This morning, after hanging up my Adidas Star Wars Stormtrooper Superskates on my bedroom wall, while slipping into and admiring my laser-etched Jordan V’s and glancing over at my Olympic-colorway Jordan VI’s, Space Jam “Hare” Jordan I’s, exclusive-colorway Kobe IV’s…I realized that I’m NOT a “sneakerhead” — even after scanning through all the ridiculous prices for each shoe on ebay. (I, of course, bought them for much cheaper…mostly at the store.)
Well…then I spent the better part of the hours between 5am and 9:30am browsing the Internets on stuff directly about or related to “sneakerheads” and their shoes. Partly to verify my conclusions…and…mostly just to check out cool shoes.
Essentially, the “sneakerhead culture” is not unlike any other culture, be it art, vintage wines, orchids (Adaptation shoutout!), cigars, cars, pogs, sports cards, or moist toillettes. (Really.) A bunch of people with an almost insatiable passion for something — which leads to the formation of a highly complex hierarchical culture with its own language, customs, and, oftentimes, even rituals.
And while browsing through sneaker forums, countless listings of rare shoes, and reading up on the “history” of several lines of shoes (some of which I was already fairly familiar with)…the more abstract it all seemed to me and the more out of place I felt. I realized I wasn’t really a part of the “culture” and a “sneakerhead” I was not, and I had zero desire of wanting to appear like one (aka a “hypebeast”). I’ve just always liked sneakers.
Growing up in California and Texas, my family was never wealthy, nor did we even have much financial security. My parents never really came out and explicitly said it, but it was pretty obvious to me and my brother that we were always dancing in and out of the red. My dad was (and still is) a small-time pastor and my mom was a pre-school teacher…and both would also simultaneously moonlight as night-time construction worker, subway sandwich artist, hair stylist, and pet-store employees from time to time to make ends meet. So…no, we didn’t always get the latest pair of Jordans growing up. *
But, despite the circumstances, I also had a huge love for shoes. Specifically, athletic shoes. And about once every year or two, my mom would give me a surprisingly reasonable price-range, take me to the local mall or sports store, and let me pick out a new pair of shoes. One year they were a pair of Grant Hills.** Another year they were a pair of Steve Young turf shoes that my brother found for me and my mom paid for. And yet another year, they were a pair of Grandma-funded $80 Allen Iverson 4’s with matching road-colored Sixers jersey! And for months after I got each new pair, damn-near every single day, after walking home from school in them, the first thing I’d do, before even stepping inside to put my backpack down, I’d make a trip around our apartment building to the garden hose, where I’d diligently rinse and scrub the dirt and dust from that day’s adventures. I really liked shoes.
Hell, I even remember the first pair of shoes I absolutely had to have. It was a pair of knock-off Batman shoes an elderly lady was peddling in a Seoul subway when I was 4. (The “bat” had a kind of beak. So it was more like “Eagleman.”) I wore them for a good year or two in California, until I outgrew them. My next pair were some zip-up British Knights. =) ***
But…with all that said, and after another 3 hours or so of oogling (Google + ogle) even more shoes, I can say with utmost confidence that I am not a sneakerhead. How/Why so? Because sneakerheads, like a fine sommelier, are motivated, in large part, by the thrill of the hunt. Sure, they can name for you their favorite vintage, age/year-of-release, type (port, white, dessert or high-top, mid-top, low-top), or favorite vineyard/brand, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (The King and I shoutout!)
But with me, it really is each individual shoe itself. While I find a lot of it interesting, I really could care less about the “history” of each shoe or brand and I don’t find too much “thrill” in the hunt/find. I buy the shoe because for some other, very specific reason, I want that particular shoe…and after I find it, I have/will never seal it in shrink-wrap and put it in a closet for fear of it “yellowing” or “wearing down” or “losing value.” I am gonna wear the hell out of them ‘cos doing so, at least on some level, makes me happy. And I enjoy hosing them down everyday after I get home from school.
I realized this morning that, as with most anything I try to surround myself with, be it my shoes, my music, my books, my writing, whatever…it’s just me trying desperately to reach back and hold onto my childhood…my futile quest for a re-live, in lieu of an impossible re-do. And I found this both saddens me greatly and yet, still, in some small but significant way, encourages me.
* Hill’s signature shoes, made by Fila (not Nike, Reebok, or Adidas), were actually pretty affordable. I think I picked my pair up at Ross. In his prime, before his decimating injuries and surgeries, Hill was basically a silky-smooth version of Lebron. And he was a great guy with a humble, admirable character. He’s still one of my favorite NBA players. I shit you not, I’d rather watch Grant Hill in his prime over Lebron ANY. DAY. OF. THE. WEEK.
** In fact, I didn’t get my first pair of Jordans until I bought myself the Jordan 1’s that I’m wearing right now.
*** Since when, exactly, were British Knights considered “fresh” and highly sought after? I always think of my beat up BK’s with the broken zipper whenever people gush over the latest British Knights.