Interview: Ria Rascal Maxed Out!
Blessed with size 4.5 feet, Ria Rascal has been forced to work harder than most to build up her big bubble Nike collection. From ‘Swarovski’ Air Max 97s to the elusive Air Max 1 ‘Masters’, alongside a gaggle of general releases, there’s not much that has eluded her keen eye over the years. According to Essex-native Ria, ‘There’s something quintessentially British about Air Max’.
I’ve always been into trainers. Back when I was in school, I used to rock K-Swiss Tongue Twisters and high-top FILAs. I was a tomboy growing up and was often around cars and motorbikes, so I feel like that’s where I get the obsession from. When I started getting into Nike it was predominantly Nike ID Dunks. I had a weekend job and saved and saved for weeks to pay for my trainers. BWs are what opened me up to the world of collecting Air Max.
There’s something quintessentially British about Air Max! I’m a massive sucker for the Air Max 97 as they look great on smaller feet. The midsole is the ultimate Air unit! The 95s and TNs are big UK shoes as well. As I got older and made some money, I moved into Air Max 90s. The bubble is always clean. It’s my classic go-to and doesn’t ever go out of fashion. Not many of my friends and people around me are into trainers. They all think I’m a bit mad, but it’s what I’m known for.
When you’re a UK4.5, finding deadstock pairs in your size is an achievement. I’m happy with my collection now. I have a few Holy Grails, with two that I wear most being the Air Max 90 ‘Powerwalls’ and ‘Swarovski’ 97s. I have the ‘Bacons’ and the ‘Duck Camos’, but these never came in my size. I bought them anyway and have just kept them as part of my collection. When the Swarovskis dropped I was so desperate to get them because I’m getting married on Air Max Day 2022, and it was so special to me to have those as my wedding shoes. But I always seemed to be stuck at work. It didn’t help that my size was the hardest to source, especially the silver edition. And there was no way I was dropping £1k on them! On Christmas Day back in 2019, I was opening presents when Rob, my partner, said he had another gift upstairs. I could tell what they were straight away because of the slide box. To this day he hasn’t told me where he got them from or how much he paid.
There’s so much hype around Off-White and the big collaborations, but Nike needs to focus on older stuff as well. I always tell people to get the OGs. The ‘Infrared’ 90 is classic. Same with ‘Laser Blues’. When it comes to Air Max 1, it’s either the red or blue. I prefer the latter. Some of my all-time favourites are general releases.
The Air Max 1 ‘Masters’ is one shoe I never thought was even made in small sizes. A friend told me someone was selling a pair in my size. I questioned if they were genuine, and they put me in touch with Ella, one of the Masters of Air, to continue the chat. She confirmed they were legit and that Nike made them in a UK3.5. What luck! That was an amazing project because it was all about the community for once. It makes you think, maybe Nike is paying attention to what people are saying.
Everyone knows my name is Ria but up until this year, no one knew what I looked like, and that’s how I like it. When I lived at home, I was very conscious of keeping a low profile. Even now, I won’t wear certain pairs out on the street unless I’m going with someone, because you never know who’s about. I still love communicating with other people, I just don’t plaster myself all over Instagram.
I used to buy six or seven pairs a month, but when we moved house I downsized. Now I just buy what I really like. You should be selective and it’s good to be picky. I love a splash of pink every now and again, but brands seem to think that all girls want are pink trainers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for open-sized runs because I miss out on so many releases due to my small feet. UK releases start at size 5 or 6, so sometimes I have to buy them even though I’ll never be able to wear them. I really don’t get why brands still divide releases into men’s and women’s.
If I’m honest, I’ve fallen a little out of love with certain aspects of the scene. It’s all raffle entries and pot luck these days, and sometimes complete randoms just want the trainers to resell them, which is disappointing. Years ago, when I first started collecting, there was no such thing. I guess it’s also down to the fact that there’s a lot more collectors now. I’m not really sure what brands can do about the situation. They can make more shoes, but that would take the fun out of it in some ways. When you are searching for something and you know that it’s really hard to get, that’s the ultimate reward!
I’m part of a UK group called The Real Sole Family, which is very much about community and coming together. There are London meet-ups on weekends, but I’m often working and can’t go, so I just keep as connected as possible in all other ways. Some of us are really close and we group chat every day. I answer loads of questions and help whenever I can. If there’s a Jordan release, I’ll enter raffles for my friends, and they help me with Air Max releases. The Real Sole Family is about what goes on behind the scenes. It’s about getting into trainers for the love of it, not for resale.
The COVID lockdown put a lot of things into perspective. Some of the members have realised that it’s not even about the trainers – it’s the friendships that they’re really missing a lot.
The Real Sole Family is literally a family when you think of it like that. If you need to vent, it really is like a proper support group. I’m definitely grateful for The Real Sole Family. When you can’t go out and see friends and socialise, that’s when you realise how important being part of a community really is.
This interview was originally published in Sneaker Freaker Issue 44. You can cop it now via our Shop!