The Austin Chronicle


Reviewed by Kate X Messer, April 7, 2006, Books

Sneaker Freaker: The Book: 2002-05

by Simon Wood

Riverhead, 320 pp., $20 (paper)

Sneaker collecting attracts a disparate fringe: design geeks, hip-hop heads, skaters, sports junkies, DJs, dancers, cool-hunters, computer nerds, et al. It's a global "phenomenon," and Sneaker Freaker, a blog and biannual slick for fanboys of the athletic shoe, is its Bible. Like the zine, Sneaker Freaker: The Book is a stunning glop of data, graphics, pics, and contagious enthusiasm, assembling the best 320 full-color pages of lustrous paper stock into one hand-holdable volume. The book attempts to provide an overview for the uninitiated and validation for the already sold. Unfortunately, the attempts range from mildly frustrating to obnoxiously mind-numbing.

Mildly frustrating? The absolutely gorgeous design would be better served in large format than trade paperback. Page numbers, an index, or a table of contents would make the experience less sloggy. Obnoxious? Amid all the insipid fanboy drooling and product rah-rahing, even the teeniest self-examination of the obsessive-compulsive and superficial nature of this sneaker disorder, or perhaps a subtle acknowledgment of the controversies surrounding the multinats that employ for pennies to produce these triple-digit daps might avert a few eye-rolls and the sampling of one's own vomit in one's own mouth.

Not that Wood doesn't try: like when he confronts one sneaker maker to confess if he really intended to knock Nike off their throne. Oooh, rad, Woody's empowering an upstart! Oh, wait, the subject being questioned is the VP of Reebok ... well, how about the line of incisive questions about using eco-friendly materials in a radical sneaker design? Oh, it's a Nike brand ... The line of questioning does little more than spoon-feed the sneaker massa an opportunity to fly the eco-flag higher than any of their press releases ever could. Nope. It all boils down to dumbed-down rhetoric and playtime reporting, like when Woody asks that veep of Reebok, "So who is going to be hot in 12 months time?" Oh, coy Reebok veep, how you tease: "I can't tell you that!"

Some reviews of the book go so far as to call Wood a journalist. If this dude is a journalist, I am Noam Chomsky. In this fuzzy world of self-expression through commerce, Woody is a journalist ... in the way Ryan Seacrest is a journalist. Reading Sneaker Freaker: The Book with any sort of critical eye is like stepping in "something" outside and not realizing it until you've tracked it all through the house and everyone starts asking, "What is that smell?" In a world where "creative" means "the ad department," and corporations co-opt zine culture, the smell isn't coming from the shoes.

Lace that up and walk on it, Wood. Just be careful where you step.

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