When you think about sneaker culture, what cities come to mind? If I had to guess, I think most people would say New York, LA, DMV, London, Paris, Milan, Rotterdam, Cologne and Harajuku.
That's not saying sneaker culture isn't present in other places around the world, but those are the cities that are most known for its love for sneakers. Please let me know if you disagree in the comments.
But notice how I completely skipped over the Middle East. That's because we don't hear much about the culture there, so it's easy to skip over that region. However, things are quickly changing in Middle Eastern sneaker culture.
A friend of mine (what up, Abdul) recently introduced me to Concepts Dubai partner, Faisal Al-Saud. Faisal and I had a good conversation about the culture's growth, style, influences, and where he'd like it to be in 3-5 years.
If you're curious to learn more about how the culture is growing in the Middle East, read our conversation below.
G-Roc: What up! Let’s start off by you introducing yourself and little bit of your background in the industry.
Faisal: Hi, my name is Faisal Al-Saud. I’ve been a sneakerhead as far back as I can remember. I'm pretty new to the industry actually, my experience comes with what I’ve learned at our store Concepts DXB which has been up and running for the last 3 years.
Cool. So how long have you been living in the Middle East and how does sneaker culture differ from your time living in Europe?
I have lived in a Saudi for most of my life with the exception of Switzerland and the US for school. Where I come from there has been next to no sneaker culture until the point sneakers became a status symbol. That’s when people started to get into it. Minus the handful that were actually aware of sneaker culture dude to frequent travel.
The interesting thing is Asia is huge and well known for its love for sneakers, but why do you think the Middle East isn’t known for its love for sneakers?
I think because most people in the region were closed off to the world for a long time, it was difficult for sneaker culture to make its way into our lifestyles. Also, when people think of “Asia” it's usually associated with places like China, Japan or South Korea which are know for being a huge market for these types of products.
People who come to mind when I think about Middle East sneaker culture are Money Kicks of Dubai and KicksTQ of Kuwait. Am I leaving out any other well know personality?
There are a lot of people now that can be called “influencers” but you’re correct. As of now those are the only 2 I can honestly say have broken the barrier and become known outside the Middle East. For completely different reasons. Both have different styles but are very recognized everywhere.
Photo by @kickstq in Kuwait City
Would you say the Middle East has its own style or is heavily influenced by Internet trends?
I’d say since we’re pretty new to all this hype and streetwear we have yet to discover our own identity. Don’t get me wrong we are getting there quickly, I just think for now it’s easier to follow trends and be influenced by outside cultures.
Is there a specific model that seems to be more popular there? For example, like Foams and New Balance 990s in DMV?
At this point the Middle East tends to follow what outside culture dictates in terms of hype and style. So at this particular time Yeezys and Off White Nikes are the most popular silhouettes out there.
Got it. So what shoe does the typical Concepts Dubai customer buy or inquire about?
Outside of the hype shoes that drop monthly, we get a lot of requests for actual Concepts collabs from the past. Not many people are aware of when previous drops happened so they think that we can provide some older ones.
Can you provide a brief description about SoleDXB and its importance to the culture there?
SoleDXB is currently the one event in the entire region that is guaranteed to garner an international crowd specficially to showcase streetwear, sneakers and music. So I’d say it’s the most important event for a store like us to keep people interested and coming back for more. I’d say it’s a smaller ComplexCon.
It sounds really dope. What are some things you think the world should know about Middle East sneaker culture that they probably don’t know?
Well it’s a bit cliche but I’d like for more people to really look at us before they judge. Many people assume we don’t know what we’re talking about since the region hasn’t really impacted the sneaker world. But I assure you we’re getting there if not already. I’d also like for more brands and stores to check out the region and see the potential growth they could have with us.
Where would you like Concepts Dubai and local culture to be in 3-5 years?
It sounds a bit vein, but I’d like for people to think about our store every single time there’s a release or drop. I hope by then to be the leader in the region in terms of drops and variety of products.
You can connect with Faisal and Concepts DXB on IG: @faisaltaf / @cncptsdxb
The Rise of Middle East Sneaker Culture