Why these ‘sneakerheads’ say shoe culture is stepping up

Why these ‘sneakerheads’ say shoe culture is stepping up

Jaden Zhai grew up loving basketball and by extension, basketball sneakers. But quickly, the footwear turned his main passion — even when the shoe failed to actually suit.

“One particular time there was a pair of LeBron sneakers that went on sale and they had been two dimensions as well large,” the 28-12 months-old recalls. 

“But I begged my mom to get them for me and the salesperson form of persuaded her that I would grow into them … which I never did,” laughs Zhai, who now has a collection of over 75 pairs, starting with his initial ​​Nike Zoom LeBron IVs way back in middle school.

He said he’s a person of a increasing range of Ottawa “sneakerheads,” as they phone themselves — people who invest in, sell and collect constrained-edition sneakers, a lot of of whom have managed to renovate their enthusiasm into a occupation.

From his first job at Foot Locker, to his present function developing footwear for Fila in New York Town, Jaden Zhai has managed to change his like of footwear into his occupation. (Submitted by Jaden Zhai)

In Zhai’s case, it began with a work at the Rideau Centre Foot Locker (where by the worker discount helped him gasoline his collection) and ultimately landed him a job as a footwear designer for Fila.

Even though his operate took him to New York Metropolis, Zhai continues to run the Ottawa Sneaker Neighborhood Facebook webpage, which has grown from 100 associates when he commenced in 2014 (it was started off by a Foot Locker co-worker) to about 10,000 currently.

These are just 40 pairs from Zhai’s 75+ assortment of sneakers, numerous of which continue being housed in Ottawa owing to his extra cramped dwelling quarters in New York Town. (Submitted by Jaden Zhai)

1 of Zhai’s most coveted pairs are 1985 Air Jordan 1 in black and pink, which he purchased for ‘a quite excellent price’ off an more mature gentleman who was clearing out his storage (he suggests they are now truly worth any place among $5,000-$60,000). (Submitted by Jaden Zhai)

Sneakers as artwork

Which is 1 of the places Brea Cristobal initially went to discover a lot more about sneakers when she imagined about utilizing them as a way to showcase her artwork. 

The 24-year-aged artist and physiotherapy student did her to start with personalized commission pair in 2019 and now suggests she’s identified a area of interest for her custom made models, generating excess income marketing them on her Instagram page @bigsteppabrea.

For Cristobal, whose minor sister initial sparked her desire in sneakers, it really is crucial to welcome gals into what she sees as a male-dominated entire world. 

“Especially with the Ottawa community, I come across that the the vast majority of customizers are adult men. I get a lot of responses from persons who notify me that I am the only woman,” she stated.

Her objective is to make the sneaker environment a enjoyment put for other youthful girls.

“I unquestionably want much more women of all ages to be into [sneakers and customization] and demonstrate their creativeness.”

Brea Cristobal states her personalized sneaker types are inspired by every little thing from anime and cartoons to other sneaker designs. (Submitted by Brea Cristobal)

A new room for sneakerheads

Donny Dao also credits a young sibling for introducing him to sneaker lifestyle and its marketplace 7 a long time in the past.

Just after amassing a massive particular collection, the 30-calendar year-outdated not too long ago marketed off considerably of it to fund a new shoe store called Sole Society with two good friends he fulfilled as a result of reselling.

“It really is so difficult to make that selection but I experienced to ask myself, do I want to spend in my potential?” stated Dao, who kept just six or seven pairs, including his coveted Nike Air Off-White Prestos in black. 

Donny Dao says he hardly ever thought he’d obtain himself owning his very own sneaker retail outlet, carrying out what he enjoys ideal. For him, opening Sole Modern society has been a childhood desire appear genuine. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Starting off as a pop-up, Sole Society not too long ago opened a smaller area in Centretown showcasing the sneakers and featuring shoe-cleaning services.

Dao features it can be one of the handful of impartial sneaker stores in the metropolis, aiming to offer you not just a retail store but a neighborhood house. He said rising up he couldn’t find the money for good shoes, so opening the retailer has been like living a childhood aspiration.

“Never in my life did I say to myself, ‘I’ll market sneakers for a residing,” he claimed. “I even now are not able to feel it, you know? I’m so happy and honoured.

“It truly is a current market that no one looks into normally … There’s a industry for anything out there,” he extra.

The not too long ago opened Sole Modern society shoe shop sells all the things from the Air Force 1 to all types of Yeezys. The retailer also gives sneaker-cleansing companies. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Irrespective of the dangers of retail, Dao said he’s found the demand from customers for sneakers develop all through his decades as an Ottawa sneakerhead.

For illustration, where by he employed to see the identical 10 individuals line up for “sneaker drops” at stores like NRML, in modern years he’s found dozens of fresh new faces eager to get their hands on the most current shoe, at times lining up overnight (even though throughout the pandemic, lots of outlets pivoted to on-line raffles).

He describes that a regular shoe may possibly market in the $350 range at retail but can go for hundreds a lot more on resale, when others can eventually promote for thousands, a major motivator for collectors.

He explained he lined up overnight for a $250 pair of Off-Whites by Virgil Abloh, which are now well worth around $2,000. The designer died final yr.

Sole Society not only sells sneakers, but will also acquire and trade sneakers from sneakerheads for a fee which can help many men and women offload their stock. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Zhai’s to start with pair of collectible sneakers, a pair of Nike Zoom Lebron IVs, keep on being his favorite, even if he wore out the originals and had to buy a replacement pair on eBay. He estimates they are now really worth any where from $600-$2,000. (Submitted by Jaden Zhai)

Large university hustler to keep proprietor

The shoe marketplace was what attracted Dao’s lover Jer Hamel to sneakers back in substantial college, wherever he began buying and advertising sneakers and streetwear with his pocket funds.

“It was me, at lunch, in the rest room offering a pair of footwear … bringing all my inventory in a huge duffel bag,” recalls Hamel, estimating he experienced around 80 pairs at a person point.

Eight a long time afterwards, the now 20-yr-aged said he began Sole Culture mainly because he’s observed a increase in Ottawa’s sneaker tradition.

“It can be been insane for the very last couple of a long time, to be truthful,” mentioned Hamel, pointing to new gatherings like the Fly Industry, a common vintage market, as aiding to fuel sneakerheads’ collections.

Dao sums it up. “We love sneakers to loss of life,” he stated.

Following selling sneakers in his superior faculty rest room, Jer Jamel is thrilled to be co-owning his own sneaker keep, servicing what he sees as a expanding sneaker neighborhood in Ottawa. (Francis Ferland/CBC)