The Gentrification of Sneaker Culture A qualitative research into the gentrification process of sneaker consumer culture

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The term ‘gentrification of sneaker culture’ has been applied in popular news articles, to describe a shift in sneaker culture, namely from a unique consumer subculture, into a mainstream consumer culture. Drawing from Contemporary Gentrification Theory and by adopting a lens from the Consumer Culture Theory research domain, this research builds empirical knowledge on how gentrification processes emerge in sneaker culture. This research addresses key limitations in prior Gentrification Research and in prior Consumer Culture Research, by including the empirical study of the subjective experiences and sentiments of those affected by gentrification processes, in the context of sneaker culture. With data from both netnography and in-depth interviews, this research identifies a three-phase gentrification process in the context of sneaker culture. The findings show that sneaker market trends (phase 1) have initiated fundamental changes in the sneaker culture and community (phase 2). This research also finds that original sneakerheads, affected by the gentrification process, both perceive negative as well as positive consequences and sentiments related to the gentrification process (phase 3). This study empirically shows that gentrification processes are applicable to consumer culture contexts. Furthermore, the finding that those affected by the gentrification process have a nuanced view on this process, enables interdisciplinary theoretical implications for both gentrification theory as well as consumer culture theory. Finally, the study also reveals how marketing, retail and design approaches of sneaker brands are perceived by original sneakerheads, affected by the gentrification process of sneaker culture, leading to practical recommendations.
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