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Decoding The ‘Sneaker Culture’ In India & Why People Wearing Dupes Get The Hate They Don’t Deserve

The current fashion scene is dominated by bright and bold colours and maximalist styles. People are no longer shying away from wearing what they like and experimenting with their outfits. Sneakers check both of these boxes. What were originally marketed as functional shoes that were high on comfort and utility, have now become a fashion statement. ‘Sneaker culture’ is at an all-time high in India and it’s the perfect time for desi sneakerheads to bring their A-game to the forefront.


Sneakerheads, as they like to call themselves, love and breathe sneakers. However, they are very touchy when they see people wearing dupes. Recently, Bollywood actor Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor shared an Instagram story where he urged people to not wear fake sneakers. The actor wrote, “Don’t know who needs to hear this but pls stop wearing fake sneakers if you have a low/ moderate budget. There’s plenty of great options out there. Converse, Vans, basic Air Forces etc… if someone gets you a gift and they happen to be inauthentic, you can pass them on to someone else who doesn’t know what they are and would be happy to wear… but if you’re buying your own please do your due diligence… buy from trusted sellers.”


Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor received flak for his Instagram story under the radar. People called him out for his elitist and classist take. Some also trolled him and made memes on the same.

However, Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor’s rant begets a bigger question. Why are sneakerheads so fixated on authentic stuff? Not everyone can afford brands because, well, the most sought-after brands retail for a price that is equal to someone’s monthly paycheck. To gain further insights into what sneakerheads and other people have to say on this issue, we talked to a few people.


Virali Bhuptani who swears by her Puma RS Series said, “I am not a fan of dupes and the people who wear them. I’d rather own just one original product than have multiple dupes. Realistically speaking, you need to wear the original ones to actually like them.” Virali is right in what she said. The quality between an authentic item and its dupes that retail at ₹2000 or so and are found in markets such as Sarojini Nagar Market or Hill Road, for example, is astounding. Plus, there is no guarantee for how long it will last since the materials used in these copies are sub-standard. However, not everyone echoes this statement.


Pema Bhutia, who is currently eyeing the Corteiz Gutta Green Nike Air Max 95 SP said, “I don’t judge people wearing fakes or first copies. It is their choice not everyone can afford an authentic one. But when I see a low-quality dupe, it’s a heartbreak for me. It hurts more than a breakup.” There are tons of people who cannot afford to buy authentic sneakers because of multiple reasons. For them, these markets are no less than a gem. Indrani Roy, who is slowly upping her game, said that rather than judging people it is important to understand why someone is wearing a copy of a premium product.

Indrani says, “Seeing people wear copies should give brands the incentive to sell them at a cheaper price and make their products accessible to everyone. There’s another conversation to be had around the topic of sustainability, which isn’t inexpensive for these brands.” People wear dupes because they want to follow trends. A major portion of this stems from an innate need to belong. Streetwear and genderless clothing have taken over the glossy fashion pages. However, although fashion trends can quickly become stale on social media, sneakers have always stood the test of time.

sneakers in india

Sneakers have always had a collectable quality to it. With the rise in Instagram thrift stores and reseller pages, it has become easy for people to grab one that catches their eye in just a few minutes. They also have a rich history which has been talked about multiple times in mainstream media. Thanks to the Netflix series, The Last Dance, the conversation revived again. These factors have led this ‘premium footwear’ to become sought-after products that everyone wants a slice of. Nikita Nikhil who has always been loyal to Vans said, “I have no problem with people wearing copies because it’s all a matter of fashion and styling. People buy clothing dupe of premium brands and no one cares. Why are we so fixated on sneakers?”

sneaker dupes
Vogue Business

People love to experiment with fashion but at the same time, they want it to be practical without compromising on the aesthetic factor. A sneaker goes with practically any outfit – be it casual, sporty, or dressy. Retrofits are the rage and people are trying to emulate 90s fashion. People have started to prioritise comfort over uncomfortable fits and what speaks comfort better than a pair of sneakers? This is why they remain a first choice because they are high on comfort and fashion, unlike Birkenstocks or slides which cannot translate seamlessly into a day-night look.

What we are about to say might cause sneakerheads to squirm, but why can’t we just let people who wear dupes be? Fashion cannot be just for those who can afford authentic products. Fashion has always been a way to express yourself and it is supposed to be fun and unserious. The world has bigger issues to debate on and maybe the ardent collectors should catch a break.

20 Oct 2023

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