Luke Matthews doesn’t like the word “sneakerhead,” but he’s grown to accept it. “For me they’re always trainers,” he says.
The 24-year-old tastemaker, who owns 120 pairs of those trainers, runs social media at U.K. shoe retailer Size? — part of the buoyant JD Sports empire.
Matthews was nabbed for the job fresh out of university, having worked part-time job on the Size? shop floor during his law degree. During his two-year tenure, he has used his ability to speak to fellow trainer lovers to double the retailer’s Twitter following and add 450,000 fans to its Instagram.
In turn, he’s grown his own name in the sneaker realm as a favorite on blogs like High Snobriety, which feature his minimal, eclectic style.
For Matthews, the job was too good to pass up. “I went for it because I wanted to experience the industry. It always came naturally to me,” he explained.
To outsiders, though, the trainer market — with its 24/7 news cycle and die-hard fans — can seem impenetrable. Ten years ago, there were around 15 to 20 products launched a week. Now, Matthews says, there’s just “a lot of everything” as trainers have become a fashion staple and the market has flooded with shoes.
For a retailer like Size?, posting anything on social media means competing with a deluge of content from other retailers alongside the resellers and blogs. “We all sell the same product on the same day at the same time,” he said. “So a bit of personality goes a long way.”
That’s where Matthews comes in. Sure, big drops like Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost designs for Adidas Originals always perform well. (One blog post about the Yeezy got 150,000 views on the Size? site.) But Matthews is focusing on what’s unique to Size?: original content that its competitors don’t have.
For example, Size? uses its in-house design team to feature the retailer’s exclusive collaborations like the Air Max 95 DW shoes artist Dave White created with Nike. Its Instagram, in particular, is filled with exclusive nuggets and original photography that isn’t on the blog circuit.
Matthews is also driving home the brand’s expertise. Size? was founded in 2000, which makes it ancient in internet terms. “We pride ourselves on being an authority in the industry,” he said.
On YouTube — between new product shoots and events recaps — the retailer runs content that focuses on the legacy of the brands it stocks. For example, an old school “retrospective” it created about skate brand Vans, which is its most-viewed video to date.
The Preview is a monthly series Matthews started last September which looks ahead to the next month’s releases in-store. Here, he sits down with another member of the Size? team to talk through each design. Again, there is a focus on the history and cultural importance of each shoe over its aesthetics alone.
Ther trick, said Matthews, is to not treat sneaker (or rather trainer) fanatics as a single monolith. There are a wealth of subcultures in the fandom that are often tied to individual sports and labels. “The style I like is a minority in bigger picture of the industry, it’s not mainstream. I try not to inflict that opinion too much,” Matthews says.
Catering to these different consumers takes thought — particularly for a mass market brand like Size? Matthews says the key is to treat each piece of content differently — tailoring it to the right audience. So, a technology-heavy shoe would get a different treatment than a retro release. Its recent shoot with The Rig Out, for example, was shot on film to evoke the feel of 1990s sportswear.
We’ve teamed up with @therigout to create ‘UK Classics’, a four part series exploring the UK trends and sub-cultures throughout the decades. For the fourth and final instalment, we headed down to the legendary Notting Hill Carnival to experience the annual celebration – Head over to our blog for more… #sizeHQ
Now, Matthews is also pushing to create more off-the-cuff content that’s less polished than its usual video output on YouTube. He created the brand’s first Instagram Story on the same day that the feature launched, which accrued 175,000 views.
Meanwhile, its Snapchat channel provides six pieces of behind-the-scenes content a month for its 20,000 followers. The key is being as “genuine as possible” and not to overload users with brand messaging, Matthews said.
“On Instagram many accounts build a following through competitions — but you end up with people who wanted a free iPad once upon a time.”