The 25 Most Powerful People in Sneakers

The 25 Most Powerful People in Sneakers

The world of sneakers is big business. Sneakerheads create a lot of buzz on Twitter, Instagram and throughout a multitude of blogs, but when it comes down to it we're just a small percentage of the big picture, no matter how important we think we are. We might influence trends and determine what "cool" is, but that's not really saying much when it comes to wielding real power in this industry. But how do you really measure something like how powerful a person is? Well, think of it this way: When the phone rings and you see one of the names on this list on caller ID, there's no sending these people to voicemail — you're going to answer. With that said, check out The 25 Most Powerful People in Sneakers.

25. Mike Packer

Affiliation: Packer Shoes

Packer Shoes is one of the few boutiques that has the opportunity to collaborate with nearly any footwear manufacturer and that can be credited to Mike Packer and his century-long history in the game. Not only does Mike deserve credit for the store itself, but also for facilitating the return of Patrick Ewing and Ewing Athletics to the sneaker world. When companies are looking for a voice from an independent retailer, they call Mike.

24. Jason Petrie

Affiliation: Nike

When you design the shoes worn by the best (non-retired) basketball player on the planet, you have some juice. Jason Petrie has been the man behind Nike's LeBron line since the VII, and in a few short years has made quite the impact. It hasn't hurt that LeBron has won two MVPs since Petrie took over his line (and is likely to receive his third in a couple of weeks). Is he this generation's Tinker? Time will tell.

23. Kevin Plank

Affiliation: Under Armour

If there is any doubt as to how Under Armour has and continues to position itself in the sneaker world, then you haven't been paying attention. UA's founder and CEO Kevin Plank has taken the company from non-existent in the sneaker world to attracting key people from competitors (the name Tom Luedecke should be familiar) and building a brand that is now selling through quickstrike-type releases in a day.

22. Robbie Fuller

Affiliation: adidas

Like what adidas Basketball has been doing lately? Thank Robbie Fuller. As the designer behind Crazy Light and Crazyquick, he's provided the product behind the latest marketing pushes. And no matter how clever the campaign, it doesn't work if the sneakers aren't right. They are.

21. Eddie Cruz

Affiliation: Undefeated

There aren't too many folks on this list from smaller brands but there is a reason for that. The truth is, boutiques don't have the power that big companies do. What makes Undefeated different is that they've become a brand recognizable around the world. On top of that, Eddie Cruz and his team were able to place Undefeated collaborations in Foot Locker stores around the world. Sure, to a small few that's selling out; but to most of the world, that's called good business.

20. Jason Mayden

Affiliation: Jordan

Jason Mayden went from being Jordan Brand's first intern to one of its primary designers. From there, he became the Director of Innovation for Digital Sports, resulting in products like the Fuel Band. One of the best things about Nike is that it doesn't let people get too complacent or too settled. Could Mayden be the next Nike president? Why not? (He also helped design the Air Monarch, which may never earn a spot on a favorite list, but remains a bestseller.)

19. Steve Van Doren

Affiliation: Vans

Not many people would argue that Vans still holds the crown for the number-one spot when it comes to skate shoes. At the helm for Vans is Steve Van Doren, who has been with the company since the age of 10, when his father first launched the business in 1966. Needless to say, Steve has been an important part of the success that Vans has seen in recent years.

18. Swizz Beatz

Affiliation: Reebok

Reebok back. And despite the departure of the rotund rapper who made the proclamation, the sentiment still stands. Credit that to Swizz Beatz, whose indefatigable energy put together a team that included not only Ricky Rozay and Tyga, but Allen Iverson and Shaquille O'Neal, back in the fold for the first time since the '90s. How big is Classics for Reebok? They were able to let John Wall switch over to parent company adidas, essentially shut down their performance basketball line, and eat off retros. Swizz had a lot to do with that.

17. Ian Ginoza

Affiliation: NSW

Ian Ginoza's title is (deep breath) Global Footwear Product Director Nike Sportswear Special Projects. Hard to fit on one line of a résumé, especially one as chock-full of accomplishments as Ginoza's is—he formerly played a similar role at Converse (where he established the First String program), and before that was on the retail side, founding both Hawaii's KICKS/HI and Chicago's St. Alfred. As someone who has much experience on both sides, he has a unique perspective that is exceedingly valuable.

16. Paul Mittleman

Affiliation: adidas

Formerly the creative director at Stüssy, Paul Mittleman relocated to Germany to do something bigger. As the design director of adidas Originals, he gets to run what's essentially his own multinational corporation, one that collaborates with people around the world and draws from a half-century plus of iconic sneaker design. No pressure.

15. Fraser Cooke

Affiliation: Nike

With the title of Nike Global Energy Marketing Director, it's safe to say that Fraser Cooke can make or break a product's level of success. Orchestrating some of the most successful campaigns Nike has ever done (HTM ring a bell?). Fraser is one of those people in the industry that most people can only hope to work with.

14. Tracy Teague

Affiliation: Nike

Nike's Global Creative Director doesn't need much of an explanation. Teague's position allows him to change everything about sneakers and the market. And when he calls, you answer.

13. Eric Avar

Affiliation: Nike

As the man behind the Kobe line (amongst countless other designs in your collection), Avar is one of the people behind some of the most successful programs in Nike's history. If you really need anyone to co-sign Avar's place in sneakers, hit up Tinker and he'll confirm, Eric is a boss.

12. Jon Wexler

Affiliation: adidas

Creating the shoes and marketing them is all well and good, but in the end, it's about getting the right people to wear them. That's where Jon Wexler comes in. Think of all the well-known people you've seen rocking adidas Originals over the past few years, and wonder no more about who their connect is.

11. Dawn Baxter

Affiliation: Nike

Think of how many different Nikes are released over the course of a year, and how many people—famous and not-so-famous—must clamor to get pairs early. Now imagine being the person who controls the flow. That would be Dawn Baxter, who may very well have the toughest job on this list. After all, she's the one who has to say no.

10. Kanye West

Affiliation: Nike

When Kanye wears something, influencers follow suit. We're pretty sure Jay-Z would agree. But even more powerful than his ability to influence, Kanye's Yeezy releases from Nike remain one of the most buzzworthy pieces of the sneaker world. If Mr. West were to tweet about the release of the Yeezy III, he'd be a trending topic for two days straight thanks to the anticipation that surrounds everything he collaborates with Nike on.

9. Tinker Hatfield

Affiliation: Nike/Jordan

Your favorite sneaker designer's favorite sneaker designer. Tinker Hatfield got his start at Nike as a corporate architect before shifting over to sneaker design. As one of Bill Bowerman's men of Oregon, he had the qualifications. His nonstandard approach to sneaker design led to the modern definition of "signature shoe" and established the Air Jordan line as the unstoppable juggernaut it is today. Nike may still have become what it is had Hatfield stayed in the building trade—but it may not have.

8. Todd Krinsky

Affiliation: Reebok

When you're a company looking to revisit an earlier era, it's best to have someone from that earlier era calling the shots. And it's even better when that person is a grinder who started from the bottom. Todd Krinsky got his start in the Reebok mailroom—cliché alert!—and worked his way up, eventually rising all the way to VP. He paid dues in the '90s and early '00s, working (and partying) with Allen Iverson, which makes him uniquely qualified to deal with AI today. Some things never change.

7. Ken Hicks

Affiliation: Foot Locker CEO

Ken Hicks has been the president and CEO of Foot Locker, Inc. since 2009. He also took over as chairman of the board in 2010. In short, he runs one of the most profitable companies in sneakers and since his arrival in 2009, Foot Locker has performed exponentially better—numbers don't lie. Foot Locker, Inc. owns Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Footaction, Eastbay, CCS and then some. Bottom line: He's a boss of the sneaker world and anyone on this list would answer the phone if he showed up on their caller ID.

6. Gentry Humphrey

Affiliation: Nike

Knowledge is power and if there's a crazy Jordan Retro colorway, Gentry knows about it. Now that he's on the Nike side of things, he has even more opportunity to shape the future of sneakers—not to mention determine what classics return from the vast number of sneakers in Nike's vault.

5. Herbert Hainer

Affiliation: adidas Group CEO

With Reebok Classics moving in the right direction, adidas Hoops coming into full stride ,and adidas Originals continuing to impress with solid new collaborators, the adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer is in some seriously good company. Power moves at this level can change the direction of footwear for everyone that has an interest in sneakers. That's serious power.

4. Larry Miller

Affiliation: Jordan

Currently serving his second term as Jordan Brand president, Larry Miller is the boss of the second-largest basketball shoe brand on the planet. He left Jordan the first time to become president of the Portland Trail Blazers—one assumes if he leaves again, it would only be to become president of something even bigger.

3. Mark Parker

Affiliation: Nike

Mark Parker, president of Nike, came up through the ranks the old-fashioned way—from University of Oregon runner to designer to exec. And while he has a big office and makes big decisions, he's still able to look at the big picture through the eyes of those earlier positions: runner and designer. He's the soul of the old Nike running the new Nike, which is exactly the way it should be. He's also someone who can immediately get on a call with anyone else on this list.

2. Phil Knight

Affiliation: Nike

At 75, he may not be running the day-to-day operations anymore, but Phil Knight is still Nike's co-founder and chairman, and thus vested with power that most can only dream of. If you've ever wondered why Oregon's football team is the recipient of much Nike largesse, it has a lot to do with Knight being the U's wealthiest (to the tune of $40 billion-plus) alum. And while Mark Parker currently serves as Nike's president, one guess on who it was that initially hired him?

1. Michael Jordan

Affiliation: Jordan

There is still only one Michael Jordan. He's 50 now, a Hall of Famer, and thoughts of any further comebacks are (hopefully) just talk. But even as LeBron James threatens to encroach on his "best player ever" status, Jordan continues to stand alone as the only influencer who's ever truly mattered. Kids who weren't born until long after he played his last game continue to do anything they can to score his latest shoes. That's power.

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