We all had to start somewhere in our journey into the sneakerspere. Having been drawn into this rabbit hole like many at a young age, I made plenty of mistakes – though I might not have realised them at the time. 15-plus years later, moments of clarity and self-reflection have allowed me to look back on and cringe a little at these harrowing experiences. Some were simple styling issues, while others remain unanswered larger philosophical questions. I’m sharing these cautionary (and occasionally angsty) tales with you, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Measure Twice, Buy Once
I’ve gone into depth about this topic before. As my feet were still developing when I first got into shoes, I had to factor in for the inevitable foot growth that would occur within months of buying a new pair. However, I often overcompensated for the required room and eventually tricked myself into wearing shoes one or two sizes bigger than what my feet actually were. They had actually stopped growing for almost three years by the time I noticed my shoes weren’t getting any smaller. It’s a costly mistake that is only compounded when you buy pairs faster than the rate you (think) you’re growing. Buy larger, sure, but don’t buy so large that you have to restart your collection.
Until sneakers ruined my life, football (soccer) ruled over everything else. If there was a ball present, I’d be kicking it. Which then resulted in various pairs of shoes bearing scuffs, tears and plenty of grass stains. There’s a huge mark on the toe box of my Air Jordan 4 ‘Military Blue’ that was sustained over 10 years ago. Since that particular colourway hasn’t come back for almost a decade, and my pair is definitely hanging on by a thread, perhaps it would have served me well had I looked after them a bit better.
Alas, that is the simultaneous beauty and burden of beating up your favourite shoes. Memories are made, leaving their literal mark on the uppers and soles, right up until the day the pair falls apart. Such is the circle of life. But, it’s also worth not doing things like stepping on the heels of shoes to take them off, as it will massively extend their longevity.
One of the few father-teenage son bonding experiences I had back then was regularly going to the Nike factory outlet to browse the back wall for sneaker steals. Much of my early sneaker development was dictated by the handful of small notes he had in his wallet during a particular visit. As such, I developed a knack for finding sub-$100 shoes, and I also got really good at calculating 40 per cent off marked price (shout out the back wall). Eventually, arithmetic gave way to addiction as I began buying outlet fodder for the sake of it being cheap, rather than actually liking the colourway. Stack that with dozens of incorrectly-sized shoes and I made a mistake costlier than the RRPs I was trying to avoid in the first place.,
Considerations on Cashflow
Getting into sneakers at a young age is a bit of a trap because – without parental money nor gainful employment – you find ways of trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. Some kids are more entrepreneurial than others, and that’s perhaps why many resellers tend to be teenage or college aged. The short-term windfall may be enticing, but it’s probably too early to comment on the viability of reselling as a long-term career. Obsessing over shoes, and by extension, ways to make money to buy more pairs, is a strange paradox as it becomes too easy to forget to enjoy sneakers in the first place.
The Insecure Sneakerhead
As a teen, I’d often show up to school in a new pair of shoes to impress prospective partners and/or my fellow peers. Over a decade later, I realise they absolutely did not give a shit. While self-expression was a part of my MO for wearing different sneakers, there likely was also an uneasy balance with insecurity on the other side of the see-saw.
I’m so glad social media didn’t exist at time, because that only would have exacerbated my desire for approval. Maybe it’s different now, but I can’t help but feel that young people especially still face issues of belonging by wanting to have the same ‘cool’ sneakers as everybody else. Simply wear what you like – of course, that’s easier said than done. Just do it for yourself, not for others.
For more sneaker introspection, check out the Real Talk section.