Discover more from Shoemetrics
The (de)evolution of the hunt. (The frugal flex pt. 2)
The other day, as I was swimming through my closet trying to figure out what to do with yet *another* shipment of shoes, I was struck by a thought: ‘isn’t this supposed to be fun?’
Having watched this whole 'sneaker culture' evolve over the past 20 or so years, I'm at a point where I'm questioning why I should continue. As you may remember, I’m 42 years old and I spend more time in house slippers than I do sneakers. I have more sneakers in my closet than I could possibly wear for the rest of my life. And I am continually complaining about this fact. Yet…here I am. Still doing it.
I wonder…how did I get here?
No matter how much I hate owning up to this, the evolution of my identity as a sneaker collector has certainly shifted. If I recall correctly, I believe it went something like this::
Initial goal (2000-2004): “Re-live my childhood by purchasing the shoes I owned as a kid.“ (Grails: Jordan VI Infrared, Air Raid, Penny II, Reebok Answers)
Second goal (2004-2006): “One-up my childhood by copping all the shoes I *wanted* but was never able to afford as a kid.” (Grails: Jordan XII Playoffs, Black/White AF1, Jordan IV ‘Bred’, Jordan III ‘Black/Cement’, Reebok Answer IV)
Third goal (2006-2010): “Make sure I fit in at all these sneaker events I’m going to in NYC - let these people know that I’m *into* this” (Grails: Dunks, Dunk SBs, Air Maxes)
Fourth goal (2010-2015): “Oh, I no longer live in NYC, but I’m back in California and my best shot at copping anything I want will be online” (Grails: Foamposites, ACGs, other brands like Asics, New Balance, Saucony)
Fifth goal (2015-2018): “Eh, maybe I should start honing in on Samples and PEs” (Grails: Anything and everything that can point back to a specific player)
Sixth goal (2018-2020): “Yo! What the hell are those? Those are so weird! I NEED ‘em!” (Grails: Anything and everything that no one knows about that’s in MY size)
And finally…my seventh goal (2020-present) is….what…exactly? (Grails: ?)
So, again…how did I get here? This is obviously a simple question with a very complex answer, because everything is always changing. I’m often confused by the ‘hobby’ and what it’s become and it feels like the more I learn about it, the less I know about it (but the more I learn about myself). Which, I suppose, is completely rational and normal when your benchmark is in a constant state of flux.
Every now and then, I stumble upon sneaker-related websites. Initially, I would browse them out of curiosity, but also to verify the claims about the quality of counterfeit sneakers, especially from the perspective of the only Sneaker Grading company. Are some fake sneakers indeed better assembled than authentic ones?
As I delved deeper into Yupoo, WeChat, Ali, DHGate, and WhatsApp, I tried to grasp the magnitude of the issue. That's when I encountered someone deeply entrenched in this world. He shared numerous photos of his office, warehouse, or room filled with an eclectic mix of sneakers. Eventually, he claimed he could make anything. ANYTHING. Skeptical, I decided to test him.
Me: "Can you make Homers?"
Him: "What are Homers? Send pic."
Me: (sends pic).
Him: "Easy. $120."
(I don't know why I asked for Homers, but I did.)
I'm aware this is frowned upon in some circles, and rightfully so. Or is it? I'm not even sure anymore, and honestly, I might not even care. I didn't buy anything (since I don't NEED anything), but the realization that everything ever created was suddenly available via WhatsApp for $120—even if fake—was disheartening. The thrill was gone.
When countless pairs of a coveted shoe become available for less than retail and appear 95% authentic, does the pursuit of originality still matter? If so, are there exceptions? If not, what's the new goal? Is it to own the shoe, to claim ownership, to wear it, or to flaunt it on Instagram?
Now, that brings up another point: ownership. Truth be told, I’m not all that interested in owning things just for the sake of owning them. And that comes from years and years and years of moving. From Truckee to Cardiff to Truckee to Santa Cruz to Capitola to Aptos to Truckee to Brooklyn to Manhattan to Brooklyn to Truckee to Virginia City to Reno to San Francisco to Oakland and Sacramento, schlepping things from place to place has become a bit of a nuisance. And to notice the pattern of owning something only to store it and then pack it up for the next home…what is the point?
I like to make use of the things I own. And when I don’t use certain things, they quickly become a nuisance. Why would I want something in my house to just take up space? I prefer to wear my shoes. And when you never really get much of a chance to *wear* all of the stuff you bought *to wear*, the question (of ‘what do I do with all of these shoes I physically can’t wear?’) becomes a bit more salient.
I buy stuff. It gets stuck in my closet. At one point or another…I get a chance to wear it for a day or two. Then it’s back to the closet. And maybe, just MAYBE, I pull it out again sometime in the future for a few more wears. And then, sometimes, it falls so far back in the closet I even forget that I own it. The other day I unearthed a duffle bag in the back of my closet FULL of coats and jackets I forgot I owned. FULL OF THEM! Logically speaking…it’s repugnant. And this yet brings up another point: the issue of waste and sustainability. But I’ll save that for another time.
The good(?) news is, over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that I’ve really slowed down with the sneaker consumption machine. I’m not paying much attention to new releases. I’m not really engaging with the conversation on anything that I don’t care about…and those shoes that I actually DO find enough interest in to talk about…I can, because it’s not overwhelming.
I distinctly remember one Saturday morning, where I was trying to hit on the original Yeezy 350 v1 Pirate Blacks - a shoe I was only marginally interested in - I wasted A WHOLE MORNING ON MY COMPUTER. And it wasn’t the first. But when I realized what a waste of time it was, it became the last.
Instead, I noticed that I….
…I spend a great deal of time looking for steals. Like legitimate steals.
I don’t really care for the ‘major’ releases that everyone seems to be talking about at the moment I write this (the AJ3 reimagined or the Action Bronson New Balance or the AJ x SB 4), as I wouldn’t pay retail for any one of them. Nor have I really cared about more than a handful of any of the last 567 major releases BEFORE that.
I can tell you that if I found any one of those shoes hyped shoes slightly used for $100 or less, which I often do, I’d be STOKED about it. ABSOLUTELY FRICKIN’ STOKED. And at that point I would allow myself to enjoy my purchase AND the shoe. And that’s NOT because any of them are shoes that I have any connection to, it’d because I FOUND A STEAL THAT NO ONE ELSE FOUND.
It seems….at this point of my sneaker enthusiasm, I really love nothing more than just scoring a good deal.
I don’t care about the hyped ‘rarities’ (that really aren’t rare),
I don’t care about the ‘hottest shoe of the year’ (that really is just a re-hash of something 30+ years old),
I don’t care enough about any *new* designs that I’m buying for retail (as I will most assuredly find these on sale in the near future)
And here comes our full circle moment: This is all interesting and post-worthy because this is exactly how I looked at things when I was a kid. I wouldn’t buy ANYTHING if it didn’t fit within my *extremely meager* budget. My main goal as a kid was to get swag for as cheap as possible.
Flashback: This one time…in 1997 or maybe 1998…I remember I had about $30 dollars to my name. This was my allowance money that I earned washing dishes at home and taking out the trash over the course of 3 weeks. I knew I wanted a pair of black and white Adidas track pants, and I knew the only place to get them was in Reno, at the Meadowood Mall. My best friend and I took a trip to Reno, and I seriously dragged him into every single sporting goods shop in the mall looking at Adidas track pants until I found the cheapest pair. $29.99 at Copelands, $28.50 at Footaction, $27.50 at Hustons, $28.50 at Sports Authority, $26.50 at Footlocker, $27.99 at Big 5, $29.99 at Champs. Let’s head back to Footlocker. Now I’ve got about $1 left for some Crazy Bread at Little Caesars!
Thing is…who cares…right? It’s akin to driving an additional 30 minutes to save 10 cents on a gallon of gas…it’s just not worth it, right?
I’m not so sure. It was worth it to me. It did matter. And in this land of plenty, it *still matters* to me. It matters to me that, for whatever reason, I’m able to swoop something for cheaper than anyone else. It does matter to me that I’m able to find a steal. As a matter of opinion - in this land of endless options, I’m still swaggerific enough to be able to flex something else that no one else can flex: a *cheap* pair of shoes.
It appears as though my sneaker (de)evolution is simply based in seeking the one thing that no one else can claim. I’m seeking my individuality from the herd. At this moment in time…it looks to me like nearly every single version of every single silhouette is attainable at the click of a button. Cheapish, high quality fakes. Or expensive, low quality originals. It’s ALL attainable. Hype isn’t rare. Even ‘rarities’ aren’t really rare. PEs and samples are still rare, but what am I gonna do with a bunch of size 17 basketball shoes I can’t wear? A serious *steal* is actually pretty rare, so that’s what I seek.
As I reflect on my (de)evolution as a sneaker savant, it seems that the pursuit has mostly been driven by a desire for individuality —probably similar to many of you. Amid the hype and abundance of options, it seems that what sets me apart from the crowd in *my* head is nothing more than finding an exceptional steal. I find it funny how my sneaker collecting life has come full circle, bringing me back to the thrill of the hunt and the joy of finding value where others might not. For anyone caught up in (the mental illness that we call) ‘sneaker collecting,’ it'd probably be a good idea to take a step back to ask yourself why you're doing it. Otherwise, you just might find yourself buying some big, stupid, red, rubber boots.