Fashion

'You Only Have 2 Feet:' Confessions of a Sneaker Addict

If it speaks to you for whatever reason, go for it.
IMAGE Mikko Abello
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I just recently finished watching Sneakerheads, an original series by Complex Networks and Netflix, and it brought back so many memories of way too many sneaker (mis)adventures. Having been obsessed with sneakers for a good part of my life, I thought Sneakerheads was a hilarious six-episode out-of-body experience that wound the clock back to a time when life was much simpler and where finding that next pair was the single most important thing in the world.

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This is all my moms fault

My siblings and I were all Catholic school-bred and raised with old-fashioned traditional values, simplicity being an integral tenet. For my no-nonsense mom who was a single-parent, it was a shame to be extravagant, and excess was frowned upon.

In Off-White x Nike Air Force 1s flying in a helicopter above NYC

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Photo by Mikko Abello.
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We were allowed to pick out two pairs of shoes before the start of each school year. It was an annual pilgrimage to the old Gregg Shoes store along N. Domingo in San Juan for the leather ones we had to wear everyday with our school uniforms. Buying the second pair was a lot more fun. We always looked forward to the shopping trip to the mall for rubber shoes for P.E.

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I have a few favorites from growing up. There were these red Chucks with a brontosaurus on the sole that left cool dinosaur footprints in the sandbox when I was in kindergarten. I also had adidas Superstars with velcro straps in first grade that I always still think of whenever I hear the scratchy sound velcro makes. In fifth grade, I had Converse Magic 2s with the big star logo on the tongue but we didn’t buy them at the mall. My grandmother’s sister from Los Angeles sent those over in a balikbayan box filled with toys, candy, and clothes. That was the first Christmas after my dad passed away. 

Hunting for gold. Wearing Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempo

Photo by Mikko Abello.
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My mom put a cap on our school shoe budget, lest we forget the virtue of keeping it simple. While the cool kids wore Air Jordans, I settled for department store-tier Nike trainers which actually weren’t that bad, but at the time, I felt like I was the most deprived kid in school. I was a bratty preadolescent who didn’t know better. It goes without saying, my mom’s parenting style backfired on us. I’m writing this from my bedroom, which today resembles the stockroom of a Foot Locker. Over the years, I’ve come up with a few personal rules so things don’t get completely out of hand, if they haven’t already.

Take your time

I don’t think I’m an impulsive buyer. My closet might say otherwise but I really do put a lot of thought into any purchase I make. In March last year, I was in Las Vegas with former Ateneo Blue Eagle Jason Escueta, PBA player Kiefer Ravena, and West Coast party plug Monch Manaloto checking out this amazing consignment store called Urban Necessities. They were peer-pressuring me to buy a pair of Nike Adapt BBs we found in my size but cost $525 (about P25,500). These self-lacing basketball shoes you could control with an app on your iPhone were sold out everywhere else we looked and could only be found at secondary market shops such as this one for way more than the original price.

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I absolutely had to have these shoes but they were definitely out of my budget and I knew my mom would never speak to me again if she found out I bought sneakers for that much. Unless I won big playing Casino War at Planet Hollywood later that night, there was no way I was leaving Vegas with those shoes. If I had given in, I probably would have spent the rest of the trip eating nothing but crackers and instant noodles. 

The iconic bench outside RIF LA in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. It's a go-to sneaker destination that was briefly featured in an IYKYK scene on Netflix’s Sneakerheads

Photo by Mikko Abello.
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I was in Manhattan, New York a week later and found the sprawling 68,000-square-foot, six-storey Nike House of Innovation on Fifth Ave. Lo and behold, they had a Nike Adapt exhibit happening in-store, which included an LED basketball court where you could even do a quick workout and wear-test the Adapts. I was told it was the only Nike store in North America that still had the shoe in stock and the best part was you could buy them at retail. 

Bringing the shoes home to Manila was a nightmare, though. Imagine how much explaining I had to do with the TSA officers who held me for questioning when the shoe box in my carry-on set off the scanner. It was difficult for them to understand why shoes would have metal mechanical parts and a battery so there I was, in the middle of bustling JFK, doing an impromptu sneaker unboxing for airport security.

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It has to make sense

Back in 2010, I had the opportunity to interview Singapore-based sneaker customizer Mark Ong aka SBTG for another magazine. That ranks somewhere at the top of my list of all-time favorite sneaker moments. Bringing him back to his hotel in my old Toyota, I drove in slow circles around Makati while he drew with a gold sharpie on a pair of Venom Dunk SBs I had brought with me. 

I remember asking Ong how many pairs of shoes he owned. I’m horrible at math but with all the sneakers he had worked on and brands he had worked with up to that point, I imagined he would easily have had at least a couple hundred stashed away back at home. But he said he didn’t have a lot. Thinking he was just being modest, I pressed on, but apparently he was serious. Ong brought up feng shui, explaining how clutter would affect his creativity. More importantly, “I only have two feet,” he said. 

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Scoring the Off-White Halloween Blazer Pack with PBA Player Aaron Black November 2018

Photo by Mikko Abello.

I always cringe at people who call it a collection. They’re not stamps or Pokémon cards you buy, keep in a box, and just look at. I would go through hell and high water, turning a city upside down, in search of a pair with every intention of enjoying them for exactly what they were made for. Sneakerheads features Hong Kong in an episode and rightly so, since the city’s a favorite haunt for people like me. Maniacally running around the Causeway Bay-Central area and making a mad dash across the harbour a few hours later to Fa Yuen Street in crowded Mongkok is a perfectly normal part of the itinerary. After all that effort, it’s only right that you wear the hell out of those shoes.

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Don’t forget why you started

I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve camped out or waited in line under the sun, in the rain, or winter cold. The Jordan 11 Retro Lows were scheduled to release one Saturday in 2011. I had been fixated on those sneakers ever since I saw them, not on Michael Jordan’s feet in a basketball game, but when the Backstreet Boys all wore them in their “Quit Playing Games” music video back in the mid-90s. That song was my jam. On re-release day, I was the first one outside the Nike BGC store three full hours before the store opened. At 11 a.m., I was still just the only person waiting there. Nobody else lined up. I didn’t care if anybody else saw nothing special in those shoes. To me, they were worth being in front of a nonexistent line at 8 a.m. 

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In Off-White x Nike Zoom Fly Hong Kong Feb 2019

Photo by Mikko Abello.

Don’t get caught up in the hype. If it speaks to you for whatever reason, go for it. Mine is sentimental more than anything—often a retro pair I missed out on when I was a kid. If it doesn’t bring you the same giddy feeling anymore, they’re probably not worth it.

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There have been some amazing things done wearing some of these shoes. Championships have been won by pro athletes, sold out arenas have been rocked by musicians on stage, and some date nights have seen a fair share of success. If you didn’t get a second date, you were probably wearing the wrong shoes. It’s really not about how many pairs you have or how much your closet’s worth.

ALSO READ: SNEAKERS

The Coolest Sneakers of 2020 (So Far)

The Best Converse Sneakers to Own for Life

It’s all about the memories of all those sneaker hunts, the wins or heartbreaks, and more than anything, the story you can share about what you have on. Because really at the end of the day, you only have two feet. 

Season 1 of Sneakerheads starring Allen Maldonado, Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor and Jearnest Corchado is now streaming on Netflix.

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