#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
As cities like New York, London and Tokyo dominate fashion headlines on sites like Highsnobiety, it's often interesting to turn our attention toward communities that deserve recognition, but don't usually get it.
Israel may sometimes be portrayed in the news for political reasons, but Instagrammers @innobv, @shimmichoo, and @bornofidan are working to put their home country on the style map. You would probably be right not to think of Tel Aviv as a fashion mecca, but these three have garnered thousands upon thousands of Instagram followers by heading into the Israeli streets, photographing each other, and flexing for the 'gram.
In a country where it's quite unlikely to encounter a stranger rocking heat, Inno, Shimi and Idan have leveraged social media to gain attention on a global scale. Although social media apps like Instagram may provide access to information at an unprecedented rate no matter where you are on the globe, being a sneakerhead in Israel still presents a number of dilemmas.
Below, we speak with the trio about the best sneaker shops, using Instagram as a key tool to connect with and meet other heads, and what it's like to be a sneakerhead in Israel.
First, what is your full name, how old are you and what do you do?
@shimmichoo: I'm Shimi Elbaz, 22, currently working at Vans as a salesperson and an Instagram influencer.
@bornofidan: I'm Idan Eldar, 19 years old and I'm a photographer.
@innobv: My Name is Inno Barel, I'm 20 years old, I'm a full-time reseller and an Instagramer.
When and why did you start to become interested in sneakers and fashion?
@shimmichoo: Starting in middle school, I've had a passion for fashion and sneakers. I just didn't have enough knowledge or means at that time to develop that passion. There was no Instagram or iPhone, and the streetwear community in Israel was basically nonexistent.
@bornofidan: I've been into sneakers and streetwear my entire life, starting with Jordans and Air Max when I was younger. My interest has developed now that I'm grown and can afford more stuff.
@innobv: I think it would be two years ago when the first YEEZYs came out. Old sneakerheads might roast people who got into the sneaker game just because of YEEZYs, but I'm not ashamed of it. But I've been into fashion since grade 10, when I'd spend hours reading magazines and imitating the style I saw.
I really liked dressing differently from other people in my environment, and expressing myself through clothes. When I started being interested in sneakers, I discovered more street brands and high fashion brands, and that just elevated my fashion knowledge. I really enjoyed that period, discovering brands and learning more, and that hasn't stopped, it's like a rolling stone.
What is the Israeli scene like? Are there any interesting shops or brands? What's good and bad about it?
@shimmichoo: The Israeli scene is still very small, not many people here understand streetwear or are into sneakers the way I am. There are absolutely no streetwear brands in Israel. This genre of clothing is not popular here, and that's really hard. The only shop I visit is Sneaker Box, a small but dope shop in Tel Aviv. They always bring the most coveted sneakers to their shop.
I think the only good thing about being a small community is that it's a lot easier to cop items or camp out, since there aren't many people.
@bornofidan: The Israeli scene is very small, and there are not many people interested in streetwear and sneakers. One great shop is Sneaker Box - every self-respecting sneakerhead in Israel knows it, and buys from this shop.
@innobv: From my point-of-view, the Israeli scene is growing fast, there are so many kids that are really into the sneaker game. Facebook groups are popping up, and some kids are camping out for days. I just camped out for 49 hours for the YEEZY Boost 350 V2 "Cream White."
I can see the future in these kids, and I can see how passionate they are, but the older sneakerheads don't appreciate this younger culture in Israel. They don't give any credit or support to the younger generation, and that's so sad because we have a lot of passion and potential.
You definitely won't find super limited collaborations in Israel, they're still mostly impossible to get, but we still get stuff like YEEZYs and NMDs. The bottom line is, it's hard to be a young sneakerhead in Israel.
Where do you usually shop? Online?
@shimmichoo: I get all of my clothing online. Sometimes I speak with smaller brands and they send me some items. Some of my shoes as well.
@bornofidan: Most of my clothes and sneakers I buy online from sites like SSENSE or Grailed, and Facebook groups because you can't really get all the good stuff in Israel.
@innobv: It depends on the gear I'm looking for. If it's Supreme, it would be Facebook groups or Grailed. If it's shoes, I'm usually entering raffles, sometimes you can find some limited shoes on SSENSE. The Facebook groups and Grailed are the two best places to buy at a decent resale price in case you catch an L, or if the shoes are not being released in your country.
How important is personal style to you?
@shimmichoo: Style says a lot about personality. It's true that because of Instagram and social media, many people lose their own personal style and try to copy their idols. That's not a bad thing, but to me it's important to remember to take that inspiration and make it your own.
@bornofidan: A lot of people dress the same. But what matters is that you're comfortable with your own style. However, you can notice that most successful Instagrammers are the ones who know how to present their own unique style, and to combine their personality with today's trends.
Another problem in my opinion is that sometimes people try too hard and it comes off as unnatural. So just be who you are.
@innobv: Personal style means a lot, obviously I'm inspired by other famous Instagrammers, I'm just doing it in my way. The hardest thing is to be different but at the same time to be the same as the other people, so your style could be relatable and people could take inspiration from you.
Everyone is an idol for someone, and everyone has his or her own idols, so people have to understand that they can be fans but at the same time inspiration for someone else!
Being in Israel, how much are you influenced by Instagram? How important is Instagram versus websites or magazines?
@shimmichoo: I take influence and inspiration from many international Instagrammers, I can't think of any Israeli accounts that really influences me or my style, for the simple reason that nobody here gets the idea of streetwear the way I do.
Instagram became a huge part of our lives in the past few years, you can really make a living from it. Online websites and magazines have two important things that will always make them relevant and essential to everyone - they're the best place to get information and knowledge about the things you're into, and also the best place to see new trends and new people who share content.
@bornofidan: Instagram is an amazing platform, in Israel most of the people that are passionate about fashion and sneakers use Instagram as the source for the latest information. Websites and magazines are not as popular in Israel as they're overseas.
But a lot more people are discovering this culture, so they'll definitely use websites and magazines more in the future.
@innobv: Being in Israel is hard when it comes to fashion, and we don't have those street fashion magazines or websites, so Instagram is the only tool we can use to keep up with the trends and popular websites such as Highsnobiety obviously.
Instagram was so important for my growth in social media, without Instagram it would be 10 times harder to keep up with trends and find your own place. I've been able to connect with so many sneakerheads all around the world, most of them are from London and some are pretty well-known. I even met them in real life when I visited London earlier this year. It's just crazy how sneakers can break all the barriers, and it doesn't matter where you come from if you're passionate for streetwear and sneakers. You'll quickly see how much in common you have with every sneakerhead.
What are the most popular streetwear and sneaker brands in Israel?
@shimmichoo: As I mentioned earlier there are no streetwear brands in Israel. Popular sneaker brands are the main ones - adidas, Nike, PUMA, and Reebok. But the brand flagship shops barely get any good of the good releases. That's why I only get my sneakers from Sneaker Box.
@bornofidan: adidas, Nike, Vans and New Balance.
@innobv: It would be adidas, Nike and Vans probably.
Israeli people follow trends all around the world, like in the past two years for example, Superstars and Stan Smiths were so popular. It was nice in the beginning, but so many people would wear them, and it became boring. In terms of the real sneaker lovers, Jordans are pretty popular. There are a few stores in Israel that get the newest Js, so you could find a lot of people wears the Shattered Backboards, Royals, and Top 3s.
Also, we get almost every YEEZY release, but it's so hard to get other rare drops like VLONE, Supreme, Palace, or Vetements, so I get my gear online.
If you had the choice between living in Israel and moving to somewhere like London or New York, what would you pick?
@shimmichoo: I would definitely move to London or Los Angeles. Israel is great, but there are no opportunities out here.
@bornofidan: Ever since I was a kid, my dream has been to grow and develop in what I love to do most. Moving to a big city like New York or Los Angeles would be great, and being a part of that greater community. In Israel I can't do that, it's like a glass ceiling for photographers.
@innobv: I would definitely move to London if I could. The real thing is in London, and if you want to grow, it's the best option. But I'm happy that I had to go through so much in Israel, and learn the hard way, because I'm working three times harder to get the love and support for what I'm doing. In the end, it doesn't matter where you come from, it's all about how bad you want it. All you need is social media, and you'll make it.
Now, read Highsnobiety's recent op-ed exploring whether Instagram influencers are bad for fashion.