For sneakerheads, it’s not the eyes, but the shoes that are the windows to the soul.
Whether you’re a hypebeast who lives and dies with every Jordan or Yeezy release, a casual fan who only buys a new pair of checkered Vans every year or you’re waiting to find your grails (as in Holy; a pair of sought-after shoes), sneakerheads can come in all shapes and sizes — just like their collections. And our kicks can say a lot about us.
“I’ve seen this meme a lot of times: I make shoe contact before I make eye contact,” says sneaker collector and reseller Omar Madhun. “I catch myself doing it all the time.”
There could be any number of reasons why you peek: maybe it’s a pair you’ve never seen before or a new way to style something you own. Or maybe it’s to make sure you’re still on-trend.
But sneaker collecting is about community too. A simple, “Hey, nice Jordans,” between strangers can turn into a 30-minute conversation, a new Instagram friendship or someone to hang with the next time you’re both in line at Xhibition for a release.
Cleveland’s sneaker scene keeps growing — SneakerCon, which returns to the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland March 21, used to be in the relatively smaller Independence Fieldhouse. And as the scene expands, so does that web of likeminded friends.
“You have that camaraderie and relatability with other sneaker connoisseurs about why they like sneakers and the stories behind them,” says collector Saxx Booker.
As Spike Lee said in a 1989 Nike commercial, “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
Here, we talked to 10 Cleveland sneakerheads about their collections, grails and what their kicks mean to them.