Don’t call it a shoe fetish
by Najja Peterson
My name is Naj, and I am a sneakerhead. It has been 3 weeks since my last sneaker purchase, and the withdrawal symptoms are in full swing. I break out into cold sweats when I pass by a Footlocker. My hands shake every time I see a pair of Nike’s on a passerby’s feet. My heart palpitates as I search for my next fix on ebay; a pair of the new Michael Chang X-Large Reebok Court Victory pumps perhaps? Or the stealth Air Jordan VIII’s which have just been restocked in limited quantity? Can I afford to buy both??? Some may call it an addiction, or even worse a fetish, but to sneakerheads worldwide, collecting kicks is a way of life.
(For those unaware of the sneaker culture, here’s a brief history lesson).
Born in the early 1980’s, sneaker culture was the lovechild of hip-hop and basketball. Urban icons such as his Royal Airness Michael Jordan and hip-hop pioneers RUN DMC, turned tennis shoes into a cultural phenomena for a generation of youth. Sneakers became more than simply a fashion statement. They became an art canvas; a way to express oneself both for the artist and the wearer. They became a symbol of status on the streets. But most importantly, they encompassed the spirit of the urban culture; whether you were a baller, a b-boy, an MC…or an everyday Joe.
However, I have often found it difficult (and at times slightly embarrassing) to articulate my love and devotion for collecting sneakers. I mean I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will always own more shoes than my girlfriend, and in turn require the closet space of Sarah Jessica Parker. I’m not ashamed to say it takes me about fifteen minutes to decide which sneakers to wear each day, and before I can tuck them back in at night I have to give them a once-over with a toothbrush and liquid detergent. I’ll admit I have spent an entire paycheque on a pair of Air Force One’s (in my defense they were an artist original and one of only eight). And I have broken plans with the girlfriend to steadfastly guard a sneaker-related e-bay auction. There are not many people who understand this passion, nor do I expect many to…but sometimes being a sneakerhead in Ottawa can be a lonely road to travel.
But last Thursday night at Babylon, I was united with people who shared my obsession, as sneakerheads city-wide converged to celebrate the culture. Hosted by Top of the World and Kapacity Entertainment, Sneaker Wars 2008 brought Ottawa’s most hardcore sneakerphiles together to compete for bragging rights and the title of Sneaker Champion. Patrons flossed their best kicks, with Nike being the brand of choice for most, as retro Jordan’s, hi-top dunks and premium AF1’s were abundantly plentiful. The winner of the night, Rob “The Shoeman” Krantzberg, (whose personal collection numbers in the five to six hundred pair range) flexed his sneaker muscle displaying an original in box Nike Air Pressure made famous for its appearance on the feet of Marty MacFly in the movie Back 2 The Future II. Street Value $4000. Competition over.
Aside from the tantalizing array of kicks on display, DJ’s spun the ones and twos, and b-boys and b-girls spun like corkscrews. However, the greatest feeling of all was witnessing that sneaker culture is alive and well in the nation’s capital. Familiar faces were peppered throughout the crowd, and I couldn’t help but notice that although it is a small and tight-knit community, it is one of the few oblivious to age, sex, race or religion. On Thursday night, all in attendance prayed to the God of Nike, and worshiped in the house that Jordan built.