As the world’s second-largest search engine, YouTube has evolved as a platform where hardcore hobbyists and casual enthusiasts of just about anything (video games, cosmetics, or even Disney toys) can become Internet celebrities with dedicated viewerships. Beyond stars like Justin Bieber, who rode YouTube fame into a more traditional celebrity trajectory, people like makeup artist Michelle Phan and gamer Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (better known as PewDiePie) have cultivated successful channels with millions of subscribers, and billions of views.
While Phan and Kjellberg are two of the brightest stars, there’s an entire universe of YouTube celebrities, each with his or her own respective lifestyle orbit. For guys like 27-year-old Fran Marchello of Franalations and 29-year-old Michael Lytle of Mr. Foamer Simpson, their lane is sneakers. Each boasts a viewership of 8-9 million, where their audiences click through to watch sneaker reviews or inventive unboxing videos that creatively unveil a sneaker for the first time.
The clothing analog to unboxing videos is the “haul video, ” wherein the subject boasts about or reviews a plethora of recently purchased products. YouTuber Bethany Mota rose to fame for her haul videos of women’s clothes under her Macbarbie07 channel, and currently has close to 700 million views and numerous endorsement deals.
Men’s haul videos do considerably fewer views, but Jacob Keller’s AlwaysFreshApparel channel has built a dedicated following of almost 10 million views by mixing the appeal of haul videos with a lens filtered through sneaker and street culture. His highly engaged audience regularly watches his videos that talk about everything from recent clothing pickups to the hottest sneakers in his collection, and he’s ridden that Internet popularity into a job that sneakerheads would kill for: Global Brand Specialist at Jordan Brand.
Keller’s journey began on April 26, 2012, when he uploaded his first video. Titled “My Snapback Collection, ” a self-aware Keller prefaces the video as “probably lame” and says the reason he has so many snapbacks is because they fit his self-described awkwardly shaped head. He cycles through caps from brands like The Hundreds, Crooks & Castles, Young & Reckless, and a Chicago Bulls 9FIFTY cap with a snakeskin brim. In the description of his video, Keller put personalized codes that gave users a discount at sites like PLNDR and Karmaloop, and in turn gave him points that could be redeemed on those sites. As Keller began to find his voice on YouTube, his subscriber base grew, too. The more comfortable he became on camera, the easier it was for viewers to see how likable he was.
“I’d like to think I always have had an outgoing personality since I was 3, ” he says. He remembers stomping around the house in a pair of boxers adorned with Power Rangers characters and singing the song “Heigh-Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the top of his lungs. It seems the work ethic waxed about in the Disney song’s lyrics took root.
Thanks to his his personality and relatability, Keller’s fans became infatuated with the clothes he was buying and the brands he was putting on, as it was a way of channeling the lifestyle he presented. When he got his first thousand subscribers, Keller knew he was onto something.