In 1986, the Nike Air Force 1 redefined the role of sneakers in urban culture. White-on-white Uptowns, as they came to be called, quickly became the footwear of many urban drug dealers who wore them in pristine condition as signifiers of wealth and status. In the media, this bravado represented both a reinterpretation of American success as well as urban degeneracy. This dichotomy would continue to permeate sneaker culture as the conspicuous consumption of sneakers became linked to young black masculinity.

1986 also marked the year that Run–DMC released “My Adidas” and signed a million dollar contract with Adidas, helping to disseminate the urban fashion for the Superstar to a global audience. Other sneaker brands followed suit, but rather than using these endorsements to connect with their inner-city base, many companies exploited the image of unrestrained urban luxury to sell shoes to white, suburban, middle-class consumers. At the height of this commodification of urban “authenticity,” American sneaker brand British Knights admitted in a press release, “The only way to get a middle-class suburban high school kid to buy your product is to have an inner-city kid wear it.”