Why have one pair of trainers when you can have a hundred? A trainer obsessive speaks.
I’m not sure where or when it started. At any one point in my life I’ve been into football, music, skateboarding, hiphop , trying to carry off some kind of fashion. The common thread through all these has always been trainers. The people I hung round with wore a certain type of trainer. Puma States inspired by the 70s New York graffiti artists. The Beastie Boys and Run DMC sporting Adidas. The pure practicality of Gazelles for skateboarding, or seeing other lads wearing them at the football. Even the types of laces and lacing seemed to matter, you could tell a lot about someone, not only from their trainers, but how they were laced. Fat laces, criss cross, straight across or no laces at all. All this stuff, seemed important.
There was a time when you could buy a pair of trainers, wear them til they wore out, throw them away and then buy another pair. Then something changed. Trainers started to get shit. Gone were the simple shapes of the Gazelle, of a pair of nylon runners that would sit nicely under jeans or cords. Trainers started getting big. And ugly. Big tongues, pumps, springs, air bubbles, funny squiggly lines and bizarre colours. Fair enough, some of these might actually be good for doing some kind of sport in, but if you just wanted to wear them for a night out or to go to Rotherham away in then they were a no no. The types of trainers I liked were now hard to get hold of, it was a case of hunting round the racks in large shoe warehouse outlets or specialist sports shops or vintage shops in those strange arcades and markets that smelt of petula oil and The Levellers.
Then came the internet and the discovery that lots of other people liked trainers too. Places like Charlie’s Sneaker Pages and later Crooked Tongues showed just how many like me there were out there. It was possible to sit and look at photos of trainers that were long lost, or that you’d never heard of or forgotten about. It was possible even to converse with other people who liked trainers, people who might even call them ‘kicks’ or ’sneakers’. These were hubs, starting points from which you could track down the trainers you wanted to buy.
There was a time when you’d buy a pair of trainers, wear them til they wore out, throw them away and then buy another pair. Then something changed. Trainers started to get shit.
Then came eBay. Suddenly the whole world opened up. No longer did I have to rely on word of mouth or wondering aimlessly round retail villages finding nothing but those green and black shell toes who’s name escapes me. Now I could have my pick from the basements and back store rooms of Eastern Europe, Germany, Spain, South America and the USA. Places where they were glad to get rid of their old ’sneakers’ to some bloke from England for £30. Adidas New York’s and ZX280s from Spain, 1984 Micropacers from Argentina – not everyones cup of tea I know but if Buck Rogers wore trainers then it would have been these – Lendel Advantage and 80s Grand Slam from Germany, Marathon’s from the back room of a sports shop in New England… they just kept coming.
Then people caught on. More and more people were fighting over the same trainers in the same size, prices went up. Adidas began reissuing again to cope with the demand. Trimm Trabs, Munchens and Jeans all met with a mixture of delight or indifference or outrage depending on whether or not you remembered exactly where the yellow stripe was supposed to go, or whether they had a yellow stripe at all, or is that because that was the 80s version and these are the 70s, sod it I’ll buy them anyway, oh they’ve sold out?
Books, films (many of which starred Danny Dyer) more and more websites and ‘Originals’ and big chain trainer shops came out and sprang up. It’s the late naughties, as we’re told to call it by talking heads programmes, and trainers are everywhere. Forest Hills come in all manner of hideous colours with extra bits bolted on and not just the yellow sole. Reissue after reissue come out in every colour of the rainbow, it’s almost gone full circle again, taking away from what made the trainers good in the first place. Ebay prices have gone through the roof, stuff that you could pick up for £20 was now £150 or just not there at all, it’s fine if you want to sell – and I have been tempted – but if you’re buying, forget it.
If I was a collector then none of this would bother me, it’d probably just make it easier, but I’m not. Having a lot of trainers is just what happens when you buy lots of them you like the look of without getting rid of the ones you previously own. I don’t claim to have the best or the most or know the most about trainers, there’s plenty that have and can tell you more, but I can tell you that I’m not a trainercollector, I’m a trainer obsessive.