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A Non-Comprehensive Non-Scientific Non-Educated List of Sneaker Lingo

We, who love sneakers, have our own set of terms that we use to describe sneakers, or kinds of sneakers, or conditions of sneakers… Admittedly, we don’t keep up. We are too busy designing sneakers than keeping up with urban terminology. However, here’s a list we grabbed from all over the internets. Enjoy!


Aglets are those little things that are on the end of shoelaces. They used to be made of simple plastic but now, they come in everything from carbon fiber to custom labeled versions to Jesus piece-matching gold on the Nike Air Yeezy II (which, as you may have found out the hard way, tend to unscrew by themselves). We’re sure somebody will be making necklaces out of these things in no time.


Beaters are those kicks you always choose to wear, even after they’ve been worn over and over again. In fact, at a certain point, you start to love every bit of “character” that shows in the form of creases, scuffs, stains, and that always lovely stench. Well, maybe not the stench. And without fail, even if you have 1,000 pairs of sneakers, you wind up with a pair of beaters.


In sneaker terms, Bespoke is a one-of-a-kind Air Force 1 designed at Nike’s 21 Mercer location where they offer a unique experience of creating a personalized sneaker using a special assortment of materials and finishes, right down to the stitching and labels. It’s a true “one of one” sneaker and the experience of creating your own is often on the bucket list of sneakerheads. The term came from suits and shoes, where it simply meant “made to order,” or “made to fit.” Definitely not off the rack.


A sneaker’s colorway is the particular combination of colors applied to a sneaker. It’s also a vastly annoying term, but a necessary evil in this world of ours. Often times, a nickname is associated with the colorway that’s found on the box. For instance, the Oregon, the Black Cements and the True Blues are all different colorways of the Jordan III silhouette. Come on people, can’t we just memorize the color codes?


Deadstock, often shortened to just DS, is a term used to say that a pair of sneakers has never been worn. We’re not exactly sure how it went from “dead stock” to “deadstock,” but sometimes you just have to say, “It’s a sneakerhead thing.” Contrary to what eBay may lead you to believe, a sneaker that has been tried on, let alone “worn only inside” is NOT deadstock.


It’s OK to change your mind but when you make it a habit to call an upcoming sneaker release wack, only to suddenly decide it’s “heat” the moment it hits shelves, that’s hypebeast characteristics. That’s that sh*t we don’t like. “Flip-flop” can also refer to what you wear on line during a rainstorm.


A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. For sneakerheads, grails are the same, in the sense that they’re the shoes you have to have before you die. Most grails tend to be uber-rare and extremely limited sneakers but for some sneakerheads, it can be that colorway that you can wear everyday and for others it’s that old pair you had as a kid that you wish you would have held onto. Grails are the shoe that complete you… and your sneaker collection. (Not that your collection will ever be “complete” — stop lying to yourself already.)

High Top

High-tops, not rooftops-high like Wiz Khalifa, more like thunderous slam dunks and roughing people up in the paint high like David Robinson, Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins. High-tops back in the day were made to give additional ankle support. They were also actual high-tops, meaning the height of the sneaker was well above the top of the ankle. There are very few true high-tops made today, the Supra TK Society in fact, is the first one that comes to mind and it’s a skate shoe. Sigh. What passes for a “high” today would have been a low back in the day. Call us lame sneakerheads, but sometimes we miss those days.


You know that friend of yours that has to have every new limited release, even if it means selling the pair they just bought last week? The one that buys sneakers based on how many people on Twitter say it’s cool? Yep, we all have them. A Hypebeast consumes hype and reacts accordingly. Never forget, as PM Dawn once said: “Don’t believe the hype because if you do it might deceive you.” And you thought they were one-hit wonders. And, as someone else once said about hype, “as an equal can I get this through to you?”


The Hyperstrike is the most limited of releases, and it generally drops without warning. Basically, if you’re reading this and not in line, camped out and roasting marshmallows right this minute, you are too late. Hyperstrikes are kept under wraps as long as possible and released in extremely limited numbers, sometimes only to friends and family. Tough luck, champ.


Obviously, you should know this but common sense isn’t always common. The now-iconic Jordan logo was the brainchild of Nike’s Peter Moore, silhouetted from a rookie photo shoot, and most famously debuted on the Tinker Hatfield designed Air Jordan III.


This one is pretty self explanatory, with the exception of, well, all sorts of things. Lows, or low-tops, are typically cut below the top of the ankle or lower. Or if it’s late in the day and you ain’t been on the court yet, call them a short set. Just like with high tops, back in the day lows were higher — the Charles Barkley worn Air Force 180 was actually the Air Force 180 Low, which it decidedly isn’t.


Mids; hated by most, loved by few, worn by all. When it comes to mids, silhouettes like the Dunk and Air Force 1 are an “acquired taste.” They were also latecomers to the party, created due to popular demand. However, trainers and many basketball shoes fall into the mid-cut category without the label, which somehow makes them better. Many high tops have been retroed AS mids, however, which is simply unacceptable.


NIB is short for new in box, or new in the box. Period. If a shoe has been taken out of the box, as long as you didn’t try them on and you put them back exactly as they were, they can still qualify. But they’re no longer deadstock, though. Sorry. (“NIB” is also a great Black Sabbath song that we’re pretty sure has nothing to do with sneakers.)


With most conversations nowadays taking place in a 140 characters or less, sneakerheads have opted to be more efficient and the acronym NDC has replaced Nike (dot) com, aka Nike’s online store. It’s a good thing, because is so long, we have a hard time remembering it. Also commonly referred to as “f*cking NDC!,” as in “f*cking NDC kept crashing when I was trying to cop Yeezys!”


Originals. Not a retro, not a re-release, but the first time a shoe released is the only time a sneaker is called OG. It’s like code, for original. Don’t get caught slippin’ and say a retro is an OG because the Twitter sneaker police will ridicule you, because, you know, they have nothing better to do.

On Ice

You heard it in Sh*t Sneakerheads Say but all you could imagine was Vanilla Ice rockin’ heat? Having a pair “on ice” means you have a pair of deadstock kicks that you haven’t worn yet. It’s basically a way of trying to one-up someone and prove your sneakerhead abilities to avoid wearing your shoes or purchase multiple pairs. It’s almost as cool as being on a boat motherf*cker!

Player Edition

A player-edition sneaker is one that is designed for a specific player, and then made available at retail, oftentimes as a quickstrike or limited release. The Ray Allen Air Jordan XIII is a great example of this, Boston Celtics colors, Sugar Ray’s signature on the tongue and released in limited quantities so that some fans get a chane to wear their hero’s shoes.

Player Exclusives

Slightly different than “player edition” but still abbreviated with the same PE acronym, a player-exclusive sneaker is one designed specifically for a player and never intended for retail. Most of the time, these are only available in the size of the player they were designed for. Colorways are unique, details are even better and every so often you’ll see these land on eBay. Be prepared to spend some serious bread, though, there’s usually only a handful of these made in the whole world.


The term Quickstrike and the shortened “QS” version began showing up on boxes in the early 2000s. Back then, it was an unannounced release that hit the stores quickly and was in limited quantities. With the Internet giving us a look at sneaker rumors what seems to be years before they release, now it seems even a QS release gets can end up discounted on outlet shelves. (Or we could just be saying that so we can get our hands on them before you.)


A reseller is someone who buys sneakers (usually in bulk) with the intent to sell them. Love them or hate them, they’re a part of this sneaker thing and they’re not going away. They make it hard Some of them provide you with a chance to get OG releases that you won’t find anywhere else. Others, they walk out of the local mall carting a full size run of those retros you won’t be able to get, gloating and taking pics for Instagram along the way. Guess which type makes us bitter?


A restock is simple, a retailer acquired more of the sneakers that recently sold out. In other words, those retros you just missed out on Friday and picked up for $100 over retail off eBay, yeah, those are now available again for retail. Have you read our 10 Signs You’re A Lame Sneakerhead? Don’t worry, though, it happens to us all at some point.


A retro model is a sneaker that came out previously that is released again. Retro sneakers are simultaneously the best and worst thing about sneakers. On the one hand, a retro model (aka bring-back, throwback, re-release) gives most of us the chance to grab a pair of shoes we either couldn’t get before, or we wore so much we gotta have another pair. On the other hand, it’s retros that seem to be the highest in demand on the resale market, making them harder to come by because of the quick buck people think they can make off of them. But we’ll take any retros we can get, really.


Generally speaking, this is an early makeup of a shoe that’s made so designers and retailers can see upcoming models. There are different types, of course. “Looksee” samples are typically in a size 9 and made for the reason above. “Weartest” samples are made in various sizes (basketball samples are most commonly size 13) to see how a new sneaker performs. And “player” samples are just another way of sayong “player exclusives.” Samples occasionally turn up on eBay or at company sample sales (or at Portland consignment shops) and are definitely sought after in some circles.

Size Run

A size run of sneakers refers to the amount of sneakers a retailer, or reseller, has. Typically referred to as a full size run, which for guys sizes, most of the time includes sizes 6 through 12. Other variations of the term may include, partial size run, when some sizes are not available and no size run, which is of course when the Hypebeasts and resellers beat you to a release.


Not to be confused with mythological beliefs as pushed by Wikipedia, to sneakerheads, tonal is a single-color makeup. It’s kind of like, two-tone, but only minus one. Tonal is the cool way of saying a sneaker is all one color.


When describing a shoe, the upper is essentially any portion above the outsole and midsole. Upper or uppers, usually consist of materials, colors, straps and sometimes even wings. Sadly, sometimes uppers are hybridized and bastardized into gaudy creations (no, not you, Jeremy — you’re cool by us).


Uptowns, uppies, or classics, nicknames for the most iconic sneaker of all-time, the Nike Air Force 1, are endless. The term “Uptowns” came from the popularity in uptown NYC hoods like Harlem, where the white-on-white Air Force 1 low will always be a favorite sneaker.


Short for “very near dead stock,” this term began popping up on for sale postings throughout sneaker forums many years ago to describe a sneaker’s condition. In recent years, increasing the number of “very” in your near deadstock kicks for sale has become a trend we can’t condone or understand. We assume if your kicks are VVVVVVVVNDS, you’re clearly trying to hide something. Basically, the way it should work is this: If the shoes have never been touched, they’re DS. If they’ve been tried on, they’re NDS. If they’ve even touched the ground or taken a single step — them shits is used, holmes.


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