There is something about being surrounded by people with a common interest that gets your blood rushing. There is something picturesque about seeing a variety of soles displayed on tables by people who truly value them. This eclectic collection of people, formally referred to as “sneakerheads”, is devoted to collecting sneakers, educating the unacquainted and appreciating the culture.
Sneaker Exchange is the definition of utopia for the devoted “sneakerhead”. It is an event where sole lovers are able to buy, sell and trade their kicks. I was fortunate to attend this event on the 29th March 2014, at The Industry in Cape Town, which was hosted by the founder Zaid Osman.
Being a sneakerhead was and still is considered to be a niche culture. The difference between a true sneakerhead and a person who claims to be a sneakerhead is defined by the individuals motivation for buying the sole. This argument – one that I have with many sole lovers – is an on-going battle that I do not really let consume me. At the end of the day, we all appreciate the sole.
Sneaker Exchange is not only about bringing people together for one sole purpose; it has positioned itself as an unplanned forum for sole collectors. The event may be viewed as commercialized, hyped, overdone and even somewhat pretentious by strangers to the concept, but the debates are far from those descriptions.
The organic and detailed conversations by Michael Jordan “stans” of the world discuss how the Jordan 1 Phat Mid is a great shoe, but a little uncomfortable because their foot took time to break into the leather. Some sole lovers believe that the greatest creation ever to be made was the New Balance 574 Frapbois. Others were not shy about mentioning that 20 pairs of their collection of 40 were stolen goods.
It was an overall great event, as expected. I did not buy, trade or sell my kicks, but I learned a few interesting things about some of the people at the event.
Being a sneakerhead is an addiction for many. Some are willing to kill you if you step on their kicks, and others are on the verge of bankruptcy because their obsession cannot be controlled. Some have been crazy enough to camp out and face lines that wind around blocks just for a pair of once in a lifetime exclusives. Others are running out of closet space, so they leave their kicks in the boxes that are stacked in the corner. They aren’t limited to Jordans, Dunks and Maxes, and have a phobia of creases and fakes.
The most fascinating part about sole lovers is the first time they open the box of their newly purchased kicks, and how their faces light up when they inhale that new smell.
Photographer : Ross Adami