Phase2's love of sneakers was sparked by two familiar forces: Air Jordans and crispy white-on-white Air Force 1s, both shoes that weren’t easy for a kid growing up in Alaska to get his hands on! An early adopter of forum culture, he'd spend hours marvelling at the Swoosh-obsessed collectors who stuffed hundreds of pairs of shoes in their houses.
These days, Phase2 boasts an awe-inspiring impressive collection of his own, culled from endless hours of scouring forums, digging through thrift shops and going down eBay wormholes. For him, it’s all about the thrill of the hunt and the personal stories shoes hold!
I grew up in Alaska. Obviously, it’s cold all the time there, and there isn’t much to do besides hang out, party and play basketball, which is where my sneaker obsession started. This was before social media, so these basketball games were like a fashion show and having nice shoes became a big deal to me. In high school, I started really putting my outfits together, and pretty much rocked all-white Air Force 1s exclusively! White Forces were a big deal in Alaska as there weren’t a lot of stores that stocked them, so I’d usually give people who were going on vacation money to buy me pairs. I’m biased, but I think I was the freshest kid at my school!
What really brought me into the world of sneakers was my first Jordan, the Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’ from 2003 that I still have to this day. I distinctly recall the feeling of wearing them to class – everyone turned and looked at me at the same time. It was like a scene from a sitcom! That feeling led to me diving into sneaker forums, where I learned that there were lunatics out there with hundreds of shoes. I’d get high off of doing research on rare sneakers and the people that wore them, like DJ AM and his Dunks.
In 2004, I went to my first sneaker convention. It was a little event at NikeTown in Seattle, accompanied by the release of the Sole Collector Air Max 95s. I camped out for almost 30 hours! It was cold as hell and raining, and I’m still not sure how I didn’t get sick, but I had the time of my life and made a lot of friends. I started going to a lot more events and conventions after that, and became known as the ‘sneaker guy from Alaska.’
Besides the conventions, almost all of my ‘sneakerheading’ was done online because there wasn’t a big sneaker community back home. I’d be getting most of my kicks by scouring through eBay and Yahoo Japan. To get the good stuff, you had to be a skilled hunter who knew tricks like searching for misspelt listings and finding people who didn’t know the rarity of what they had. I’ll admit that I haven’t found a steal on eBay in years, because more people are keen on how to hunt pairs down now! I’d say I have an eclectic taste in footwear: I like a little bit of everything, but I specialise in vintage kicks, pairs that are really weird and obscure and sports sneakers.
Everyone has their own definition of what makes a sneaker ‘vintage’, but it’s crazy to think that a shoe from the early 2000s is 20 years old now! I may have pairs from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, but I think it’s time to start considering pairs from the turn of the century ‘vintage’ as well. It’s the classic cycle: people who were younger in the 2000s have a bit more financial stability and can get those shoes they saw on message boards or ogled in the store when they were younger.
Information is so accessible that you can learn everything about anything with just a few clicks of a button. Today, if you walk through a high school everyone is wearing fresh kicks and are like ‘I dress from the feet first!’ That was me 20 years ago, it wasn’t commonplace back then, and I probably did it better! I guess I’m just old-fashioned – but I’m not old yet!
Below are the stories behind 10 of Phase2's favourite shoes in his collection!
Alphanumeric x Nike Dunk Low Pro B
I was on the hunt for these for a very long time. I first saw ‘em back in 2001, and I recall that they were getting love on both sneaker forums and car forums because of the automotive inspiration. I scored a lot of Alphanumeric gear over the years, but I was finally able to track this pair down on eBay a while back. I have a pair of the SB Dunk Low ‘Paris’ as well, but I’d honestly put these over those just off the strength of nostalgia. They’re a top-three pair in my collection.
Story Of The Year x Nike Vandal
I’ve never seen anyone else with a pair of these. There are a lot of other Vandals that are really rare and sought after like the ‘Berlin’, but this one just hits a little different because there’s a band name embroidered on the heel! I may not do the eyeliner, spiked hair or all-black outfits, but early 2000s emo music is a guilty pleasure of mine, so these bring me back!
Nike Air Flight Persistence – Jason Williams
I’ve always been a huge Jason Williams fan, and my brother is a big Sacramento Kings guy. Rough for him, right? J-Will was normally known for his Hyperflights, but these are nothing like those. My pair is game-worn and signed, which is really cool because I think J-Will revolutionized the game – and guys are still pulling muscles trying to pull off his moves on rec league courts today.
Nike Air More Money – Reggie Miller
I’ve always gravitated towards marksmen in the NBA because when I play, I’m pretty much a spot-up shooter. I’m not fast enough to be a slasher and not tall enough to play the post but if you forget I’m chilling by the baseline, I’ll gladly splash a three in your mug! Ray Allen is my all-time favourite player, but I always loved Reggie Miller’s game too so to have a pair of his shoes is pretty cool. The Air More Money isn’t really a sought-after sneaker, but I’ve always found it to be a unique design with its tongue shroud and that lacing system. It’s weird, but that’s why it’s good – kind of like Reggie’s sun tattoo!
Nike Night Track
There’s a small group of people in the world who love the Night Track, and you can add me to that group. They’re the oldest pair I own. That shimmering LDV upper, and smooth outsole with glitter everywhere? Come on! Disco style has never looked so good, and it’s cool to think that Nike, who was so sport-driven in the 1970s, would veer away from traditional athletic shoes to make a model specifically for dancing.
Air Jordan 3 ‘Clear Sole’
It’s hard to say exactly why these were made. I do know that there are only a handful of pairs out there, and I have a hunch that they were created to test out the properties of translucent outsoles. My first Jordan ever was an Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’, so having an ultra-rare variation of the sneaker that first drew me in was really high on my hit list.,
Stash x NORT x Nike Air Zoom Talaria
These were made to celebrate Stash’s NORT store in Berlin, and were a friends-and-family release. What’s so cool about these is that you rarely see Swooshes or Nike logos replaced entirely – and it was even rarer back in the day – but here there are NORT logos in place of a lot of Nike branding. I’d guess that there are only about 40-odd pairs of these in the world!
Nike Dunk SC ‘LA Laser’
Back in the mid-2000s, Sole Collector and Nike would hold sneaker competitions at Niketowns across the country. Competitors would bring 15 shoes of their choosing, and the winner of the contest would go home with a special pair of kicks made just for them. This pair is actually an early rendition of the shoe given to a contest winner in LA. The only difference between this pair and the final style is that this one doesn’t have the winner’s name lasered on the sockliner. My guess is that these were made to test laser placement. This is the only pair I’ve ever seen, other than the ones the winner got!
Nike Kobe 4/Kobe 5 Hybrid
I love performance basketball shoes, and Kobe Bryant's line is my personal favourite. If I had to pick one model, it would be the Kobe 5. To have this version with Kobe 4 soles is very unique. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s not just the soles: the heel counter was carried over from the Kobe 5 as well. I don’t know the exact details of these – maybe it was just an early wear test prototype – but these were gifted to me by a friend of mine and I’ve held them close ever since.
Tom Sachs x Nike x Cole Haan ‘Mission Control’ Wingtip
I know these aren’t technically a ‘sneaker’, but they are a super unique pair with an interesting backstory – and prove that not all dress shoes are stuffy! They were only given to staff members at the Tom Sachs x Nike ‘Mission Control’ exhibit in NYC back in 2012. They might not be for everybody, but I don’t care. Although I’m a sneaker guy at heart I still have a deep appreciation for well-crafted footwear.