list of sneaker terminology every sneakerhead should know. Do you think I missed out on any? Let me know through your comments down below.

Shot by Vishal Dey for Bowties and Bones

Check out my sneaker review videos on YouTube.


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