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The Business of YouTube Sneaker Vlogging Part 1: Setting Up

We asked the likes of Franalations, OneVeracity, YoAnty Kicks and more, what it takes to turn your passion for sneakers into a business.

In an age where the Internet shows no signs of slowing down, we have been fortunate enough to be connected with the world that much more and essentially have information at our fingertips. One of the growing phenomenons that was a product of this boom has been the multitude of social platforms, allowing anyone with a voice to share content to millions of others. Before the rise of sneaker websites, blogs and Instagram, those who wished to find information on footwear would be restricted mainly to forums, magazines and word-of-mouth, until YouTube.

Although it might seem as if there are countless YouTube sneaker channels now, this simply wasn’t the case a few years ago and it’s a niche that has expanded dramatically. 360p turned to 720p and then 1080p, while camera companies are continuing to provide better quality in their products, and video editing software makes it so that anyone can produce clips easily. Literally anyone can start producing videos and upload it to YouTube or one of the other video platforms such as Vimeo or Youku, whether you’ve got professional recording equipment or just the webcam on your computer, you’ve got all you need already. However, as easy as it seems and even if you have a passion for the subject, the key is consistency and you need to consider whether you can invest the time into producing content. Buying sneakers regularly is not cheap and unless you are in the minority of people that have a large enough presence so brands will take notice, it’s unlikely you will be given an unlimited supply of sneakers to create content with. In The Business of YouTube Sneaker Vlogging, we investigate how you can translate your passion for footwear, into a full-time operation and leverage opportunities that can arise from it.

We talked to the people behind some notable YouTube sneaker vloggers such as Franalations, OneVeracity, TBlake, HesKicks, AlwaysFreshApparel and YoAnty Kicks, to explore what it takes to succeed on the platform in this three-part series. The later installments will touch upon areas like how much revenue you can generate and legal issues you need to consider when creating videos for public consumption.

When I made my first video, there was only one other person (Sneakgeeks) doing YouTube sneaker reviews.

How did you first get into the YouTube sneaker community?

Tyler (T Blake)

I started making sneaker content on YouTube through a friend’s channel. David (OneVeracity) was one of the few people making sneaker videos at the time, and as he slowed down making content, he invited me to fill in. That was my first time really participating, my family didn’t have fast enough internet to really watch and stream videos back then so my first introduction to sneaker YouTube was through participation.

Hes (Hes Kicks)

Starting out with some gaming YouTube channels (Call of Duty), and showcased my sneakers in a couple of videos. I didn’t realize there was a community already in motion in 2012 and as soon as I discovered it, I wanted in!

Anthony (YoAnty Kicks)

I first got into the sneaker community via YouTube. I always read blogs and followed some people on Twitter and Instagram but never thought about purposely getting into the sneaker community, it just kind of happened.

OneVeracity

I started collecting sneakers, particularly skate shoes, in middle school. Then during my freshman year of high school, I bought my first pair of Nike SBs (Dr. Feelgoods), as well as my first pair of BAPEs. Because of my interest in sneakers, I started searching online for as much information about sneakers as I could find and came across Franalations’ sneaker reviews. Franalations was one of the original and most well-known sneaker reviewers at the time, which was 2008, and I really enjoyed watching his reviews. So, the following year, when I purchased my black/pink Yeezys, I decided that it would be fun do to my own sneaker review. I received a great response and had a lot of views right away, so I decided to start reviewing the sneakers that I already had in my collection, as well as all of the new ones that I continued to purchase.

Francesco (Franalations)

I made my first video in 2008, well before any idea of my current brand, SANDALBOYZ, was even conceived. When I made my first video, there was only one other person (Sneakgeeks) doing YouTube sneaker reviews. Sneakgeeks had already been doing videos for about six months so I actually sent him a message asking for his permission to make videos (he didn’t respond, but we met about a year later and did a sneaker event together). Almost a decade later, I was able to turn my passion into my own footwear product, SANDALBOYZ. Our first collection completely sold out and we currently have more colorways and collaborations coming, which I am very excited about.

Jacob (AlwaysFreshApparel)

I first got into YouTube in 2012 by posting a snapback hat collection. In my peak, it was up to around 100. I still have them all in a storage container at my parents. 2012 was a good year. Gradually throughout the progression of my channel, I became more and more knowledgeable about sneakers and how to choose the right shoe for the right outfit.

Why did you decide to create a channel?

Tyler (T Blake)

Seeing how I was received in the comment section of David’s videos gave me the confidence to start making my own content. Granted YouTube comment sections show a bit more mercy than the HYPEBEAST sections. But anyway, I started up a channel, and started making content about things I liked. At the beginning, it was a mix of sneakers and music.

Hes (Hes Kicks)

I decided to create a channel to share my hobby with others. I was sitting on over 150 pairs, and at that time, didn’t really share them on social media.

Anthony (YoAnty Kicks)

I created a YouTube channel to inform people on product. I used to always search YouTube for reviews on sneakers before I bought them so I could know all the details on the shoe and what it really looked like. I then decided to start showing sneakers that I purchased and it snowballed from there.

OneVeracity

I originally created a channel because I found it fun to review sneakers and to share my passion for them with other people who love sneakers as much as I do.

Francesco (Franalations)

I was a huge fan of Nike SB and at the time (2008), there was no content on YouTube of the specific products, so I wanted to provide people with information and perspective from a fellow Nike SB consumer/enthusiast.

Jacob (AlwaysFreshApparel)

When I first started, there were maybe five other male guys doing fashion and sneaker videos, and I would watch all of their videos in my free time. I watched their videos faster than they could put them out. So I got bored. I thought, “Hey, maybe if I like watching what these guys think is cool, maybe other people will watch what I think is cool.” So I sat in front of my MacBook and started recording in Photo Booth.

Funny thing is I started with an iPhone 4S and every year, a new iPhone comes out. I just updated it and use that to film my videos, so currently filming with a 6s.

What kind of camera were you using and what do you use now?

Tyler (T Blake)

I was shooting all my videos on an iPhone 4 to start. Smartphones are really not a bad option for people starting out, especially in the years since I started. Now I shoot on a Canon GSX7 and a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24mm f1.8 lens.

Hes (Hes Kicks)

Funny thing is I started with an iPhone 4S and every year, a new iPhone comes out. I just updated it and use that to film my videos, so currently filming with a 6s. I use some lighting and a tripod now, but really nothing fancy.

Anthony (YoAnty Kicks)

I was using an iPhone then and now use a Canon T3i.

OneVeracity

My subscribers might be surprised to discover that I am currently using a newer version of my original camera. It is a Sony Cyber-shot. While it is certainly not the most high-end camera on the market, it does shoot 1080p HD video and has always done the job for me.

Francesco (Franalations)

When I first started, I would literally carry my MacBook around with me and use it to record and document events and lineups. Once I started getting sponsorship deals, I invested some of that money into a Canon 7D.

Jacob (AlwaysFreshApparel)

I started out using the front facing camera on my MacBook and quickly realized things needed to change if people were going to start taking me seriously. I upgraded to a Sony Cyber-shot HX9V which didn’t have a flip out screen to see what I was recording. I had one of those flexible GorillaPod tripods and would adjust it to mount on top of my TV. I taped a mirror on the wall behind the camera so I could see the video screen and if I was in frame. I currently use a Nikon D5100 with a Rode Videomic Pro — not the best of the best but it gets the job done.

What were the first sneakers you started showcasing?

Tyler (T Blake)

I think some of my earliest videos were showcasing what I liked at the time. Jordan Spizikes, Jordan 5s… I reviewed the adidas Top Ten Infrared, some Uptempos, it was really all over the place. Whatever I liked, I did a video on. I was doing a lot local trading and buying which helped keep things fresh.

Hes (Hes Kicks)

I launched my channel with some Obsidian Foamposite samples that were previously not seen before, it definitely helped create the buzz on my channel.

Anthony (YoAnty Kicks)

Jordan Retros.

OneVeracity

Black/pink Yeezys.

Francesco (Franalations)

My very first video was on the Nike SB Trickstar Dunk and Blazer, the Kuwahara Dunk, and the China BMX Blazer, all of which were released at Brooklyn Projects a month prior to the global release. I’m very close to Dom, the owner of Brooklyn Projects, and he had all four shoes on hold for me but I camped out anyway that night so I could talk sneakers with all my friends that were in line.

Jacob (AlwaysFreshApparel)

In high school, I STRICTLY wore Vans and Air Force 1s. This was before the YouTube days. During my early channel days, I wore Converse a ton. But I think the first sneaker I was hyped on were the digi-camo floral Nike Janoskis. Not the other random colorways that came afterwards, the first digi-camo floral Janoski they ever dropped. The skate shop at my local mall posted on Facebook that they got a limited size run and I was lucky enough to walk out with my size. I flexed hard on YouTube that day.

With all the sneaker channels on YouTube, how did you set yourself apart from the countless others?

Tyler (T Blake)

I think my viewers probably recognize me as being one of the few people making videos that actually works in the industry, and has spent a lot of time consulting with brands. “Consultant” is the new “influencer” but if you’re not collecting checks, I have a hard time giving credit to that tag. I’m slowing down with pickups, but ramping up sharing my knowledge of retail and brand positioning with my viewers and the response has been really validating. I also think I do a good job of not acting excited over everything. If something sucks, I’m not scared to say it sucks whether it’s on YouTube or Twitter.

Hes (Hes Kicks)

It’s definitely hard to stand out in the crowd. I think I provide honest opinions on products and I am passionate about sneakers. Also, I may own over 600 pairs now, but I don’t have an ego, and am happy when I get a dope $60 USD pair of sneakers, just as much as a limited $2,000 USD pair.

Anthony (YoAnty Kicks)

I started making sneaker videos over five years ago so at that time, there wasn’t as many sneaker channels as there are now. I never tried to do anything specific to set myself apart. I try to act like myself and bring some personality to my videos.

OneVeracity

When I started reviewing sneakers in 2009, there really were not countless other channels. There were a few other sneaker reviewers, but nothing close to the numbers that there are today. With that being said, there are a few things that I did to set myself apart: I shot my videos in front of my sneaker collection. This enabled viewers to see that I had a large collection, which would entice them to subscribe to my channel with the knowledge that I would be coming out with future reviews. I had someone film all of my videos for me, so that you could see me doing the review, while also showing detailed shots of the shoes. Most of the other sneaker reviewers at the time were either filming themselves doing it or using a webcam. I also kept my reviews to a very predictable format, so that my subscribers always knew what to expect from them.

Francesco (Franalations)

As I stated before, I was literally the second person to do consistent sneaker review videos on YouTube and my page had exclusive content of Nike SB reviews. My followers would come to my page and know that they would get reviews of the newest Nike SB shoes before anyone else had them. In some cases, I would even provide more detailed shots of the sneakers than the blogs had.

Jacob (AlwaysFreshApparel)

I think what set me apart was my love for fashion, and not just sneakers. As much as I loved sneakers, I never really made them the focal point of my outfit. A lot of guys were strictly showing off their kicks and never helping the viewers pair them with a cohesive outfit. I tried to show the average guy different ways to wear Jordans or Converse.

The Business of YouTube Sneaker Vlogging is a three-part series that delves into what is necessary to create a YouTube sneaker channel. We asked some of the prominent members within that community on how it all started for them and what advice they can provide for any aspiring content creators. Furthermore, we examined the costs required to start out and what kind of return on investment you can expect, aside from fulfilling your passion for creating content.

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