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I Have A Sole: The Life Of A Sneakerhead

“Those sneakers are dope.” “Your closet looks like a Footlocker!” “Where are you going to put those?” “You have a problem.” The life of a shoe collector (often referred to as a Sneakerhead) is rarely understood and often criticized.

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If the shoe fits...

Let’s get the story straight; I am not denying that I have an infatuation with shoes nor am I denying the label Sneakerhead, but I am battling the gross and unfair treatment of my collection of shoes and I. What we have is special and the relationship I have with sneakers is complicated...it’s been a love-hate process. We’ve taken breaks, spent weeks apart but one way or another we always end up together. Those around me (mainly my mom) argue that this relationship has grown toxic and has moved from being a habit to being an addiction. Let me explain the journey from innocent purchase to compulsive routine.

It always has honest beginnings...

The foundation for a Sneakerhead begins with buying shoes at the beginning of the school year or when you outgrow a pair. Soon, it progresses to receiving kicks as Birthday and Christmas gifts and once you have a little more disposable income, you have financial freedom to kick around.

It's all about the Benjamins (or Bordens), baby

GIPHY / Via gph.is

Let's not forget the black hole of the sneaker game: the money. From my experience, the average shoe costs around $250 and with releases almost every week...this is an expensive habit to carry. Either you turn the blind eye to your bank statement or you pick and choose between which sneaker will get your attention ($$$). However, it leaves you with two options: wear them or sell them for at least hundreds in profit, sometimes thousands.

Stepping into the culture

GIPHY / Via gph.is

Buying shoes is rarely random. Collaborations between brands, signature sneakers from athletes or celebrities and limited releases are a few examples of reasons why Sneakerheads continue to collect. Adidas Ultraboosts, NMDs and their line with Kanye West are at the top of the priority list for those in the culture. In addition, the weekly releases of Air Jordan sneakers are consistently atop the sneaker community websites and blogs.

Being tied to the community

The term sneakerhead (and the phenomenon that followed) is relatively new and grew with the internet. The best way to describe the sneaker community's presence is to relate it to a global cause with chapters all around the world. There are plenty of websites and social media accounts that sneakerheads follow which facilitate the interactions of a community. Facebook groups like the 'Vancouver Sneakerheads Group' that I am a part of exemplifies the localized sneakerhead culture and proves to be the most intimate way to connect people with a shared identity of being sneakerhead. The online community boasts 20, 000 members, acts as a marketplace to buy and sell shoes and is laced with levels of support. Members support each others' self-esteem by giving each other feedback on sneaker collections, customizations and opinions on shoes in general. The community also distributes informational support by providing details on release dates, shoe sizing, quantity of the releases amongst other tips. Within the business aspect of the community, their is clear promotional efforts even though the members aren't receiving any pay for their marketing labour. The culture is profitable and self-sustaining...as long as the shoes fit the needs of the culture.

The pursuit of happiness

GIPHY / Via gph.is

Staying up late for online releases, getting up early to wait in line or waiting in line overnight for exclusive releases. To avoid large lines, some stores have resorted to raffles online and in-store. Where those interested sign-up for the chance to win the opportunity to buy a pair of shoes...you know it sounds sad when I write it out.

Disclaimer: I have never lined up for shoes...I have too much pride

* The Lines: Tensions get high and there’s a history of them getting violent and unfortunately in some cases deadly.

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

There is a literal heartbreak felt when a shoe sells out. If you’re lucky there’s two options: Buy a larger pair (and a couple socks) or squeeze into a smaller one (fashion is painful). On the winning side of things, the joy of buying sneakers knowing that someone else couldn’t is quite a thrill.

...seriously, it feels so good...

Sole cleansing

GIPHY / Via gph.is

I love shoes. I love the shoes I bought and I take care each and every pair of my collection. I have shoe-specific wipes I keep in my car and my backpack along with shoe cleaning products under my bathroom sink. Long story short, myself along with Sneakerheads around the world take saying 'you can judge a man by his shoes' very seriously. In other words, I take stepping on my shoes as a threat.

If you’re reading this it’s too late...

If you’ve reached this point your collection is growing fast. Your parents are likely starting to comment on the stack of shoe boxes in your room and your response that you just like shoes is not working. The logic (or excuses, depends on your point of view) I use is that shoes are works of art. I know how that may sound, but if you emphasize or over-exaggerate the exclusivity of the shoe it may justify the purchases. Or you kindly remind everyone that it could always be worse...

Boxed In

Every time I buy a pair of shoes it’s a battle of Tetris to find a place for them to fit. My closet consists of shoes on racks, boxes on top of shelves, boxes on top of boxes and then there’s a stack in a separate storage closet. Oh, I almost forgot the pairs in the garage cabinets. So, besides the fact that I have more shoes than everyone in my family combined, I also take up more space storing them as well. To avoid the awkward confrontation with my mom which usually results in trying to charm my way out of it, I have resorted to keeping boxes in the car and waiting until she’s out of the house to bring them in. Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from her, she always can recognize a new pair on my feet before I leave the house.

Update: I currently have a box in my car and two pairs of shoes being delivered...this week should be interesting.

GIPHY / Via gph.is

There’s a simple method behind the madness that is my sneaker collection; they look good and I’d like to think I look good wearing them. Also, the feeling when you see the face on someone who recognizes the exclusivity of the shoes on your feet is priceless...well, almost. If my mom ever reads this, will I ever stop? No, but I still love you. The first step of addiction is acceptance, so here it goes...My name is Pen Griffey and I am a Sneakerhead.

Here's a picture of my growing collection:

Author/Pen Griffey (Me)

*This picture has about 60 pairs and does not include the shoes I play basketball in (about 5 pairs) and dress shoes (7 pairs)

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