When Did You First Fall Head Over Heels for a Sneaker?


Do you remember the first time you fell head over heels for a sneaker?

Sometimes, it’s love at first sight. You bust open the shoebox and the smell of rubber, glue and leather floods your body with oxytocin. You burrow your nose into the sneaker’s collar and fill your nostrils with the scent of something new. A fledgling romance that forms the beginning of a beautiful, lifelong commitment.

Other times, love is patient and imperceptible. Perhaps you’re lacing an old pair of beaters and slowly realise your sole mate was here all along – a companion at life’s dusty crossroads.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we hooked up with several industry figures to share their first experiences of true sneaker love. Because, as we all know, you never forget your first.

AMBUSH Yoon Nike

Yoon Ahn (AMBUSH)

‘My first sneaker love was the Air Max 180. Slickness and a futuristic vibe really appealed to me when I first saw them as a kid. When Nike approached me to do a colab with them, I used the 180 as a base to make my own version as my first sneaker design ever.’

Erik Ellington Li-Ning

Erik Ellington

‘My first sneaker love was definitely the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Hi. In Alaska, when I started skateboarding, a lot of skaters had that shoe. I remember one of the kids in my neighborhood that was really good wore a pair of the red ones, and he had holes on the sides of the shoe from the grip tape. I thought that was the sickest-looking thing ever. It was a sign of skill to me back then – like you had to really be a true skateboarder to make those marks on them. To this day, a shoe that’s worn out for a purpose is one of the most attractive things to me.’,

Colm Dillane KidSuper

Colm Dillane (KidSuper)

‘My first sneaker love has to be the adidas Samba. I’m a huge soccer lover and player. I would wear them everywhere, waiting for a soccer game. I wore them from the field to school. I loved seeing other people wear them. I thought, ‘they must be soccer players as well,’ so we could play. But then they turned into more of a fashion accessory, and I was mad at people who wore them that weren’t soccer players (that’s probably how skaters feel today with the SB Dunk!).

When I got more into fashion in high school, I always wanted the Nike SB Dunk High ‘UNKLE’ (also known as the ‘DUNKLE’). What I loved about those shoes was that I didn’t know who or what UNKLE was, so I had to research it, and the shoes opened me up to new stories and information. Nowadays, I think brands are too worried about collaborating with the most famous person without really telling a story and creating good products.’

Melody Ehsani

Melody Ehsani

‘My first sneaker love was the Air Jordan 1. When I was a kid, it was more of an unattainable dream shoe. When I was younger, I never thought it would be possible for me to own a pair one day – let alone all the Jordans that were to come after.

My first practical sneaker love was the OG FILA Grant Hill. All white with navy trim. I played basketball in high school and they were my first ‘designer’ basketball shoe. There’s a soft spot in my heart for them. I wish I had a photo for you (but I’m also happy I don’t. I was probably still rocking a unibrow).’

Slam Jam Luca Benini Nike

Luca Benini (Slam Jam)

‘It was 1989, and I was in London. A pair of Air Jordan 4 ‘Fire Red’ caught my attention. They had just been released, and I really liked the style and powerful colourway. The fact you could see them both on-court and in the streets was extremely exciting. It was love at first sight.’

Mimi Plange Nike LeBron
Oluwaseye Olusa

Mimi Plange

‘The Nike Dunk High 1 Piece Premium in ‘Lilac’, ‘Ice’, and ‘Deep Orange’ was love at first sight.

Sometimes I really, really, really need things, and I NEEDED these! When I first saw them, I was like, “Oooh, what are those!?” They were in this super cute boutique in Amsterdam. They sold books, shoes, and vintage clothing. I love the hand-drawn detailing, and the colour combination is so, so good. They were the right amount of fun and they felt special, too. They had a puffiness to them and were sleek at the same time – just great design. I love contrasting elements, and these were up my alley. They also looked kind of vintage and dusty. They are imperfection at its best.’


Jeff Staple

‘The obvious answer is, of course, the Air Jordan 3. But allow me to dive deeper. The Nike Air Trainer SC 2 is my valentine. This was the follow-up to the Air Trainer SC and was originally released in 1991. This bad boy was all about Bo Jackson and the infamous “Bo Knows” ad campaign. This shoe straddles the line between innovation and just plain fugly – my favourite kind of shoe. A removable midfoot strap? An inner bootie? A citron colourway? This should’ve never been approved, but I’m sure glad it was.’


Annie Morgan (Concepts)

Picking my first love is a no-brainer because it wasn’t even mine.

It was 1998 and I was 10 years old. I should start off by saying that my older sister introduced me to sneakers and hip-hop. She was five years older, and it was a turning point in my life. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Aquemini, Capital Punishment. I was obsessed with Aaliyah, specifically, the ‘Are You That Somebody’ music video.

I remember seeing them in her room on the dresser: the melting silver metallic design and the iridescent Nike Swoosh. I had no idea what they were and hadn’t seen anything like it. She played basketball at that time, and somehow she convinced my dad to buy her the Air Foamposite Max – the ‘Tim Duncan’. I was intrigued. I went to a few of the games she played in them, and she stood out big time. They looked amazing. I knew not to ask for a pair! There was no way, and I can’t even remember how much they were. But I knew it was a splurge just by looking at them.

Since then, I’ve always had an appreciation for performance sneakers. The design and flair, especially at that time, can’t be duplicated in that sense. It was something so new and progressive. Years later, things came full circle. After starting at Concepts, we began working on the ,Kyrie and that’s what I loved. While the silhouettes are nowhere near each other, there’s something about designing for the court and creating a moment around it that will forever be a part of where I am now.

Nike Air Force 1

Woody (Sneaker Freaker Editor-in-Chief)

‘Back in the early 90s, I was in New York City wandering around the Canal Street area when I found the gulliest-looking sneaker spot. When I walked inside, it was a revelation. Something like 30 different Air Force 1s graced the wall. With limited funds and an even smaller backpack, choosing a single pair of Uptowns to haul around on my travels was a sweat-inducing nightmare.

Several hours later, I finally settled on black canvas with a maize Swoosh – still my all-time favourite combo. We did a lot of miles together, but sadly, they went to sneaker heaven many years ago. The toes had come through, the rubber had worn away in the heel, the midsoles had yellowed, the canvas was faded like an old bummy’s whiskers, and the original laces were now half their original length. They were still functional, though! I regret binning those busted bad boys, even if they were totally junked. In a spooky coincidence, my sister gave me her own pair of the exact same edition when she cleaned out her closet a few years back. They’re perfect, even if they’re three sizes small. The Air Force 1 will always be the first shoe I look for when I enter a sneaker store.’

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