Sneakers are often rebellious and edgy. Jerry Seinfeld—who doesn’t so much as curse while on stage—could hardly be called either, and yet he’s a most fitting inductee to this year’s KICKS Hall of Fame. The comedian is in fact one of the more important personalities ever in sneaker culture. He’s not a designer, nor a signature athlete, but Seinfeld’s probably earned his spot here as earnestly as your favorite hooper.
For nearly a decade, Seinfeld owned weeknight TV. During the 180 episodes of inarguably the most popular sitcom over the past 25 years, Jerry quietly but consistently showcased fresh new pairs of Nikes week after week.
“It started with Joe Namath and then Billy ‘White-Shoes’ Johnson, who were the first football players to wear white shoes,” Seinfeld said in a Reddit AMA. “I wanted to be like them, so I always wore white sneakers. Also, the guys in I Spy always wore white sneakers. This became my fashion.”
Sneakers weren’t a storyline or even discussed on his show. At best, Jerry’s kicks were a wink to the audience in the know. Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian from Long Island, channeled his authentic persona for the TV screen and dressed according to this naturally curious disposition and kindly effacing demeanor. From his kicks to his clothes, Jerry’s realness was and is easy to recognize.
Seinfeld’s wardrobe prototype became a popular 1990s uniform that consisted of a tucked-in, collared buttondown, blue jeans and an impressive (and occasionally exclusive) array of sneakers, including the Air Jordan V, VI and VII and Nikes like the Air Tech Challenge, Delta Force, Air Cross Trainer, Shox and Huaraches. His affinity for precision vanilla creams and soft white in many ways mirrored his swear-free approach to his craft.
As a student of comedy with a mind gifted in the ability to hilariously dissect the mundane, Seinfeld is forever evening talk show royalty. He’s a bridge to stand-up’s history who functions as the conduit from Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson to Jimmy Fallon and still remains fresh to today’s comedians and sneakerheads. On an episode of his web series, “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” Jerry took Kevin Hart sneaker shopping at L.A.’s Undefeated to cop matching Huaraches. He has also dispelled rumors of a vast kicks collection, telling Complex, “Nobody has 500 pairs of anything.”
As he does with his comedy lineage, Seinfeld treats his sneaker ambassadorship with dignity. If suburban is the new cool, Seinfeld is ice water. He’s never tried to be something that he is not—and that has sustained his career. It’s what gives Seinfeld an authenticity that every sneakerhead and performer strives for.
In fact, Seinfeld’s lack of pretense recently got co-opted by 20-something fashionistas in a style called “normcore.” The essential tenet is that hipsters save the time, energy and dollars once devoted to define themselves as individuals and begin to dress in Seinfeldian white sneakers and non-ironic snug jeans. Normcore was about thrusting oneself into the ordinary.
But real heads know: Jerry Seinfeld’s contribution to sneaker culture is far-reaching and, above all, genuine.
Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images