Today, hashtags are ubiquitous in our social media-savvy world. We use them to communicate our political views, sentiments, purchasing habits, sporting affiliations, and if you're a sneakerhead - to let others know what you're rocking. The term hashtag was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014, to compliment other millennial terms like "selfie" and "binge-watch."

The first time I became aware of the WOMFT? crew was on Instagram, and although I'm personally not a huge hashtag user, others have tagged this shorthand expression for "what's on my feet today" on a total of 719,621 photos, at the time of publishing this article. We've seen other hashtag initiatives turn into full-fledged businesses, like our friends at #teamcozy who now have their own clothing line, or the minds behind #streetdreamsmag who leveraged a hashtag into a physical publication, and subsequent deals with big brands like Coach.

Recently the guys at WOMFT? held a photo exhibition at Solebox's Vienna location for Air Max Day. We connected with them at the event to find out more.

First, who is in the WOMFT? crew? Where are you based?

WOMFT? itself was founded in 2010 and is based in Vienna, Austria. The crew consists of four members - Stephan Storn, Philipp Orel, Thomas Semelliker and Julius Holländer, we're just having a good time together as friends, sharing our passion for sneakers and staying on the hunt for the perfect WOMFT? shot.

What gave you the idea to start WOMFT? How did it begin?

Before the WOMFT? Facebook group was founded, German and Dutch web channels like Sneaker TV and Sneakers Exchange were the platforms for sneakerheads to exchange information. 
These platforms connected sneakerheads all over the world, provided a marketplace, and were used to show on-feet sneaker shots, basically creating a forum for discussions around certain sneaker-related topics. In these groups, WOMFT? was used as a synonym for “what's on my feet today," and it was often used as a hashtag.

Sneaker forum communities eventually transitioned over to Facebook at the time, and that was the beginning of WOMFT?. Hadi Reda founded the Facebook group in 2010, while Stephan and Julius joined the Vienna-based WOMFT? crew quickly afterwards. Our newest members consist of Philipp and Thomas who quickly became a part of the family. Over the years, we also enjoyed support from our friends Bobby R., Günther Z., Lukas A., Julian W. and Mickey F. Shout out to those guys!

Was your idea to start a business with WOMFT? Or was it more just for fun? What did you expect to happen?

WOMFT? was created as a social media platform by sneakerheads, for sneakerheads. The main intention was to give people the opportunity to show off what they're rocking, but it quickly turned into one of the number one sources on Facebook for high quality on-foot images of sneaker grails, beaters and latest pick-ups. 
It all started just for fun, and after all these years it still is!

Without the fun, it wouldn't be possible to handle the workload while investing our free time in this project. Nevertheless, we expect the community to continue growing, and with such a large audience, it's only natural that brands and shops started contacting us to connect directly with their potential customers. We’ll see what the future brings!

Do you think the rise of Instagram and groups like yours has pushed sneakerheads to also become photographers?

Definitely. We have noticed a massive increase in posts with high quality pictures, prompting others to try and challenge themselves to take the best possible pictures. It’s also clear that the younger generation is especially interested in these high quality pictures, and there is a lot of friendly competition when posting to the group. People not only want to show off what sneakers they have, but also stage them and make the most out of it. As a result, some sneakerheads also get interested in photography, and you can definitely see the results!

It's also an incentive for people to buy new sneakers. Seeing the shape of a shoe on feet in a nice setting definitely drives an impulse to cop. It's a lot nicer to see a sneaker in a high-quality picture with a real person wearing than to just see it in an online store or a shop window.

Urban explorers on Instagram are also a good example of a demographic that has become more interested in sneakers, as we have seen incredible (and risky) shots of people showing off their sneakers on the edge of a skyscraper or crane. Shooting WOMFT? pictures is always great fun and a good reason to hang out with your sneaker buddies, talking about new releases and the sneaker game in general.

What kind of business opportunities or partnerships have come up since the group became more popular? How do you see the relationship between the two?

As we are one of the biggest online communities when it comes to sneakers, we are in contact with a lot of different kind of brands and shops. When you take a closer look at the well-known brands on social media, you will notice them using #womft as well for their sneaker shots. It's incredible how these five letters can influence social media and the posting habits of all sneaker relevant sources. When posting pictures with sneakers, #womft is the most used hashtag out there.

Today we can count more than 700,000 posts on Instagram with our hashtag and counting. We see our WOMFT? group as a platform for exchanging information and knowledge about sneakers, and it's a great opportunity for brands to promote their products. We run a lot of giveaways on our social media channels with sneaker stores from all over the world to give the community something back for showing us their love and support.

We have already had some nice cooperation with well-known shops in the sneaker industry, raffling shoes, clothing and equipment for sneakerheads, and we are proud to announce that there are going to be a lot more partnerships in the future. Many thanks to all our partners!

Do you see Facebook groups like yours competing against websites like Highsnobiety, or complementing one another?

The main focus of WOMFT? is to bring the community together and connect people with the same passion from all over the world. The special thing about our channels is that we offer the possibility to not only search for information but also get interactive, show off sneakers and just be part of a global movement. That’s why we consider WOMFT? one of a kind.

Websites like Highsnobiety on the other hand provide reliable information on streetwear issues such as releases, brands, events and interviews with famous people from the scene. As we focus on community and on-foot sneaker shots, we think that those two platforms definitely complement each other.

What do you see for the future of WOMFT?

As sneakers got more popular over the last few years and there are definitely more shoes dropping than ever before, we see that WOMFT? has been rapidly growing. Last year, we launched a WOMFT? sneaker marketplace to easily buy, sell and trade sneakers without having to pay fees. Not now, not ever.

The idea behind the project was to connect the buyer and seller in the easiest way possible without charging fees for either person. Since the resell prices of certain kind of sneakers became ridiculously high over the last few years, our marketplace can also be used for legit checks as the login is connected to Facebook. We are definitely trying to become more professional and take it to the next level while not losing the point of being a community.

What are your favorite sneakers at the moment?

As the WOMFT? crew consists of four active members we all have different tastes when it comes to sneakers, and we totally love this fact. Some of us are more into vintage stuff, classics and retro sneakers, while other prefer the performance line and hyped releases. Here is a list of our most favorite models: Nike Air Max, Dunks, Footscapes, Air Force 1s, Jordans, ASICS GEL-Lyte III and GEL-Saga, adidas ZX series, adidas LA Trainer, EQTs, New Balance 1500s, 998s, 997s and other less hyped brands like Kangaroos, Karhu and Sonra. adidas has done an especially great job over the last few years, but we expect a lot from other brands such as Nike in 2017.

In your opinion, what are currently the best and worst things about sneaker culture?

What most people, including us, don’t like are some aspects about the resell market. Ridiculous prices, disrespectful behavior and the peer pressure to buy certain kinds of sneakers are a few things that we dislike. We totally get the fact that a rare pair is worth more over a certain period of time, but camping for days in front of a store and buying limited shoes only to resell, it's just not cool for people who want to wear their kicks. We don’t even want to start the discussion about violence included in the resell business!

The thing we love about sneaker culture the most is making new like-minded friends locally and globally. It is always fun to have conversations about sneakers, exchange knowledge about current and older releases, and just to meet new interesting people. The sneaker game has become pretty crazy over the last few years but we still love it.

To end, why do Europeans love pin-rolling so much?

When it comes to pin-rolling there are just two possibilities, either you love it or you hate it! While our opinions on how this looks like differ from each other within the group we still think that pin-rolling can have some advantages too. It prevents your sneakers to discolor because of denim blood and it makes narrow ankles which sets a stronger focus on the sneaker itself. While one may like it and the other not, don’t forget that there are still people out there wearing socks with sandals!

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