Uprockin' In Vietnam
I got into sneakers in ‘92/‘93, the early days around Maroubra. I didn’t have much as a kid and when I seen all these other kids at school rockin’ mad sneakers, I had to have ‘em. So me and this bad kid Donya devised a plan to snatch some sneaks at our swimming carnival. When they all got up for their races and left their clothes and shoes behind, me an’ Donya would snatch the shoes and throw ‘em in this bush behind the stand. After the carnival was over, we went back and picked ‘em up.
That was pretty much my first incursion with sneakers. They were mostly b’ball shoes because ‘92/‘93 was when the whole NBA and Jordan phenomenon hit Australia. It was all Jordans, Charles Barkleys, the Ewings and 180s. Today I’m around the 300 mark, 80% from positive purchase. I’d have to say that my favourite pair of sneakers would be the Air Max ‘90s. If Stanley Kubrick was to invent a sneaker it would be these shoes. They’re just way ahead of their time. Chess not checkers, baby.
When I sold the Jordans for $5500, I basically got a good deal off the internet where these Jordan Ones were going for $3300. Reputedly worn by Jordan in his rookie year was why the price was so high. They came with a certificate of authenticity and photos of Jordan wearing the shoes. A friend with internet marketing skills helped me out and within four weeks I’d resold them to a kid in South Korea and made a $2000 profit. eBay made a big deal out of it and that’s how the whole newspaper and radio shit came about, getting me to retell the story. One day the Kerri-Anne Kennerly show called me up and wanted me to come on her midday show. That’s when I cracked it and told her show to fuck off. In all seriousness, what does an over-sixties show care about sneaker collecting? She actually wanted me to come into the studio with my entire sneaker collection, what the fuck?
I went to Vietnam to purposely see what was around. I kinda always knew that it was a hot spot in so much as getting the best price for sneakers. A lot of the stores... all they were selling really were fakes. There were a few real pairs, maybe one or two, but they were really hard to find. So I decided to do go straight to the source. I’d done some research back home and heard about this zone in the south of the country.
So I started askin’ around a few of the stores. I got a little info here and there but most were really reluctant to tell me much. I eventually found out how to get there after asking an old Vietnamese lady. So I jumped in a taxi and headed south-east from Ho Chi Minh City. The trip took about 1 1⁄2 hours, and when I got there you could just see this massive, massive, massive building in the distance. See, they just buy all this land and call them zones with their own security and everything. Basically a miniature city.
I kinda shit myself at first just from the sheer size of the place, but I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’m here now.’ Money wasn’t an issue because everything’s really cheap over there, so I told the taxi driver to wait there for 1⁄2 an hour. When I got to the entrance there were guards with their 9mm Glocks and whatnot. Guns are everywhere in Vietnam but this just had a completely different feel to it. Just a different world. Anyway, I made it inside by telling one of the guards that I was here to buy some sneakers. He gets on his microphone and calls a representative who couldn’t speak much English, so I just kept pointing at my ‘90s and saying, ‘I’m here to buy some sneakers.’ He eventually nodded his head as if to say, ‘Come with me.’
So I follow him and he takes me through all these rooms and hallways. The building was really confusing. There was a lot of production stuff and materials everywhere with not too many windows. I just kept following him and finally we get to this boxy little room. The room had a desk and that was it. There were three other people in the room when I got there and straight up I was like, ‘I’m here to buy some sneakers.’ They didn’t even acknowledge me, they didn’t care what I was sayin’ at all. They were talking normal when all of a sudden they start arguing with each other and eventually, turning to me, one guy says, ‘Passport.’ I was like, ‘Nah, you can’t have my passport, I’m just here to buy sneakers.’ They started yelling at me, ‘You journalist! You journalist!’ and trying to look through my bag.
By now I’m shittin’ thinking no-one knows where I am or anything. I was pretty scared and had had enough at this stage and started pleading to leave. They kept on bickering between each other and still payin’ me no attention. I was startin’ to think the worst, ya know? when all they could’ve been talking about was how they were gunna split my money between themselves. But that didn’t cross my mind. What was on my mind was the guns they had. I was thinking I could be dead and buried and no-one would be the wiser. While these guys were haggling another man walked into the room and straightaway I asked him, ‘Sneakers? I want to buy some sneakers.’ He was about to walk back over to the others and I thought to myself, ‘Nah all I wanna do now is get outta here.’
So I put 400 dong in his hand. The others didn’t see. He didn’t really know what to do. I just hoped he would get me the fuck outta there by this stage. Then, to my horror, he goes over to the others. They spoke for a few minutes and then the one who seemed to be in charge called me over. He just took off walking. I followed him to this room where there was a ton of stock. Feelings of getting led to my death weren’t too far from my thoughts. I was so disorientated after this shit I just grabbed whatever I could. I didn’t even look in half the boxes. I ended up getting 18 pairs of kicks in all. I gave him roughly 4 million dong, put the boxes into two garbage bags, and went back to the front gate where the taxi was still waiting for me.
:: INTERVIEW & PHOTOS BY DMOTE
This article appeared in Issue 7 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here