In recent years, I’ve developed a bit of a shtick for being a human encyclopedia – albeit just for the subject matter of sneakers. It’s somewhat problematic that I’m storing savante levels of footwear-related trivia inside my head, because while I can remember release dates for all kinds of shoes, sometimes I forget the birthdays of loved ones. And I’m more likely to talk about why the Nike Air Max 90 is the greatest visible Air model than I am to discuss other world events that occurred in 1990.
That said, my sponge-like enthusiasm for sneakers has actually begun absorbing some more productive day-to-day knowledge. In fact, you could say that being a sneaker nerd has made me appreciate history a little more.
Much like carbon dating of artefacts to determine the era it came from, my initial perception of a bygone time is to look at the sneakers that existed. When I first got into sneakers, I focussed mostly on Nike running shoes from the 90s. Eventually, the interest spread over to Air Jordans, despite not really being a huge basketball fan. Images of the Air Jordan 1 all the way through to the Air Jordan 18 (the only ones that matter, but that’s a discussion for another day) have been committed to my photographic memory against their release years. Through that process, I now understand that some of these silhouettes correspond to important sporting events. 1991: Air Jordan 6, and MJ’s first NBA championship. 1998: The (second) Last Shot in the Air Jordan 14. Extending beyond the NBA, sneakers have led me to a greater appreciation of the Summer Olympics. Sure, they fall on leap years every four years but, more importantly, they also herald the moment when footwear brands announce major new technology.
Looking beyond sport, and often way back to before I was born, sneakers have also encouraged me to commit other world events to memory for my pub trivia repertoire. For example, Nike released an Air Pegasus 89 in 2011 to commemorate the anniversary of the Berlin Wall being torn down. If it weren’t for this sneaker, I likely would never have known that the German capital was physically split in two for almost 30 years. Then, earlier this year, when Nike cancelled an Air Max 1 release that displayed the Betsy Ross flag, I received yet another sneaker-induced history lesson.
Thankfully, it’s not just major political events that have now been committed to memory. I’m pretty handy with pop culture occurrences now too, thanks to the sneakers that were worn when various significant moments happened. Nigo’s playful patent leather BAPE STA shoes indicated the beginning and end of hip hop’s mid-2000s ‘bling era’. There are countless 80s rap albums with sneakers prominently displayed on them. And the omnipresent Converse Chuck Taylor? They’re on everything from the Ramones’ Rocket To Russia to The Game’s The Documentary. And, while I’m no movie buff, I had to watch 1986’s Aliens just to see Reebok’s Alien Stompers. For a slight change of cinematic pace, I’ll always remember that the DVD cover of Honey, I Blew Up The Kid features a giant adidas Phantom basketball shoe hovering menacingly above Rick Moranis’ head!
Despite already mentioning that my sneaker obsession has resulted in the occasional forgotten birthday, I’m starting to harness it to work in my favour. I’ve found that when I align a birthday, anniversary, or important deadline with an essential sneaker release date I have more success. This year, my mother’s birthday coincided with the 19th Yeezy drop, so I remembered to text her on the stroke of midnight from my camping chair – in the rain. I’m an excellent son. And a similar approach means I’m now a better partner too. On the same day as our seven-year anniversary this year, I bought myself the last GOLF le FLEUR* Converse One Star colab. That’s a good thing, right?
Well into the future, I’ll be able to tell you all about the crazy world events that went on in 2019 – and the sneakers that were around during that time. For one, Brexit is currently pencilled in for October 31. The UK’s potential split from the EU sounds pretty scary but, for me, I’ll be holding out to see which brand is dropping the spookiest Halloween release…