The damage inflicted tends to fall into one of two camps: the permanent and the impermanent. The former involves processes such as drilling holes into a sole, or slicing away at a sneakers’ uppers with a saw, while the latter tends to involve mess: slushing around in mud, scribbling on them with markers, lathering footwear in liquid-y foodstuffs like pasta sauce or the aforementioned pudding. The list really is endless – one enthusiast of this strange kink has ruined enough pairs to even compile a video of his 100 favorite annihilations.It’s interesting to note that, after studying the various websites and YouTube channels devoted to this particular fetish across the web, it quickly becomes apparent that sneaker mutilators aren’t content with simply trashing cheap, no-brand pairs. Instead, videos are dominated by silhouettes and brands coveted within the sneakerhead community: various Air Max and Air Jordan models; Nike dominates throughout, but adidas appears regularly too, as well as Converse and Doc Martens; Air Max 90s and Air Force 1s appear to be the undisputed favorites, as far as I can see. For such a narrowly niche interest, there’s a sizable amount of overlap with fairly mainstream tastes.
The viciousness with which these sneaker vandals ruin pieces of footwear might come across as a sign of underlying violent tendencies, maybe even a cause for concern in the way that violence towards animals is usually a sign that your kid is going to grow up to be a sociopath, but the overarching mood is a sexual one. There a titillative quality to the videos, as they build in intensity like a striptease, which is reflected in the comments section by suggestive remarks and winking smileys like “Love to watch you play with them ;-),” “Would love to meet to trash each others nikes” and “nice vid (and nice legs .When VICE first covered this phenomenon two years ago, their writer interviewed a prominent trasher of sneakers that goes by the name of Ginnasio, whose replies definitely reveal an erotic undercurrent to the activity. Unfortunately, for all his talents in cooking up inventive new ways to annihilate a pair of sneakers, he lacks articulacy and offered little insight into where, exactly, the sexual appeal stems from.
In fact, none of the numerous publications that have written about this phenomenon have done much to explain it, with blame falling either on writers that prefer to describe it rather than analyze it, or inarticulate interviewees that struggle to form coherent sentences. But I can’t help but draw parallels with “scally” fetishism – a fringe interest in the gay community fixated on working class, English guys who wear tracksuits and Air Max sneakers.Scally fetishists like to lick and sniff sneakers, and have sex with other men wearing a particular strain of casual sportswear that’s popular in England. They’re attracted to sportswear because of its masculine qualities, the fact that it embodies a very macho, very heteronormative vision of what a man is supposed to be, qualities that are innately attractive to some gay men. Sneakers are a cornerstone of both fetishes, but that appears to be where the similarity ends.