I’m far too old to be getting all hyped about things and kicking off if I don’t get it free, yet I still seem to get caught up in the mob mentality over limited edition gear. With the much hated and much-anticipated Nike Air Yeezy 2 in my clutches (cheers, Nike), I feel a curious sense of relief at ownership that I can’t fully explain. I hate the whole “sneakerhead” genre — I hate t-shirts to match footwear, talk of “kicks,” one-dimensional resell-centric babble that never delves beneath surface level and quite a lot of things that start with “Sneaker.” On the flipside, I hate the punishing lengths people will go to prove that they’re a “real” collector or that they aren’t a “sneakerhead” or “hypebeast” (apologies for the abundance of quotation marks — in the real world, I’d be doubly twatty and do them in the air with my forefingers). Almost everybody born in the latter half of the 1970s and early 1980s was keen on classic adidas and Air Jordans — that doesn’t make you the member of some veteran’s squad and engaging in some Pachanga “…these new kids nowadays, man, they got no respect for human life” style talk about young ‘uns just makes you look doubly old and embittered. The whole thing is unnecessary.
Still, I found myself anxious about owning the new Yeezy iteration because I felt that somehow I needed to own it. It looks like Andre Agassi’s shoe as reimagined by HR Giger, but somewhere down the line, the mix of Huarache (in the lining), Tech Challenge, weirdo space Egyptian ‘Stargate’ cues and Bo Jackson created a wave of hype that picked me up and carried me down river. That leather lace disc is no match for the rubberised ‘Y’ of part 1, that smaller fit based on the Air Royal (not my kind of shoe — just as bland shoes like the GTS Canvas never did anything for me twenty years ago), isn’t like the Air Revolution fit of its predecessor, the metal lace tips are awkward and the anonymity of the beige box is like awaiting the second coming and the messiah rocking up in a blue Datsun. But for all that, I’m relieved to have them because I’m a weirdo. The fact it causes such a fuss makes them a form of event footwear, and the angrier they make people simply amps up the appeal — in a world where people want handcrafted brown leather goods that develop a Tumblr-friendly patina, these seem like the anti-everything.
This shoe thing is out of control for me — the minute you’re vowing “just one more time” and repeatedly reneging on that vow, you’re showing some classic addiction symptoms and I am addicted to sports footwear, from plain Rod Laver (Supers only though, not the earlier slimmer versions) to NB 998s through to these monsters. That relentless box stacking is unlikely to ever stop, but the original March drop of these shoes was meant to be a moment of closure for me – the last big score before a birthday that officially rendered me too old to get excited about this kind of thing, but delays sent it over into a new age. At the current rate, I’m destined to be found dead beneath shoeboxes, unseen by neighbours for a fortnight and half eaten by a household pet. But what exactly does a grown up wear nowadays? The kids in their early twenties that aren’t in tracksuits or dressed like flabby rent boys with the scoopneck and TOMS combo seem to be dressing more sensibly than my dad ever did. Once you’ve bought a few pairs of shoes that last a lifetime, caught up in the romance of a handmade brogue’s scope for cobbler-aided immortality, there doesn’t seem enough places to take that addiction if, like me, you’re adverse to laceless creations, whereas sports footwear just gets goofier and more over-the-top. Still, I think the Yeezy 2 release represents the end of an era for me — the realisation that I’m becoming that old person trying to maintain a youthful state through big shoes (anyone else remember Jonathan King wearing Reebok’s The Pump in late 1989?). Time to wind it down a little, cease with the thirst for hype and make way for the next generation. Until the Yeezy 3 turns up, that is.
Looking at my fixation with big shoes, I can attribute it to three factors: 1. Being denied shoes over £17 in 1987 because my feet were still growing, and eying up some (what I believe to be) Team Delta Forces, leading to a silent vow to own everything one day, 2. Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys in Metro Attitudes and Conductors, and 3. Metal’s frequently unexplored love of shoes as extreme as the speed of the music. Talk Audio Two all you like Dave Mustaine and Nick Menza may be the only people to ever make the Air Pressure look good. In fact, Dave wore the Tech Challenge II (on which the Yeezy 2 is based) with skinny jeans the first time round. Incidentally, I was late to the greatness of Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew’s ‘Murder in the Front Row’ though — a truly incredible tome, with some of the best Bay Area thrash imagery ever amassed in one place. For Testament showing off their matching demonic ink alone, it’s worth having on the bookshelf.