Sneaker Documentaries you Need To Watch

Honestly, there’s no better time to level up your sneaker knowledge.

Starring the likes of sneaker royalty Michael Jordan, Spike Lee, DJ Khaled, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, these fdocumentaries will have you stunting an encyclopedic knowledge of shoe catalogues across the globe.

From the mythological story behind the banned Air Jordan 1 to RUN DMC’s game-changing ‘My adidas’ track, these documentaries reveal some of the watershed moments for sneaker culture, and the players inextricably tied to them.

So, sit back, unlace those Jays, and heat-up your leftovers, these are some of our favourite sneaker documentaries of all time!

Meet the Bubble Heads of Cape Town

For some, South Africa’s Cape Flats is still known as “apartheid’s dumping ground.” One of the country’s poorest areas, this expanse to the southeast of the city is made up of towns and ghettos built to marginalize the country’s non-white citizens, the multiethnic victims of apartheid.

Yet within these ghettos, a collective identity arose — one that embraced Air-soled Nike sneakers, or “bubbles” as they’re known locally.

Meet the Bubble Heads of Cape Town, takes a deep dive into bubble culture and discover how a group of people hustling iconic Nike silhouettes across the Atlantic and into Cape Town slums spawned an overlooked but intensely passionate sneakerhead community.

Through interviews with groups and online communities such as Unwanted Kicks and Bubble Koppe, and featuring input from prolific local hip-hop star YoungstaCPT, we discover how some of South Africa’s poorest people put everything into dressing “like the fucking elite,” and why the mindset grows from generation to generation.

Abstract: The Art of Design

Showcasing the work of sneaker godfather Tinker Hatfield, episode 2 of Abstract: The Art of Design revisits some of the watershed moments that changed the sneaker game forever.

Illuminating Tinker Hatfield’s background in architecture, the 42-minute vignette takes a deep dive behind Tinker’s career with Nike (beginning in 1981), and his legendary work with the Jumpman.

Revealing the inspiration behind hallmark moments like the Air Max 1 and the self-lacing Adapt BB, this The Art of Design episode is an absolute must for anyone remotely interested in sneakers, design, and the creative process.

Sole Origins

Complex’s Sole Origins tour-de-force docu-series investigates the deep cultural connections that certain sneakers forge with different cities.

Zooming in on cities like NYC, Tokyo, Paris, and Los Angeles, Sole Origins is one of the slickest docos out there, featuring the likes of Nike collaborator Don C, rapper Dizzee Rascal, and adidas’ Global Creative Director, Paul Gaudio.

Episode 1 looks at New York City’s most influential sneakers, taking a deep dive behind iconic sneakers like the Air Max 1 ‘Bacon’, and the Nike SB Dunk ‘Pigeon’. Sneaker aficionados DJ Clark Kent, Joe La Puma and Jeff Staple all help articulate the narrative arc.

Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1

Tracing the sneaker DNA of arguably the greatest silhouette in the Jumpman hangar, Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1 examines the Air Jordan 1’s renegade status in the NBA during the 1980s, and its crucial role in the genesis of contemporary sneaker culture.

Featuring Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Spike Lee, DJ Khaled and Anthony Anderson, Unbanned explores how the Air Jordan 1 redefined a whole generation of ballers, producers and skaters, and why its explosive cultural legacy continues to be felt today.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, put it on top of your list.

Check it out on Hulu.

Soleseekers

Charting the rise of the UK sneaker scene, Emil Socialize’s Soleseekers is the world’s first feature-length documentary devoted to sneaker culture across the pond.

Broadening the lens on the sometimes US-centric sneakersphere, Soleseekers is an important investigation into what drives the zeitgeist in the UK. Debuting in 2018, the documentary illuminates subjects like the business of reselling, the roots of our sneaker addictions, and the general sneaker culture flowering from the UK.

Don’t sleep on Soleseekers!

Sneakerheadz

From the crowded streets of Tokyo to California, filmmakers David T. Friendly and Mick Partridge go deep behind sneaker addiction in their documentary, Sneakerheadz.

Examining the extreme lengths we go to in order to acquire hard-to-find Grails, Sneakerheadz features talking heads Frank Rivera, Russ Bengtson and Hommyo Hidefumi, who all wax lyrical over an age of collecting pre-Internet.

First aired in 2015, Sneakerheadz helps us all examine our own heads when it comes to our sneaker dependencies!

Just for Kicks

Starring sneakerhead royalty Grandmaster Caz, Reverend Run, Bobbito Garcia and Missy Elliott, filmmakers Thibaut de Longeville and Lisa Leone’s Just for Kicks documentary first aired back in 2005.

Exploring the lauded ancestry of Air Force 1 ‘Uptowns’, the Air Jordan, and Run DMC’s ‘My adidas’ track, Just For Kicks reveals some of the watershed sneaker moments of the late 20th century.

A snapshot that’ll have you feeling deeply nostalgic, the documentary runs at just over an hour, and can be viewed in whole via YouTube.

Sole Searching in South America

Travelling alongside sneaker royalty, and Three Stripes fanboy Gary Aspden, Sole Searching takes you all the way down to Buenos Aires. After receiving a tipoff, Aspden and fellow adidas fanatics Ian Brown, Robert Brooks, and Mike Chetcuti take flight to Argentina, unboxing thousands of vintage runners in a quest to inspire their next SPZL catalogue. Directed by Greg Bond and photographer Neil Bedford, the team meet Carlos Ruiz in Argentina, the owner of mountains of adidas deadstock.

An unparalleled look into adi’s rich history in South America, Sole Searching certainly captures the thrill of the hunt, and is the perfect antidote to a solitary life in lockdown.

Fresh Dressed

The directorial debut by Sacha Jenkins, Fresh Dressed chronicles the rich sartorial lineage of hip hop.

Originally presented at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, the documentary was co-produced by Nasir Jones, and is absolutely loaded with talent like Pharrell Williams, Damon Dash, Karl Kani, Kanye West, and André Leon Talley.

Presented with a silky soundtrack and in-depth interviews with rappers, industry insiders, and designers, Fresh Dressed presents hip hop’s journey from Orchard Street to high-fashion’s catwalks.

Want to know where you developed your insatiable appetite for swag? Look no further.