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A custom work by artist Naturel, who is making an appearance at the H-Town Sneaker Summit this weekend.

Fact: The most exciting part of a new school year is shoe shopping, specifically and finding that special pair of kicks that represents your personality, favorite colors, and even activity preference. As adults, excuses for acquiring new sneakers need not be relegated to pre-fall shopping sprees—lucky us—and this weekend’s H-Town Sneaker Summit boasts about 25,000 reasons to dish out dough on foot-focused fanfare and coordinated outfits.

The biannual event, organized by Bryan Angelle, got its start in 2004 as a simple get-together when Angelle and his friends were home from college. In its earliest days, only about two dozen sneaker fans filled the late Industry Café in East Downtown, expanding year by year into larger spaces. This year the event expects more than 8,000 attendees and 200-plus vendors in an 80,000-square-foot exhibit hall at NRG Park. Angelle says the inspiration for the event came from a shared passion for sneakers and, in turn, keeping that passion in Houston.

“I knew I had many friends who loved sneakers just as much as those who reside in the fashion capitols such as New York or Los Angeles,” he explains. “One of the goals in the beginning was to put Houston on the map in the sneaker world.” He adds “it is built out of a shared love for sneakers by an ever-growing and evolving community” and that this community is the secret to the event’s success and growth.

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Bun B shows off his Yeezy kicks.

The rest of the world certainly took note as the event attracts special guests including designers, marketing professionals, DJs, artists, and others notable in this niche society. Celebrity appearances have included Bun B, A$AP Rocky, Fabolous, Slim Thug, Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C., Chamillionaire, Trinidad James,Karrueche Tran, DJ Clark Kent, Bobbito Garcia, Mannie Fresh, DJ Skee, DJ Neil Armstrong and Teyana Taylor so be sure to visit this year for exclusive opportunities to interact directly with special guests.

“Everyone from the attendees, exhibitors, and special guests are at the event because of their shared passion for sneakers and fashion,” says Angelle. “It provides a unique environment where a student can have a serious discussion with a celebrity entertainer or industry professional.” One of the guests this year is Naturel, an artist from the East Coast who has collaborated with brands like Puma, Jansport, Hpnotiq, and others. Angelle says he wants people seeking a career in the sneaker industry to feel encouraged by various approaches to building experience and that working in a shoe store is not the only avenue for success.

What can one expect from such a smorgasbord of sole-ful proportions? For starters, attending the event means being part of sneaker history, since this was the first “community” gathering of its kind—and the emphasis on connecting with others is paramount, says Angelle. Instead of simply viewing fashion shows or demos from vendors, guests are encouraged to bring their own shoes for trade at the Monster Energy Trader’s Lounge where they can swap stories and bond over this uniquely personal interest. Further perks include access to exclusive releases and rare finds available only at the Summit, pop-up shops from local brands and boutiques, and sneaker displays showcasing rare collectibles. An onsite Crep Protect Sneaker Workshop will offer free cleaning and tutorials for how to restore and maintain vintage and recent pick ups alike.

For attendees looking to expand their collections, this is the time to double up on unicorns from brands like adidas Originals, Reebok Classics, Diamond Supply Co., Crooks & Castles, Married To The Mob, and more. Additional goods like watches, shirts, caps, and jewelry will also be available for purchase ensuring that final perfect ensemble. The lure of sneakers may be lost on some, at least initially, but Angelle says he enjoys observing the change experienced by unsupportive friends and family. He’s even witnessed guests who came as teenagers to the first events bringing their own children. Just like in grade school, these interactions are proof of the sneaker’s ability to transcend generations.

“One of my favorite sights is seeing a misunderstanding parent or girlfriend/boyfriend come through our doors not understanding why their loved one is so obsessed with sneakers. But by the time they leave they see the positivity from the environment and community and totally understand why their loved one spends so much time and sometimes money on sneakers,” he says.

The H-Town Sneaker Summit takes place July 31 from 3-8 p.m. Tickets start at $20 for general admission up to $60 for VIP packages, and can be purchased online or at the NRG Center Hall E Box Office on the day of the show.

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