How do you measure a sneaker obsession? Is it the number of kicks you have? Not that simple. The amount you spend on them? I hope not. The number of hours you spend looking for them? That’s a bit more interesting. How about the number of times you slept in them as a kid? How about the years you spent rebuilding when you lost almost your entire collection to an apartment fire? Now we’re talking obsession… Meet Rashawn Austin, probably NYC’s most serious female collector. Since that apartment fire in 2000 which almost wiped her out, her game’s back up to 350 and counting. And we’re not talking a stack of retro Jordans or ‘exclusive’ Air Force Ones. We’re talking vintage fire (pun intended), we’re talking kicks that bring us eighties kids waaaaay back…
Why do you collect sneakers?
Well, I’ve loved sneakers since I was young. I was a tomboy of sorts, and even now I’m always running around. As a kid I was into keeping up with the Joneses. One summer I gave up my entire allowance for $40 Reeboks! I don’t think I realized how long a summer was, I just wanted those Reeboks so bad. I’ve been a collector of sorts from the get go, ever since I was a kid. Being an only child I think that you start to amass things you like early on in life so that you always have them. I built up my collection, kept counting them, stacking them and ogling them. It’s like a possession of possessions.
Why vintage kicks?
I never think of kicks as ‘vintage’, so to speak. I just associate them with a time in my life that I like... Every pair of kicks takes me back to a memory in life that I just can’t let fade. I like the fact that something ‘old’ was ultimately something new. Take the whole eighties throwback look – it’s an old fad. Kids are trying to bring back the neon look, tunics, Ewing sneakers, Filas, colored Levis etc. If you just kept all the stuff from junior high school you would be set. I like my vintage kicks because they represent the era I grew up in. I’m an eighties baby and I love it! So I rock the Ewings, the Lottos, Puma Clydes and all of that.
Do you actually wear them?
When I was little I didn’t even want to do anything cuz I didn’t want folks to step on my kicks! And I’m a Virgo, a real neat-freak. Now I do wear them out (the ones that aren’t too fragile), but if you step on my kicks, I could maul you. I’ve tried a thousand cleaning tonics on my sneakers, everything from the ‘magic sponge’ to the cheap stuff at the corner store, which actually works by the way.
What about exclusives?
I’m exclusive! Fuck the shoe! Too much hype, too much money. I can’t organise my life around exclusives. I don’t do lines or sleep on concrete. I will NOT spend over eighty or a hundred bucks. Most of my kicks I get for twenty or thirty dollars. I love corner stores and eBay. I have friends, check sample sales… you name it. It’s about time someone departed from the discussions about $1000 kicks and one of one type crap. A lot of these kids, and I use the term sparingly, only like what they see, not what they know or for that matter can afford. I am DIFFERENT, so my feet are too. I like a little history in my stacked boxes, not cash burned and never worn.
And history she has. From an adidas Herschel Walker to a little known Puma Vince Carter. From the Spalding color cards (all you younguns thought adidas came up with that idea) to those high top canvas Nikes I broke necks with in elementary school. And you know what else she has? The same size feet as I do… hmmmmm.
Which are your top five favorite vintage kicks from your collection?
#1. James Worthy x New Balance
First and foremost, my favorite is the never, ever tried-on shoes in a suitcase-esque box! A classic sneaker for a classic team in the ultimate era of SHOWTIME! Who else had a team member who kissed his boy on the opposing team at tip-off instead of giving a high-five? The entire squad is vintage from Kurt ‘Superman’ Rambis to Kareem ‘Hook’ Jabbar, Jheri curl Michael Cooper and James Worthy. Even his name is classic!
#2.Walter Payton Kangaroos (with his number on the heel)
One of the most respected athletes of his era. That’s all I’m going to say. RESPECT!
#3. Original Orange Nike Dunk Highs.
The colorway is classic, and I still grab them whenever I can’t decide on another shoe.
#4. Nike Lavadomes.
The heel is so stiff you feel like you have snow shoes on!
#5. Original New Balance 991
With the USA logo on the heel, these are hands-down the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned, (except maybe my Justin’s brown lizard cowboy boots, but that’s a whole other story!)