Sneaker culture has capitalized on craze and scarcity, garnering lines stretching for blocks and bots that battle real-life consumers for sneaker drops that sell out in seconds.
But what has been missing, according to Thick Laces, a community for plus-size women who love sneakers and streetwear, is diversity.
“The mission behind the brand is to provide a space for plus-size women to not only learn about sneakers but to have a space to be seen,” said cofounders Katie Alexis and Essie Golden. “We are severely underrepresented in fashion and even more in the sneaker and street style space.”
It’s no secret that the sneaker industry has been largely male-dominated but that didn’t faze Alexis and Golden from breaking in 2019 starting with a simple hashtag that quickly grew into a community of plus-size women who love the streetwear culture that has largely left them out. The message on the brand’s website reads: “Empowering plus-size women to look and feel amazing in unique streetwear and sneakers.”
WWD chatted with the female founders about how sneaker culture has faltered where diversity is concerned, what Thick Laces hopes to accomplish with its community and the opportunities ahead for sneakers and streetwear.
WWD: What’s the mission behind Thick Laces? And why did you feel it was something the market needed?
T.L.: Before we started Thick Laces, we were looking at other sneaker pages and didn’t see any plus-size bodies. We are firm believers in creating your own space and not waiting for someone else. Since we’ve started Thick Laces, we’ve seen the changes on some of the sneaker pages as well as from brands. We don’t always feel like people go out of their way to exclude us, but we do feel it’s one of those things like if it doesn’t affect me, I don’t see it as an issue.
WWD: So, tell us about the name Thick Laces.
Thick Laces: We wanted a name that plus-size women would automatically get. We wanted to make sure the brand related to the term plus-size, fat, or curvy. We originally were going to go with Fat Kicks, but that was taken, LOL. We landed on Thick Laces. It honestly just clicked together.
WWD: What’s the message you’re hoping to send to consumers that you feel like other businesses weren’t communicating?
T.L.: We want consumers to know that we are the go-to space for all things plus-size streetwear and sneakers. We want to provide education, be a resource, and a loud voice for people who have been left out of the conversation. We hope with what we are doing it will cause more brands to expand their sizing and be more inclusive in their advertisement. All shapes and sizes wear sneakers. We all deserve to see ourselves represented. We will continue to use our platform to push that message.
WWD: How do you shop for sneakers? These bots buy up everything before most people can get them in a cart.
Katie Alexis: Whew, I loathe bots. But I guess it’s a win-win with the money I save from all the Ls I take, LOL.
I’m in a sneaker discord group. It’s close to 30 of us. We have a spreadsheet with everyone’s sizes. In advance, people state what new release they want, and several of us go for it. If we hit for someone, we send them the sneakers at retail price plus shipping. We don’t resale to each other. It’s a fantastic group of people and helped me secure three new releases for myself this year. I have hit five times for others.
Essie Golden: I don’t like to wait lol. I’m the person that overpays on Stock X or Goat. I’m terrible and Katie hates that I do this.
WWD: What’s it like as women in the sneaker game when so much is dominated by men?
T.L.: It’s very hard at times. There is a lot of gatekeeping in the sneaker game. We have to deal with the shortfall of small sizes, the women exclusive releases being heavily purchased by men and some brands still doing [the] “shrink it and pink it” method. I feel at times we have to prove to the men that we have the same and/or more knowledge about sneaker history. That’s why women sneaker collectives are so important. The ladies come together and look out for each other in a judgement-free zone.
Where do you see your brand going within the next year?
T.L.: We will continue to be the voice and go-to resource for plus-size women who love sneakers and streetwear. Helping to move the conversation of plus-size women in the space of streetwear and sneakers. We would also love to do a clothing and sneaker collaboration. We do have our own apparel and accessories. We’ve been so happy to see people buy and wear our stuff. The possibilities are endless.
What are some of your favorite sneakers of all time? And how did you go about getting them?
T.L.: We are going to surprise you. Neither are going to pick hype.
K.A.: I have loved Bo Jacksons (Air Trainer SC High) since I was 16 years old. They are really easy to get in stores and online. I love how the colorways have evolved over the years.
E.G.: The sneaker community will kill me for this. My absolute favorite pair of sneakers is a classic pair of white Reeboks. I didn’t have a lot of money growing up. My then foster parents, who later adopted me, gave me a pair. They were my first name brand anything. I love them and the brand.