Adidas Sambas were my first (and only) cool pair of sneakers. They were all the rage in my third-grade classroom that year. After months of begging, my mom finally relented and let me use my $50 birthday check to purchase the black-and-white shoes.
I was so excited that day that I refused to take them off before bed, running my hands over the nubby suede toe and staring at the gold-foiled “SAMBA” stamped on the sides before pulling the covers over the glorious kicks that were going to propel me into the “cool” group at school the next day.
I can confidently report those shoes didn’t change my social status, but I still loved them. So I can understand my co-worker’s obsession with sneakers just a little bit.
Managing editor Jason Brill talks to me about sneakers — Yeezys, Air Jordans and LeBrons — pretty much every day. He also wears sneakers almost on the daily.
Most days I nod my head politely as he spouts off details about the pair he’s wearing (yellow Saucony Jazz Originals, a collaboration with a since-closed shop in South Carolina as a tribute to the state’s mustard-based barbecue sauce) or a pair he recently bought (white Air Force 1 lows, a collab with fashion designer John Elliott).
Sometimes I can’t feign interest. Some look like every other white sneaker or crazy colorful shoe my brother would buy at Famous Footwear. I have a hard time seeing the story behind the kicks.
But for Jason, who really started getting into sneakers in 2015 and now owns 24 pairs, he truly understands the craftmanship, details and artistry that goes into each pair.
“It’s sort of like appreciating art or music,” he says. “There’s a lot that can go into sneaker design — the mix of color or materials, the story the designer is trying to tell.”
After reading “Sole Society,” I’m starting to see why Jason and the 10 sneakerheads we feature are passionate about their kicks. Sure, it’s about the hype (Jason’s currently got his eye on a pair of Air Jordan 1 “Reverse Banned”), but many times it’s about that personal connection behind the shoe, how it makes you feel or the confidence a sneaker can give you. Anyone can relate to that.
“They may just seem like shoes,” Jason says, “but my sneakers tell part of my story.”