It's always a nice refreshing change to see a sneaker collector so loyal to one brand - and even one model for that matter. So you can imagine our excitement when we stumbled across UK head Dean Morris, aka Sneakerphile. Having nearly chalked up a decade of collecting on the serious tip, Morris' love of the rubber-toed Superstar has catapulted this kooky customiser into the stratosphere. An invaluable member of Superstardb.com, Sneakerphile has quickly risen within the ranks of adidas Superstar customisers, racking up a burgeoning roster of clients, all fiending for his airbrushed goodness. We caught up with the comic book-loving, BMX-thrashing, adi nutter to get the 411 on just why those three little stripes make him go boom boom pow!
Waddup Deano, tell us a little about yourself and how you got into sneaker collecting?
Well, my name is Dean Morris, but when it comes to the sneaks, my handle is Sneakerphile. I'm 34 (35 in November) and I guess I have been collecting for about 8-10 years. I have always had a soft spot for sneakers, even when I was in high school. In fact, my very first pair of adidas were a pair of white Torsions, which I copped when they first came out around 1990. When I started working full time, I got the odd pair of sneaks every now and then, but the obsession hadn't fully taken root. Then, when I started my last job in 2000, I had a little more money to play with, so I got a few more pairs. I've never settled on any one brand - I've mostly just got what looked good to me at the time. I was somewhat of an impulse buyer (still am sometimes!). In 2001, a friend at work who was also heavily into sneaks introduced me to a few online stores, most notably MrShoeShotta.com, and the madness really began from there.
It seems if you're from the UK, you're either going to be into Puma or adidas - is that a fair call?
It's true; I do have somewhat of a ‘thing' for adidas. Although I would probably say that puts me in a minority. There are a lot more people into adidas than I first realised, but I would say more people who wear sneakers wear either Nikes or Reeboks in the UK. They seem to go well with specific sections of UK youth, who tend to wear them with grey flannel tracksuits and their asses hanging out, haha!
Oh, nice! 117 pairs later and you've got a room full of blue and white boxes! What exactly is it about adidas that won your heart?
Actually, that's just 117 pairs of Shelltoes (Superstars and Promodels). In total I have 155 pairs, all of which are adidas. Obviously the passion is for the Supes, but I have time for a few other styles as well. I love the Superskates for their bulky size and comfort. Plus I think they look great and adidas have come out with a few really cool colourways over the last few years (just look at the Otani from 2007). I also really like the old skool looking hi-tops, something with a big fat tongue that sits outside my jeans. I have a few different pairs like that - my faves being the 2004 snakeskin Fleetwood Hi. I'm not sure what exactly first drew me to the Superstars. They just look... right! Without a doubt, they are the comfiest kicks I have ever owned, especially as I have wide feet. There is something about looking down and seeing those shells poking outta your jeans that just look too damn cool. I don't know how else to explain it really. I guess after I got my first pair I was hooked, and I've never looked back.
Does the heritage of the brand speak to you as a collector or is it more an aesthetics thing for you?
I find the heritage of the brand extremely interesting. The fact that one man who started making track and soccer shoes back in the 1920s is still remembered and revered today is amazing to me. Adi Dassler was the first to create designs that we take for granted today, and that so many other manufacturers have imitated. It's not so much the fame though that speaks to me... it's definitely an aesthetics thing. For me, there just isn't a brand of shoe that looks better, on the shelf or on my feet, than adidas. Plus, you gotta love that packaging as well!
Tell us about MrShoeShotta.com - most international heads may not be so familiar with the store...
Mr ShoeShotta.com is run by a fantastic guy named Tom, based in the UK. As I said above, I was introduced to this store by a work colleague, and soon became one of his most frequent customers, buying one or two pairs a month for a while. After a while we began to keep in contact and he would always let me know when he was getting new stock that he thought I'd like, so he knew whether or not to get an extra in my size. I got some great bargains and some of my favourites from him. I also hooked him up with a couple of custom Superstars, but I'll tell you more about that later on.
So you're of the 'internet hunt over the store hunt' generation - do you ever find yourself still scouring stores and getting out into the culture, or is it all an insular obsession?
Whenever I go anywhere and I see a shoe store, even if I don't have any money at the time, I can't help but go in and look around, just in case there is some gem lurking there that I'd not seen before. It's like a compulsion! But it's rare that I will purposely go to an actual store for a pair of sneaks. Unfortunately, I have to travel a way to get to any decent stores. I live about an hour outside of central London by train, which is where you have to go to find any stores worth visiting. The usual retail stores are a little closer, such as Footlocker and Office, but it's rare that they have anything worth getting excited over. They'll get some Supes in once in a while that are interesting, but more often than not it's not worth the journey. Most of the time I look and buy online, because that's usually where the good stuff is. Plus, because adidas don't get the kudos they deserve a lot of the time, the ‘culture' isn't always something I am in a hurry to interact with! It may make me sound like an effete snob, but what can I say, if it ain't adidas, it ain't for me!
Well as a customiser, you're certainly don't get to interact with people in the scene too much - when did that all pop off?
I think I started customising about five or six years ago, maybe slightly less. I'd seen some pictures of customs that people had done on a few different sites - mostly Nikes and not that good, and I thought to myself ‘I'm sure I could do a fairly decent job of that'. So I bought a plain white pair of Superstars, some acrylic paints and brushes and gave it a shot. I was quite pleased with the end results, and was even able to sell them on eBay. However, I found that working with brushes and acrylics was kinda tricky, so I did a little investigating on other methods and finally bought myself a compressor and a few airbrushes and it took off from there. I told friends what I was doing and a couple of people asked me to do specific designs for them. With each pair I did I refined my skills with the airbrush (which is trickier to handle than it looks). I took pictures of my work to show other people, and based on those, they would then ask if I could do a pair for them. When I joined the superstardb.com forum, that's when it accelerated. I was able to post pictures of my work on there, so all the members could see my work, and now I am doing lots of customs for various people in the group. A couple of people are return customers (one guy, I am working on his fourth pair right now) and each pair I do seems to generate more interest. It also helps that I enjoy doing it, and hearing what people think of them when they are done is almost as much fun.
As a canvas, how does the Superstar hold up?
I love working with the Superstar, it's a fantastic canvas for customising. The leather is great to work on, and the shape of the shoe just lends itself to so many possibilities. Plus, the paints that I use are designed for fabric use, especially leather, so they bond really well. Once the clear top coat is applied, they're perfect. I've not had anyone complain of flaking or cracking on any of the pairs I've done. My customs aren't just for show, they're made to wear.
That's nice to know! Where can we see your work - and are they for sale?
Each pair I do is specific to the client's request. They tell me what design or colour they want, and I charge them accordingly, based on the amount of time/paints/work involved. My prices range from about £40 for a single colour change to around £80-£90 for something a little more complex. I charge what I would be willing to pay, rather than an hourly rate. I could probably make more money charging by the hour, but I don't really do it for the money. You can check some of my customs out here.
Well you're a rare fish in the sneaker world! Tell us about this comic book obsession....
Funnily enough, I wasn't really into comics when I was a kid. It was only when I reached my early 20s that I got really interested in them. I have just under 2000 and counting. I'm not sure what still draws me in, probably a mixture of things. The artwork in a lot of the modern comics is just unbelievable, and the writing is fantastic. Quite a few writers these days have done TV shows and have been able to take that skill and transfer it to comic writing. One thing I love is the variant covers. Few books will have different artists do variant covers for their issues. Much like sneaks, these become collectors' items, based on how many they actually print and what artist did the cover. I have quite a lot of these, some of them are as rare as some adis. One or two of them are from print runs as low as 500 copies, and I have a lot that are actually signed by the artist, which greatly increases their collectability. It's definitely fair to refer to it as an obsession, as I have been known to spend just as long trawling the net for comics as I have for sneaks!
What wins out as far as collecting then?
That's a tough one! I'm passionate about both. My friends think I'm a bit nuts on both counts, and I have paid what they consider stupid amounts of money for both as well. I think I have spent more on comics than sneaks, but only because I've been collecting longer, and probably not by that much. Honestly, I get the same feeling of anxiety and joy when I am searching for either a hard to find pair of Supes or a limited edition comic book. And I get the same level of disappointment when I miss out on either of them as well. I'm gonna have to call it a draw I'm afraid.
And you've got a few BMX frames hanging about too... Do you dabble in bike construction as well...?
More de-construction actually! Every couple of years I have gotten a new bike, and I can't bring myself to get rid of the old one, so I dismantle them and keep them in the garage in case I ever need parts, and because I buy the same brand of bike each time, the parts interchange very easily, which has come in handy a couple of times.
Sweet! You seem to be one busy bee! What do you end up doing on your down time?
Lately my downtime has been filled with customising Superstars. It seems even when I don't have to concentrate on my own I'm working on someone else's. If I'm not doing anything adidas related (or thinking about anything adidas related) then I am usually either reading a lot - I always have at least two books on the go at any one time (not comics) or I watch a lot of movies.
Images by Errol Photography