How to build a sneaker collection
They say it all started with basketball.
It all started with discovering local barangay courts, playing with grade school friends after classes, joining high school varsity teams, and watching Michael Jordan soar through the air like a god. This is what most sneaker lovers would say. The history of their passion starts with playing ball in tsinelas or black leather school shoes before getting their first pair of Jordans or Chuck Taylors. And just like the professions they would grow up to pursue—whether as a basketball prodigy or a gifted musician or an artist extraordinaire—the passion for sneakers begins with the hobby of collecting before it ultimately becomes a way of life.
The history of their passion starts with playing ball in tsinelas or black leather school shoes before getting their first pair of Jordans or Chuck Taylors.
The history books would say that the sneaker culture really did start with basketball. The first trainers that went on to inspire many sneaker silhouettes were made for the sport. That was when coach Chuck Taylor joined the Converse company in the 1920s. It was the earliest case of sports star endorsement for sneakers, which also started the high-top All Star’s journey toward becoming a court staple. This carried on in the following decades as new names came along, bringing with them the now ubiquitous swoosh and three stripes.
Former PBA player Jeffrey “The Jet” Caraiso was one of those 80s kids who used to rock Chucks on the court. At the time, he was an eager grade-schooler who wore a green-and-white St. Peter’s jersey and very short shorts. His childhood days of growing up in San Francisco ended gracefully after playing college ball in Sonoma State University. His rise to basketball stardom began when he got drafted by the Alaska Aces in 1995, where he was named Rookie of the Year and won all championships in a Grand Slam during his sophomore season. “The shoes I wore to play in during that time were the Nike Air Max Penny, Nike Air More Uptempo, and the Nike Air Swoopes, to name a few,” Jeffrey recalls, but insists that he wasn’t really picky about his shoes. “I just wanted to get on the court and play.”
“Filipinos eh, so halos lahat ng bata naglalaro naman talaga,” says Mong Alcaraz, lead guitarist of the bands Sandwich and Chicosci. As a kid, he played on makeshift courts with his friends by attaching hoops to trees or electric posts. Later on in his college days, he had a skating phase and donned Etnies. Today, he plays basketball again in his village with his neighbors.
Mong Alcaraz, lead guitarist of Sandwich and Chicosci, owns over 600 pairs of sneakers, including a Nike Hyperdunk Marty McFly, his favorite.
Another sneaker geek who started with the same passion is Erick Goto, a designer for Nike who is based in Los Angeles. “As a Filipino, basketball was the sport I grew up loving, and shoes were just part of that culture,” he says. “I still remember my visit to local courts as a young kid. I experienced all of that. Basketball isn’t just a game for Filipinos. It’s something that galvanizes a community.” Erick used his childhood experience as inspiration for his designs. He is responsible for the Philippine flag-inspired Lebron 12 Low, as well as the Kobe 9 EM Philippines’ idiosyncratic elements, which were influenced by hand-painted local courts, banig weaving, and the tsinelas.
But back to Jordan: when His Airness shook the basketball world as an unparalleled player (and starred in an animated Looney Tunes film to boot), Nike jumped at the opportunity to etch his silhouette onto a pair of kicks. Kids looked up to him like a superhero, and religiously kept up with new releases every year. “Whenever the latest Jordans came out, it was always a big deal. I remember teammates and friends rushing to the nearest Foot Locker to make sure they copped their pairs. At the time, it was bought by people because they wanted to wear the latest Jordan out there,” says Jeffrey. Growing up, Erick was also one of these kids who always pined for the latest Jordans. On the other hand, Mong’s parents bought him Jordans when he was younger, every time he got good grades in school.
Now, everybody wants to be cool. Everybody wants to be seen wearing the latest of the latest. People rush to the shoe stores and fall in line early to make sure they get their hands on the latest Yeezys, and the price was inconsequential because there’s only a hundred pairs available.
The Jordan wave in the ’90s was a phenomenon that was a blessing for then-rookie players like Jeffrey. Nike expanded their repertoire to include more athletes, and began to give out sponsorships, which served him well since his second year in the league. It wasn’t long before the brand and its competitors extended their relationships to hip-hop artists and celebrities. More sneakers named after popular celebrities were being made, and the kicks that once dwelled on the courts now ruled the streets and even the runway. Consequently, superstars were being immortalized by footwear giants, and the fanaticism surrounding their personas were carried over to the shoe itself. Hence, the frenzy reflective of the sneaker community becoming more and more deeply ingrained into our culture.
But before sneakers became the epitome of cool, rap group Run DMC were just getting ready to release their hit single “My Adidas,” which fostered the connection between hip-hop and sneakers throughout the rest of history. Ever since then, music and fashion have never been more strongly intertwined. “Sonic Youth were always in Chucks, Kurt Cobain was always in Jack Purcells, the Beastie Boys were in Adidas, Run DMC were in Adidas, Pearl Jam came out in the MTV Awards in Air Huarache Mowabbs, Eddie Vedder was in Jordan 6s, Flea was in Jordan 4s...” Mong goes on about how he remembers the little things about his idols. “Because they look cool. And I wanna be cool.”
Like all other kinds of collectibles, it’s more about building a relationship with a pair of shoes than worrying about the colorway release you just missed last year.
Now, everybody wants to be cool. Everybody wants to be seen wearing the latest of the latest. People rush to the shoe stores and fall in line early to make sure they get their hands on the latest Yeezys, and the price was inconsequential because there’s only a hundred pairs available. Besides the superstar endorsement tactic and the exclusivity of shoe models with different colorways, “there is a big hype machine [nowadays],” as Mong put it. Technological advancements meant the proliferation of designs and the improvement of the shoe, as well as the rise of sneakers’ social media fame. Thus, the sneaker collectors were born. Some would collect for pure passion, while others for the hype. There is even a “rock-and-stock” phenomenon where “people [would buy] two pairs—one to play in, and the other to collect.” For Jeffrey, this was the extreme of shoe collecting.
“Be authentic,” Erick advises about sneaker design. The same can be said about shoe collecting in this white noise age of overhyped designs. The superheroes that have christened sneakers with their own names are slowly becoming myths whose personas we either worship or forget. It helps to be aware of how we fall victim to certain sneaker trends and whatnot. Like all other kinds of collectibles, it’s more about building a relationship with a pair of shoes than worrying about the colorway release you just missed last year. “It’s really about what you like,” Mong says. And after all, these things last us for years. Might as well pour your heart into it.
This piece originally appeared in our February 2016 issue.