Sneakerhead Alert!

After Lil Nas X recently released 666 limited edition pairs of “Satan Shoes,” that all sold out in under a minute at $1,018 a pair, a lawsuit ensued by Nike, halting any further sales due to trademark infringement. You may be asking yourself, “why on earth are people jumping at the opportunity to spend that kind of money on a pair of sneakers that contain a drop of blood, a pentagram and an inverted cross?” Sneaker collecting is a booming hobby and some people are willing to dish out some serious dough for those highly sought after shoes.

Though the hobby has increased after famous athletes or artists such as Kanye West have come out with limited edition shoe lines like the Adidas Yeezys, sneaker collecting has been around since the 1980s. It all seemed to start after Michael Jordan came out with his Air Jordan line of basketball sneakers in 1985.

Sneaker enthusiasts — also termed sneakerheads — collect shoes for all different reasons. Whether they are constantly searching for new shoes that represent their individual styles, or they are solely into sneakers as an investment — in hopes that the sneaker’s value will continue to increase after they are purchased — sneakerheads are always looking for the next best shoe. But how do you even start into a hobby like this, where do you get your shoes and how do you take care of them?

Ted McGreer, of Ted’s Shoe and Sport of Keene, suggests the best place to start when looking into collecting shoes is to sign up for newsletters from the Nike SNKRS app, StockX and Hypebeast. He said following along with these types of sites will help you see what the sneaker culture is talking about. McGreer said that retail stores aren’t getting a lot of information about new shoe releases because vendors are going straight to consumers. “The challenge that retail stores are faced with right now is that our vendors — for example Nike and Adidas — they understand the sneakerhead culture, and they understand it so well that they’ve stopped offering these collector type shoes to us in our retail stores, and they are selling them directly to the customers.”

These companies are taking iconic shoes such as Nike Dunks, or Air Jordans and doing color ups on them or collaborations and then they are only producing a limited number of them. The sneakerhead culture tends to name these limited release shoes and then they become even more collectible. “There’s probably eight or 10 key styles that date back to the 70s, that you’ll see collaborations on. They are the same silhouette, but Nike or Adidas will collaborate with an up-and-coming artist and then all of a sudden these shoes just create a culture of their own,” McGreer explains.

McGreer said another big part of the sneaker culture is the counterfeit industry. He advises that in order to avoid buying a counterfeit or knock-off version of a shoe is to take care in checking the label on the box. The logos and packaging from a legit manufacturer will always be the same, so if you see a difference in the label sizes or fonts, then you probably have a fake on your hands. Another label to check is the heat transfer tag on the inside tongue of the shoe. Leather can be a giveaway, too. Real leather has a much different texture and feel than fake vegan leather, which is what a counterfeit shoe would most likely use. “When you go to buy that shoe — the bottom line is — if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” McGreer advises.

When it comes to finding the shoes of your dreams, there are a few different routes you can take:

Direct from the manufacturer: This is your best bet in making sure you are not getting a counterfeit product. But, new releases do sell out fast and it can be hard to get what you want.

Sites such as StockX or GOAT: These are online marketplaces where you can buy or sell sneakers. Most sellers and products are pre-screened beforehand, so you can trust that these products are not knock-offs.

Sneaker Conventions: Yes, there is a Sneaker Con! This event for sneakerheads has been held in over 40 cities worldwide. This is a great place for sneaker enthusiasts to buy, sell and trade sneakers.

Ebay or Amazon: These types of sites are notorious for selling fake products. If you do go this route, it’s important to check the seller’s feedback beforehand.

Once you’ve gotten your shoes, if you decide you’d like to wear them, you will have to take special care to keep them clean. It’s recommended to take the insoles out when you are not wearing them so they can air out, and store them in a dark place. Light can cause discoloration such as yellowing. Some sneakerheads who want to keep their kicks pristine may even “keep them on ice,” McGreer said, which is a term used when collectors don’t ever wear them and just store them away in hopes that they will go up in value as time goes on.

This hobby can be hard to predict when it comes to the value of a sneaker. Don’t let the hype of a new shoe release fool you. Sometimes after a shoe is sold out, the popularity drops and along with it — the value of the sneaker. Shoe collecting is not always about the value and the popularity, though, it really comes down to finding the sneakers that represent who you are and help you showcase your style and personality.