Female Sneaker Fiends founder Lori Lobenstine proves that kicks are not just for boys with her new book, “Girls Got Kicks”.

Words: Tatiana R. Johnson
Images: Courtesy of Amanda Lopez and Female Sneaker Fiend

Before the days of Twitter and Facebook, kids were running up their dial-up AOL servers to get in on the conversations about the latest in everything. Popular topics like the hottest singles, the best new mixtapes or the next exclusive sneaker release date were often discussed. Women were no strangers to the forums and chatrooms dedicated to these themes, especially female sneaker fiends.

Toothbrushes and soap. Standing on line for hours for a shoe that may not be available by the time you reach the venue’s front door. This was second nature for those girls just as it was for the DJ Clark Kent’s, Bobbito Garcia’s and the Spike Lee’s of the world. Where else could we discuss our celebration of finding the Grey 11’s in our size, or the rage that the Union 180’s stirred when we found out they weren’t available except in a men’s size eight?!

Indeed we had a voice and in 2005 we had an outlet via the forum, Female Sneaker Fiend. “I had mixed feelings [about] starting it. I was tired of the sexist clowns though and there wasn’t an outlet for me, so I said, ‘Hey let’s do our own thing,’” says Lori Lobenstine, founder of Female Sneaker Fiend, an interest group all about kicks for the girls who love them. Instead of waiting, Lori and company took action, actively showcasing tough new sneakers and engaging with a global female audience, who had long been neglected.

Lori owns about 100 pairs of kicks of her own, so she understands her audience because she is one of them. “I have different favorite pairs depending on the day, my mood, my latest purchase; I can’t pick just one! Right now I’m loving the Patrick Ewing Rogue II that I used to win the Frshr than your Avrge Sneaker Battle a few weeks back…” she confesses.

Oversized photos of exclusive finds, discussions on how to care for and maintain the pristine look of fresh kicks and the inclusion of events where like-minded girls could meet up in person could be found in Lori’s forum in the early days of the first phase of her overall Female Sneaker Fiend brand. “To me it’s about the passion, you can care about your sneakers and only have 12 pairs. It’s not about how big the collection is,” Lori says.

As waves of girls helped to expand FSF’s following (think at least 100k page requests daily), Lori setup a e-commerce system where members could buy and trade with each other. And when dope kicks came out in limited sizes, usually too big for the average woman’s feet, Lori and FSF led the charge to petition for more sizes, specifically suitable for women. “Well, none of the exclusives come in small sizes, although many female collectors with small feet do gravitate towards the general release Jordans, which reliably come out in kids’ sizes as well as men’s. But it’s an on-going battle—something like the Nike Air Mags only went down to a men’s 7 because so many fiends have little feet! Sad to say, but I don’t feel like we’re winning that battle anytime soon,” Lori explains.

Some may question the seriousness of sneaker collecting and what the hoopla is all about, while others understand that it is an art. Just as some collect coins, others prefer the new sneaker scent and the crisp exterior a fresh pair provides. But what happened after the message boards and forums were taken over by quick status updates and the saturated blogger’s market? Well, everything actually, Female Sneaker Fiend is still thriving and growing.

“We have so much more and this tour is only the beginning,” Lori explains about her latest project born from the Female Sneaker Fiend brand. Lori is on a 10-city book tour/sneaker stuntin’ events with photographer Amanda Lopez, promoting their collaborative photography book entitled, Girls Got Kicks. “I always had the vision of making a book,” Lori says. “The website had to grow first, but I always wanted to have a permanent record, a place on the shelf next to Where’d You Get Those?, Sneaker Freaker: the Book and other awesome books about sneaker culture. Girls Got Kicks adds to that history to honor the girls and women who have always been a part of it.”

The glossy page-turner, which took two years to create mostly because of international shoots, hundreds of interviews and finding the right publisher, is described as “the first ever photo documentary of badass females, told from a unique angle: their passion for sneakers”. It features WNBA Rookie-of-the Year Tina Charles, fashion and graffiti maven Claw Money and “Downtown’s Sweetheart” Vashtie Kola among numerous global women who sport kicks for kicks, “And”, Lori adds, “customs done by female customizers”.

Girls Got Kicks book can be purchased now, here.

For more information visit GirlsGotKicks.com
Images courtesy of Amanda Lopez and Female Sneaker Fiend.

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