Move over, Manolo. When it comes to coveted footwear, the lowly sneaker has you beat.
Rubber-soled boutiques like Undefeated and Kicks are treating the humble shoe with a deference usually reserved for baubles at Tiffany. Their most coveted models are not on the shelves; they’re under glass.
“The appeal is getting something that no one else has,” says Undefeated owner James Bond, who collaborated with legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield to make just 62 pairs of Air Jordan 4.
Air Jordan aficionados know their shoes by number. The first model, Air Jordan 1, was released in 1985. At Undefeated, a pair of 4s, the same model run over by a cyclist in “Do the Right Thing,” modified to an olive drab color, sold for $3,700.
“Nike always made sure that the shoe was limited, keeping the demand high,” says Bobbito Garcia, editor of basketball mag Bounce: From the Playground and author of “Where’d You Get Those? NYC’s Sneaker Culture 1960-1987.”
“Kids would line up around the block, 200 to 300 deep, the day before the shoe was going on sale in New York. Think about that: It’s not a movie. It’s not a concert. We’re talking about a sneaker.”
Old-school or new release, sneaker culture also has inspired magazines like Sole Collector, dedicated to the pursuit of rare kicks, and sneaker collector’s bible Complex, which sexes up the obsession with models who wear nothing but a pair of customized sneakers.
“The sneaker represents an identity,” says Garcia. “For many of us that was the draw: to have a pair of sneakers that no one else had, or to have a pair of sneakers that no one else could afford, or a pair of sneakers that was in a color that no one else had. (It’s a) statement of individuality.”
Two L.A. boutiques deal in hard-to-find sneakers. However, the stock changes regularly, sizes are extremely limited and your favorite may not be for sale.
112½ S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
Rarest: Air Jordan 5
Cool factor: Glow-in-the-dark outsole
Most valuable: Air Jordan 4
Cool factor: Spike’s choice
Price: This personal archive is not for sale
3938 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Rarest: Air Jordan 1
Cool factor: The original
Most valuable: Nike Dunk Chocolate
Cool factor: Flat-soled skateboard shoe