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Confessions of...a sneaker fiend

By Jamaal Johnsoncolumns
Aug 20, 2006 - 2:47 PM

A normal morning for me, Jamaal Johnson:

First stop, the toilet and restroom for all the necessary hygiene stuff.

Check email.

Get dressed. This includes choosing the exact pair of shoes that screams, "look at me!" What can I say? I need attention. But, also, this special pair of shoes must compliment the whole ensemble to a tee.

Check email.

And then…it’s time for more kicks!

Everyday I check for the latest shoes hitting the streets. You can call it a compulsive disorder I have. Usually it’s the same sites: Hypebeast.com, pickyourshoes.com, vintagekicks.com, and others. I live and die for a fresh pair of kicks that most people don’t own, plus the colorway is very important to me. All my life I’ve been this way. If I had to sacrifice something for a pair of shoes, I would not hesitate. There has been countless times when I relinquished a tad bit of my dignity and appearance just to have some shoes. Getting a size and sometimes even two sizes too large wasn't a problem back in the day. Did I look like Bozo the Clown? Indeed, I did. A couple of socks did the job. I got help for that little problem though, so no more boat shoes.

Throughout my illustrious preschool to college education career, I’ve always had the same conflict: do I eat lunch or should I save money for a new pair of JORDANS? Easy decision, JORDANS it is. In my closet (and anywhere I can stash my shoes), I have 12 pairs of the same shoe in different colors. Just in my apartment alone I have a total of about 30 shoes and more placed at different homes where I stay when I’m not in school. You might think that's a lot of shoes, but the average shoehead is probably reading this and saying, “I have way more shoes than that, who does this guy think he is?”

These days, shoe culture plus the emergence of high end skateboarding and hip-hop clothing styles is taking over the streets. Fashion-conscious shoe collectors seem to be popping up like rappers proclaiming they’ve been shot, but all of this is nothing new to the shoe enthusiast who lives and breathes for limited and exclusive fashion.

The tight/loosed fitted jeans, tee shirts, and hoodies accompanied by some fresh laces (shoes) is what’s up. Brands I see people yearning for are: Bathing Ape, Red Monkey Jeans, 10 Deep, Lemar & Dauley, Supreme, Stussy, The Hundreds, Billionaire Boys Club/Ice Cream and Nike Skateboarding sneakers (SB Dunks), Nike shoes, Vans (“but they look like sneakers…”), and Adidas. While most of these brands don't have a signature shoe line, it’s very important to understand that clothes and shoes are like ketchup and mustard, Batman and Robin, husband and wife, you get the idea? Prices range from $70 to over $1000 for some gear -- and if you want it, price doesn’t really matter because you’re supporting something that you enjoy and really, really want. The most I spent on some laces would be probably no more than 200 for a pair at one time, but some kicks can go for thousands of dollars. The color, make, designer, quality and quantity are all factors of what the price will be for a shoe.

A March 26 New York Times article by Rob Walker called “Street Couture” gives some detailed and interesting examples of how high end fashion like what you see on the runway borrows from street culture fashion and vice-versa. A choosey and nit-picking attitude for a certain style is pertinent to the culture. Getting the exact style of shoe and color is important to a shoehead in the same way that getting a specific jacket by a certain brand is important for a fashionista.

Okay, okay stop throwing stones at me people. I know, some of you are thinking, “Does this insensitive-shallow pig know these shoes are made in sweatshops and people work hours and hours for some change? Why is he spending hundreds of dollars on shoes when he could be donating the money to Hurricane Katrina relief funds?”

OK, so it's true that the average young adult in America can easily tell you the latest news on Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline, but struggles to acknowledge the battle of the African Horn or the socioeconomic realities of the American ghettos. The materialistic consumer driven world we live in shields us from the outside world. For some people, it's just pure ignorance that keeps them from looking beyond the gossip pages and the shopping malls.

Like any enthusiastic collector or fan would say, “Some things are just meant to be wanted.” Awareness along with a realistic approach and or view about the world gives us our freedom to do what our cold heart desires. The double-sided swords of many of our choices only become troubling when we start to believe in the mantra—“ignorance is bliss.”

Look, I am aware of sweatshops, penniless wages and I know that people all over the world are suffering. There is no excuse or reasoning for others hardship and I don’t intend on making one. I like shoes! There I said it.

My various assortments of shoes make Jamaal who he is. I might wear my red, orange, gold and black--sick, grotesque, style shoe, and you know what? In a strange way, the colors portray what I’m feeling that day. We are all on a quest to accomplish individuality. We want to be different and stop at nothing to satisfy our own essentiality. It’s as simple as this: I LIKE TO LOOK FLY! You might look at me and say “Why all the shoes?” and I would simply tell you, it’s just a piece of the puzzle that makes Jamaal Johnson, the sneaker-fiend

Wanna look as good as I do? Check out these online shoe stores. But watch out – after your first pair, you might get hooked:


Comments (1)

I was too poor growing up to wear Jordans. I wore Cheetahs. No one ever made fun of me though, because I hung out with other less-privileged children. Here are some possible captions for the pictures; Picture 1: "Oh dang, I can't find my pillow so I'm finna go to sleep on my shoes." Picture 2: "Oh dang, I didn't even know you were taking my picture." Picture 3: "Oh dang, I forgot I had all these shoes in my closet." Picture 4: "Oh dang, I hope me dropping my shoes by accident don't wake up my neighbors."

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Photos by May Suen

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