Abstract: Jumpman: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Sneakerhead Culture Among Black Fathers (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Jumpman: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Sneakerhead Culture Among Black Fathers

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Qiana Cryer-Coupet, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University, NC
Delisia Matthews, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University, NC

The term “Black Father” often evokes a negative connotation, synonymous with abandonment and absentee parenting. However, Black fathers are not monolithic and have recently been shown to be more involved with their children across various domains than fathers of other racial and ethnic groups. Interdisciplinary scholarly efforts are needed to continue to address negative stereotypes related to the experiences of Black fathers. These efforts can begin by investigating dimensions and determinants of fathering that are often overlooked. The current study is a mixed-method project that explored the impact of consumer behavior on the parenting practices of Black fathers via the lens of Sneakerhead culture. A “Sneakerhead” is a person who collects, trades, or admires sneakers. While the impulses of sneakerheads have been examined in recent film documentaries, this unique consumer group has not been widely assessed empirically. Thus, the current study sought to fill this gap. The main purpose of this study was to uncover the consumer behavior, attitudes, and motivations of sneakerheads, while investigating the social impact of the sneakerhead subculture on father engagement and parenting practices.


Using a quantitative approach, 167 sneaker enthusiasts were surveyed at a National Sneakerhead Convention. The survey included a demographic questionnaire, an assessment of purchase behavior and motivations, a self-esteem scale, and measures of financial and social outcomes. Using a qualitative approach, 17 sneaker enthusiasts completed semi-structured, in-depth interviews. The interview guide included questions regarding the purchase behaviors and brand preferences of each participant. Those who identified as fathers, answered questions regarding parenting practices and values transmission. The interviews were audio-taped, and transcribed verbatim for analysis.


Over 40% of the Black male Sneakerheads who participated in the quantitative phase of the study, identified as fathers and agreed that purchasing sneakers for their children was an important rite of passage. Four main themes emerged from the qualitative interviews with fathers. (1) Started from the Bottom- reveals the nostalgic nature of the sneakers for participants, and how this nostalgia evoked a fondness towards certain sneaker collections. (2) Belonging and Connection-represents fathers’ desire to pass on a sense of community and shared passion for sneaker culture. (3) Freedom of Expression-highlighted the importance fathers attached to their children having the ability to freely express themselves via sneakers in a culture that does not often support free expression from Black youth. (4) Entrepreneurial Spirit-revealed fathers’ practice of transmitting entrepreneurial values related to the buying, selling, and trading of sneakers.


Sneakerheads represent a very common subculture within Black popular culture. Most notably, hip hop artists have used rap music to offer praise and poignant critiques of Sneakerhead culture and its relationship with parenting behaviors, particularly among Black fathers. Findings from the current study showcase a dimension of Black father involvement and father-child bonding that is not widely explored in academia, but largely experienced in popular culture. The exploration of this consumer group has interdisciplinary implications for the footwear industry and social work practitioners looking to develop culturally relevant interventions for Black fathers and their children.