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The Thrill of the Chase

Date: September 22 2019

By: Minh Vuong

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When it comes to collecting sneakers these days, it seems like nothing is actually that rare. Thanks to the Internet and its countless secondary markets, most limited edition releases since the Nike SB boom of the early 2000s can be tracked down. Sure, it might cost you a pretty penny, but if you throw enough money at someone and/or use the right keywords in a search bar, you should be able to grab that coveted Grail. However, there’s always something that’s just an absolute wild goose chase to hunt down.

I live for the thrill of the chase. It’s what keeps me going in this material interest that many call a ‘game'. Every so often, I will relentlessly look for a properly rare sneaker that I absolutely need to have. And sometimes it takes multiple doses of heartbreak before that elusive sneaker is finally caught.

About 10 years ago, long before I worked here, Sneaker Freaker had a thriving online forum thread called WDYWT, which was an abbreviation of What Did You Wear Today? In its third or fourth incarnation, thousands of posts from users from across the globe would flaunt their freshest kicks. I spent my formative years on the forum: my young eyes gawking at styles and colourways that I had never seen before. It was my direct source of knowledge.

One day, I saw them.

Q, better known these days by his pen name Kwills, posted an on-foot snap of a pair of Nike Air Footscapes that had borrowed the OG colourway from the 1992 ACG Air Revaderchi.

Sneaker Freaker Q WDYWT Nike Air Footscape On Foot

Q's WDYWT post that sparked the flame.

Quite simply, I had to have them. Stubbornly, instead of directly asking Q where he purchased them, I spent a few hours on Google. The first heartbreak occurred when I discovered that they had released in 2002. But, I was hooked. The long search began.

Around that time, there weren’t many websites dedicated to buying sneakers online, much less limited editions from years gone by. PayPal was still a mysterious digital payment system, and e-commerce was merely a twinkle in the eye of many retailers. So I went about it the old school way. I hit one of the few places that I had a chance at finding these shoes: eBay.

The first search yielded no results. As did the second attempt. Same with the 100th. I set up notifications for new listings with ‘Footscape’ in the title. Still nothing.

Sneaker Freaker Forum 2009 Screenshot

Sneaker Freaker Forum, circa 2009.

After that dead end, I tried online sneaker forums beyond Sneaker Freaker. I put up ‘Wanted To Buy (WTB)’ posts everywhere, using the forums like a digital yard sale. The Internet was still a relatively friendly place, so my inbox received helpful messages from wiser ‘heads pointing me in the right direction. But it was still quite an arduous search. Some places were too basketball-centric, and only offered a treasure trove of vintage Jordans which, in retrospect, I should have paid a lot more attention to. The UK and European message boards were a little warmer, but shipping costs were prohibitive, along with the wrong colourway. Japan? Footscapes galore, but I had no idea where to start.

Then, my heart skipped a beat when I logged onto the Sneaker Freaker forum for my daily check. An Air Footscape listing! In my size! Alas, it wasn’t the exact colourway I wanted. However disheartened I was, the fire was again stoked, because I knew I was getting closer.

Eventually, I had all but given up on the hunt that had consumed almost three years of my life. I moved on, not wanting to be left behind. Relationships were entered and resumes handed in. Slinging sneakers on the shop floor kept the interest alive, and offered some financial independence. Meanwhile, the eBay notifications ticked on and on as other shoes were bought.

Then, out of the blue, there was an eBay listing for my elusive Grail – and they were in my exact size. Alarms were set and Post-it notes stuck everywhere as reminders. However, because the listing ended in a nasty twilight hour, I slept through my multiple alarms. Unbeknownst to me, I lay there sleeping – oblivious to my potentially fatal error. 

Thankfully, my partner’s night owl habits meant she was awake when the auction ended. A quick sniper bid (waiting until the last possible moment to bid just slightly above the current bid) meant she saved the day… or night as it was. The winning bid was 72GBP plus shipping, which at the time worked out to about $150. Now, it was time for the excruciating wait.

Nike Air Footscape 2002 On Foot

Like Q, the 'scapes were finally on my feet.

Even though I had spent three years of my life looking for a pair of shoes, the week that it took for the Footscapes to arrive felt much longer. Email notifications broke my attention from whatever I was doing, as I nervously anticipated each and every shipping update. Then the day came when the shoes arrived. Much like fruit mince pies for sale half a year early, it was like Christmas in July. The Footscapes were everything I had imagined them to look and feel like ever since I first laid eyes on them. Sadly, they fell apart six months later. But that’s a different story.

It was almost as though the first sight of those sneakers set off a chain of events that permanently altered my life. It was in my search that I met my girlfriend. My job in the footwear industry got me to where I am today. Through the forum, I met industry people and fellow sneaker freaks that I now consider good friends. So, thank you Q, for the thrill of the chase.

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