Trainer Spotting: The Instagram Account You Should be Following
Most of the best workplaces in the world seem to have open lines of communication across the ranks. With that in mind, at Sneaker Freaker, we often venture into our meeting room for a good old fashioned pow-wow. Fun fact: our meeting room is housed inside a giant red Nike shoe box. In that same room, we recently discussed that with over one billion Instagram accounts floating around in cyberspace, there would have to be some gems that we hadn’t uncovered just yet. Despite the fact we practically spend our lives online — hunting down news, cracking leaks, and reaching out to our sources — there’s absolutely no way that we’ve seen everything. And we were right!
Following that discussion, we scrolled upon something that we simply couldn’t flick past. Trainer Spotting (trainer.spotting) is an intriguing archival sneaker account, showcasing such oddities as Iggy Pop rocking OG Air Max 1s, Jeff Koons stunting some New Balance 993s, and Cindy Crawford stylishly repping some Reebok Freestyle Lows. So, instead of keeping this to ourselves, we’re sharing the love.
Trainer Spotting was ignited by a Russian sneaker enthusiast named Sergey Velsin. Along the way, Sergey has successfully moulded his infatuation with the movers and shakers of both pop culture and photography into one — and it’s now all available to us at the end of our very own thumbs.
We recently caught up with the brains behind the operation to discover more about what has quickly become one of our favourite handles on the Gram.
Sergey, you’ve really put in the hard yards, and your sleuthing is impeccable. How did Trainer Spotting originate?
I started collecting this material years ago to fulfil my interest in the history of sneakers. In 2016, while working as a content consultant, I came up with the ‘Trainer Spotting’ concept as part of content strategy for my clients: Kixbox Store. It’s an old Russian streetwear and sneakers shop. I used my ‘spottings’ as a fun part of their content feed. The name itself was inspired not only by Danny Boyle’s movie, but also a homage to one of the first brands Kixbox brought to Russia: Trainerspotter. I soon realised that there were way too many pictures, so I started my own account. Now it’s my personal research project.
Was there one particular image that inspired your rummage through pop cultural history?
The first image that made me think, ‘Wow, I need to dig deeper into the pop culture archives’, was Iggy Pop wearing Air Max 1s. It connected a lot of cultural dots: Iggy, the shoes, and the fact he was photographed by Allen Ginsberg — a famous beat poet and Iggy Pop’s neighbour in the Lower East Side at that time. And it’s just a beautiful portrait all together.
Are you an influencer? We’ve heard you can make loads of money on the Gram if you are.
Haha, no! I’m the opposite — I’m constantly influenced by the greater Instagram sneaker community. I see Trainer Spotting as a research and educational project. I hope when the follower base grows it’ll become a useful archive for sneaker enthusiasts, cultural scholars, stylists, and fashion editors. I have thousands of pictures in my archive, but it will take a considerable time to sort them all out and publish.
Where are you digging up all this crazy stuff?
Mostly online. Tumblr, photostocks, fashion forums with tons of old magazine scans, Google Books, film stills archives, historical pictures, Instagram feeds. You name it, I’ve looked there. I worked in media for quite a long time, and developed some skills in researching the web for pictures and their accreditations. And some of the photos came from the community of course, feeds like onfootarchives or classickicks. It was also such a shame that adidas pulled down the great adidas archive website. For me finally, the Gary Warnett blog was the source for some amazing pictures and a huge inspiration for all of my work in general — Rest in Peace.
Are there any shoes that you’ve seriously struggled to identify? Maybe we can help...
There are too many of them! Luckily, I’m already getting a lot of help from the sneaker community. For instance, LA-based thefreakinekin has helped me to ID dozens of rare and forgotten brands from the 70s and 80s, some of which I’ve never heard of. But there are still some unsolved mysteries. Like those W-logo sneakers that Eddie Van Halen wore in the 70s. Or Michael Jackson’s M-logo Cortez-like sneakers in the 1995 Vibe magazine editorial.
Which celebrity sneaker combo shocked you the most, and why?
I’m always thrilled to discover photos of people wearing models I’ve barely seen. The, ‘Oh, they look rare’ moments. You know? For instance, a few years ago I saw a picture of the 1994 New Balance 665 runners posted by defynewyork. Recently one of my followers, bradsamuelfulton, pointed me to the cover of Stephen King’s book On Writing with him wearing some NBs. It took me some time to find the biggest scan of the book cover, and another photo from the same photoshoot, but I was finally able to identify the shoe as the NB 665. The same thing happened when trying to track down Bjork wearing the Nike Fatz cycling shoe. I had only seen them once on eBay, and that pair was a prototype!
I really enjoy photos with great and surprising ‘unintended styling’. Like Leonard Cohen wearing a Buddhist robe with OG Nike Air Max 180s, Julie Delpy in a pea coat with OG Air Humaras, Alain Delon in a red sweatsuit with matching red adidas, or Frank Zappa wearing a casual suit with bright yellow Osaga sneakers — that was quite a bold look for 1979!
The fun thing about all this is those people didn’t think about their shoes as something unique or rare, like we do now. I imagine they just bought some comfortable sneakers that eventually became deadstock. The community is now rediscovering them and putting them in a new spotlight as some kind of archeological artefact.
Like Sergey, we hope Trainer Spotting will become a useful archive for sneaker enthusiasts and cultural scholars in years to come. But even if it doesn’t, it’s still cool as hell!
While we were tuning up this interview with Sergey, he was busy posting pics of George Harrison wearing Patrick Marathon sneakers in 1978, actress Kim Cattrall in some fancy Nike Air Trainer SC His in 1991, and Mystee Beckenbach rocking some Jordan 4s, but you’ll have to go find those for yourself. With thousands of photos in his archive, you can be sure Sergey has no intention of slowing down in the immediate future. So take your two thumbs to the search bar, and type in two words: Trainer Spotting.
Author’s Note: If you can ID those W Logo joints that Eddie Van Halen is wearing, or MJ’s M-logo Cortez-like sneakers, drop us a DM and, in return, we’ll send you the next copy of Sneaker Freaker magazine for free!