It is more than fashion, as having the right Yeezys and Jordans make Michigan State students savvy shoppers and collectors of sneakers.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Whether it is the shiny patent leather of Air Jordan 11s, the elephant print of Air Jordan 3s, the thick sole of Nike Huaraches, or the namesake of the Kanye West Adidas Yeezys, sneakers serve the purpose of giving paying customers their money’s worth.
Big brands, such as Nike, Air Jordan, Under Armour and Adidas, tailor their products to appeal to younger audiences as the shoes’ bright colors and affiliations draw fans to the latest fasion trend.
In the case of Abraham Shaw, a senior Advertising Management major at Michigan State, his love for shoes started back in the sixth grade.
“The first pair of Jordan’s I ever got was the Bred 4s,” said Shaw, a native of Detroit. “They were $160, my mom was saying they were too expensive, but I felt like I needed them. They made me fall in love with the Jordan Brand.
“I was smelling the shoe, I had the keychain that you attached to the side, and I made sure that they matched the uniform at my school. They were perfect.”
Sometimes a person’s surroundings may be their style influence. Nicholas Kendall, a Chicago native and graduating MSU senior in Advertising Management and Sports Business Management, knows all too well about Jordan culture.
“Everybody in Chicago wears Jordan’s,” said Kendall. “You know how New York has Timberlands? Jordan’s are huge in the city. So thankfully, I was always in sneaker culture, especially since my mom was buying me Jordan’s as a kid. The first pair that I remember wanting and getting are the Cherry 12s that came out in, I believe, 2009.
“I had two pairs, one to just wear and the other to hoop in. Those are the shoes that solidified me into sneaker culture and got me into collecting.”
Coming from an urban background can also be an influence in collecting sneakers. Sneaker shops, such as Foot Locker, The Villa, Champs and Jimmy Jazz, serve as important touchstones for sneakerheads with cravings for kicks.
Also, bigger cities serve as sites for sneaker conventions and exchanges, where collectors and enthusiasts buy and trade shoes. The bigger city downside is there are more people after the same shoes, so it is common for stores to sell out or even resort to raffles for new releases.
In East Lansing, however, as there is not as high a demand for sneakers according to sellers and collectors. That leaves the option open to get shoes hours after a release, an almost-unheard of feat in bigger cities.
“Getting shoes up here is way better in my opinion,” said Shaw. “Back home, people would camp out all night for shoes just to have a chance to get the shoes and they still might not get them. But up here, I could go to Foot Locker by nine, the store opens at 10, and I could get the shoes with no problem.”
Despite the lower demand, the lack of sneaker supply and outlets in East Lansing can leave collectors out to dry. Kendall was a freshman in 2014 when The Villa was still on Grand River. When the store closed and changed locations to the south side of Lansing, it left him with limited options on where to buy shoes.
“Being from Chicago, I’m used to seeing shoe stores all around,” said Kendall. “When The Villa closed, I had to resort to shopping online and ordering shoes. But since Smokin’ Soles became a thing in the last two-three years, it’s made sneaker shopping so much better. He (Kyle Lake, the owner) has provided the sneaker community with shoes you wouldn’t see at Foot Locker, like the Air Max Wotherspoon 97s and Yeezys. He definitely changed the game.”
Kendall and Shaw are both passionate collectors with a variety of different brands, colors, and styles at their disposal. They each collect shoes for different reasons. In Kendall’s case, he likes to stand out among the rest with his shoes.
“Sneakers are just a way to express yourself,” said Kendall. “Your sneakers are one of the first things someone may notice, and if you step out with something wild, they’ll know that you are indulged in the culture and passionate about it.”
As for Shaw, he feels that every shoe has a story.
“My most prized possessions are my Bordeaux 7s,” said Shaw. “I went to New York for a business convention and while I was there, I wanted to go to Flight Club and buy them. I had to walk throughout downtown New York, and I rented a bike to ride down the street to the store. I spent a good amount on them, but it was an experience that was worth it.”