The year is 2024. The park pathways are frosty, and it is ill-advised to run in any shoes that aren’t grippy. And yet, there’s a person who’s morphed into a gazelle or an antelope hurtling towards you at turbo speed, propelled by the latest and greatest in performance shoe design - the angular, yet friendly-looking, 7oz foot-hugging jet pack, Nike’s Alphafly 3.
Here is the running consumer in 2024: style-conscious as they are pace-conscious. The outfit to compliment the Alphafly is also well considered. A Nike x Undercover ‘’Gyakusou’’ windbreaker (from the first collection 🔥🔥), Satisfy shorts, Soar socks and then a pair of Brain Dead x Oakley shades. That’s a ‘’straight to grid’’ type of fit. This kind of fit doesn’t happen by accident or without planning. Again, this is the running consumer of 2024 where every run is an opportunity to flex.
Running was steadily growing in popularity before the pandemic hit as the conversation on mental health entered the mainstream, but has since exploded as a pastime in cities and urban spaces amongst millennials. It provides community and personal accountability while supporting good mental and physical health. We dug into here, in The Strat Tape Vol.1. The more runners there are outside, the better we can be inside. Now, back to the Alphafly 3 park runner. The guy pulled up to the track ready for outfit pics - that was the primary goal. The running was just the vehicle to get the snaps. Seeing flashes of neon racing shoes and tattooed legs with slow-shuttered photography on your IG feed now feels as ubiquitous as the supermarket/bodega pic from the early days of Instagram. The rise of running as an aesthetic, and a hobby, directly feeds into the millennial rejection of hedonistic pastimes for more edifying ones. Just because it’s more edifying, doesn’t mean it can’t be fly. There is likely to be more disposable income to spend on running fits rather than Henny and mixers.
Half-marathons are replacing hangovers. Strava segments over sambuca shots. Looking at runs as a replacement for boozy nights out, other than endorphins and the sense of achievement for the runner, what are the takeaways? Of course, they’re personal and they vary from runner to runner. But, if a hangover was the ownable part of going out culture, the hungover debrief: the sign of a good time, then is the running aesthetic its equivalent? Because what’s unilaterally understood is the aesthetic. It’s the proof: that you’re doing it (the running), that you are it (a runner). It’s the performance art.
Brands have always seduced consumers to pursue running aesthetically. What’s different now is globally there’s a growing circularity to the running ecosystem - plus the idea of who a runner is in 2024 is much less homogenous. There are plenty of running communities in major cities across the world. This modern runner is unified and democratised by the aesthetic. It’s the modern runner's passport. The badge of honour. There is a cultural context to wearing an Alphafly 3 in 2024 that feels akin to wearing Jordan 1’s in the 1980s. The original Air Jordan 1 was made to make consumers feel ‘’like Mike’’. Early sneaker culture was all about performance art. Built on the idea of becoming the signee behind the signature shoe that you’re wearing. This idea is translating into modern running too, which is better placed to actualise that idea, as these shoes are designed for performance racing. They will make you faster.
We spoke to Sam Millen-Cramer, founder of Millo Studio and strategist who works across running. He believes the broader grassroots-led emergence and influencer-esque model is the social & cultural context that's transforming modern running.
‘’Running’s infiltration into fashion, street culture and more broadly, a ‘creative class’ has been a slow burn. But now, in 2024: the niche brands, the crews and those consistently using their ‘runner’s passport’ (to use House Captain’s term) are spreading running’s cultural clout far and wide, in ways we haven't seen.
Running is melding into subcultures like never before, from crews becoming fully-fledged brands to street race activations showing up at Paris Fashion Week. Evidently, the curated, cultured and creative are taking running onto a whole new track. Also, RIP to Gyakusou’’
Gyakusou. Gone but never forgotten 😮💨.
The Alphafly 1 launched in 2020. Four years since it changed the game. Now, running culture has caught up with the innovation led by the shoes. Partly serendipitous (the pandemic, millennials taking up running in aversion to drinking), partly by design (the increasing influence of fashion on running aesthetics from brands) and partly by plucking pieces of early sneaker culture (the performance art, consumers becoming the product). Modern running has attitude, it’s spiky, yet welcoming. Because it's driven by a multitude of consumers and communities who are the foundations of this new global running ecosystem. Which has got the market booming, the running shoe segment alone is projected to be worth $30 billion by 2030.
In 2024, there is a pomp in being a runner. Without it being pompous - like it might’ve once been. Running is cool - allowing modern runners to operate more like sneakerheads. Like the Alphafly 3 Park runner. Though some would argue this aesthetic-driven modern runner is virtue signalling. There is a case for this argument. Despite the strides made by brands in how running is communicated (accessible, friendly), running can still have elitist leanings. Pulling out Alphafly 3’s for a park run could be viewed by some like a school teacher casually driving to work in a Cybertruck. Alas, this is modern running. A place where the park run can at any time become the Parthenon. A place for the modern runner to perform both the practice of running and the performance art of it.
Any running brands want to be immersed in culture in 2024? We can get you there. Shoot us an email 📨Read another post