Sneakers Unboxed

Sneakers in the 90s

14 June 2022

In the 1990s, the sneaker gained a foothold in the Netherlands thanks to gabbers and bubbling, but a unique way of styling the sneaker also emerged in London. These years also saw the real shift in sneaker culture as brands realized that the desire for uniqueness was key.

Gabber – ‘Hardcore will never die’
For a long time, people mainly spoke negatively about the Gabber, while in the 90s it was the biggest youth culture in the Netherlands. It was a youth culture that did not occur internationally. Every city in the Netherlands had its own ‘hall’; in Rotterdam – which is considered the birthplace of the Gabber – it was the Energy Hall. Gabber also had its own dance style, called ‘hakken’ or chopping. This involves taking small steps very quickly to the rhythm of the bass drum. In addition to the dance style, the gabber also needs a matching outfit. This usually consisted of a brightly coloured Australian tracksuit – known as Aussie among the gabbers – and a pair of Air Max BWs. The close fit to the foot and comfort were important for the Gabber, as dance parties could easily last 10 hours. In the Netherlands, the Nike Air Max BW was synonymous with gabber.

Photo Michael van Hal

The Bubbling dance style originated in the 90s in Rotterdam. Initially, Bubbling was especially popular among the Surinamese and Antillean youth in Rotterdam and The Hague. The parties took place at the Imperium disco in Rotterdam and the Voltage disco in The Hague. The fact that the parties took place in different cities also ensured that there were dance battles between different cities. A mix of Jamaican, Caribbean and American music was played. This was then played on speed by DJ Moortje and the audience was whipped up by MC Pester and MC Pret. Bubbling, of course, also included a clothing style, and this was where the key role of the young people lay. The Air Max 93 was worn most often during the dance battles. The Air Max was the most popular, but other trainers were also worn, such as the Adidas Mutombo and Reebok Pump. In addition to the trainers, the outfit consisted of jeans from Chipie or Energie, Carlo Colucci jerseys and tracksuits from Australian, Rucanor or Leopard. In the Bubbling trend and style, there was a certain overlap with Gabbers.

Pin rolls and runners
During the 1990s, London’s Black inner-city youth developed their own approach to styling sneakers. This involved a unique blend of influences from Jamaican dancehall style that paired Click Suits (a matching shirt and baggy trousers) with running sneakers that had highly visible colour accents, such as Nike’s Air Max 1 and Adidas’ Torsion ZX 8000. Oversized trousers were turned up above the ankle, using a method called pin roll, to display the sneaker-and-sock combination.