Sneaker Spotlight: John Kim of Sneaker News

This next guest blogger and recently appointed Crate of the Month judge John Kim needs little introduction. Sneakerholics are very familiar with his work the world over being Senior Editor of one of the most popular and informative sneaker blogs out there. We hope you enjoy what he had to say when Sneakerpedia got some face time with Mr Kim.

Starting off: A happy (yet belated) first birthday to Sneakerpedia, which launched on May 17th one year ago. I was graciously invited to attend the launch event in New York City last year and it’s encouraging to see the sneaker community build it up to what it is today! ‘Strength in numbers’ certainly applies here.

About myself: I’m not much unlike the thousands of Sneakerpedians or the millions of weekly readers on Sneaker News. We all share a common passion, but i’ve discovered a hidden path in my life that allowed me to pursue an exciting career that was once a hobby that I enjoyed in my spare time. Sometimes I wonder how I arrived at this point; I earned a BS in Biomedical Sciences and pursued a career in the Health professions, but needless to say, I have yet to form an ounce of regret because all the events and happenings of my past played a role in my arrival – somehow.

A lot of people ask me why I am so passionate about sneakers. Sneakers were simply born out of practicality and comfort, but somewhere down the line I recognized its artistic potential, and like art or architecture does, sneaker began to coax an emotional response that I had been harboring for years. Learning more about the legendary Tinker Hatfield and the theory and concepts behind his greatest designs only opened up new dimensions in shoes like the Air Jordan III, Air Max 1, and Air Jordan VI, which I consider my favorites of all-time, and like any other serious Nike-head, I wanted to consume my life with the art by collecting these treasured pieces. Most importantly, sneakers fulfilled that distinction that I desired because jeans and white sneakers became a completely ubiquitous look early on – just think of Jerry Seinfeld, who consistently rocked white Nike tennis shoes and Trainers with blue jeans on his hit TV show. Quite honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the earlier Nike Air Trainers of the late 80’s/early 90’s after the original Air Trainer 1, which is why I, for the most part, had a heavy focus on Reebok Pumps, British Knights, Asics runners, LA Gear, and Converse, and only later stuck with Air Max runners, Air Jordans, the aforementioned Reebok Classics, and colorful mid-late 90’s Nike Basketball and Trainers throughout that decade.

 

Nike Air Burst (an early-2000 re-release)

Some of my fondest sneaker memories of the 90’s include stopping by my local Foot Locker on a daily basis just to see if anything new was on the shelves. It’s tough to pinpoint one exact moment, but the year 1994 stands out in particular, as I visited frequently just to stare at the Air Burst. The Burst was like an Air Max 1 on steroids, and the enormous Air bubble looked like it was ready to explode out of the shoe (hence, the name ‘Burst’) – but I could never afford a pair. Unfortunately, I never did own a pair of the originals because I, as a 6th grader, had zero income and was allowed just one pair of new sneakers per school semester, and basketball and turf/trainer sneakers were the go-to choice at the time. I never had the luxury of ‘rotating’ sneakers like kids do today, but I did eventually coerce my parents into buying me a secondary pair of Reebok Classics as a ‘casual’ alternative to the Nikes. My mom in particular was impressed at how well I took care of my shoes, and because they were in such great condition, I kept them around and my collection truly started in the early/mid-90’s. I was still wearing my Air Jordan VIIIs a year after I got them, even when they were clearly a size too small for me!

 

The first half of the 2000’s is where I really found my niche; that era of sneakers was my own personal ‘Golden Age’ as it was purely dominated by Air Max and the Nike SB Dunk – two shoes/genres that make up quite a large percentage of my amassed collection. Nike’s concentration to the desires of the unique sub-culture was admirable to say the least; a lot went into producing a limited-edition run of 250, 500, or 1,000 pairs, so it certainly was not a profitable venture. Instead, it was a meshing between sneakers and art that happened organically, and for many, it was through Nike that we discovered all these artists, designers, and sneaker shops that seemed to be worlds away. Buying sneakers wasn’t exactly a rinse-wash-dry cycle either; there was no true rhyme or reason to these sneaker releases like what we have now; the Supreme collaborations, the Nike Artist Series saga, partnerships with artists like Parra and Stash or with stores like UNDFTD or Atmos – these classics just popped up out of nowhere and the resources to hunt around for information were very limited (and who doesn’t love a chase?). Nike devoted a chunk of its energy to explore art within its classics, and those individual interpretations from these outside sources made those sneakers so much more desirable and the ‘must-have’ factor was incredibly strong. What made the entire culture as a whole a true art was that it was hardly a routine.

NY Post headline the day after the release

Being centralized in the unquestionable epicenter of sneakers was like being a wine connoisseur having Napa Valley in his backyard; it would be a crime to not take advantage of it. Simply put: Living in New York was paradise for a sneakerhead. Around the turn of the century, when boutiques in Lower Manhattan like Alife, Supreme, and Stussy were gaining serious momentum as the world’s best sneaker and urban apparel spots and other iconic storefronts like DQM, Nort, and Clientele began to open up, the opportunities to obtain the most exclusive, limited edition, and creatively produced pairs of sneakers only thrust me deeper into the sneaker culture. The aforementioned partnerships with artists and stores like kept me glued to the circle of retail spots which were veritable godsends to devotees such as myself. Even 10 years ago, prolonged sneaker campouts were very much a part of the NYC sneaker scene, but those events only added to the mystique and appeal of the shoe instead of tainting it with a level of mild disdain. Up until this past February’s release of the Galaxy Foamposites, the single most notorious sneaker release was the SB Dunk ‘Pigeon’ of 2005, which incited riots, police intervention, and media attention – all occurring outside a small boutique in the Lower East Side known as The Reed Space. While the infamous ‘Pigeon’ Dunk mayhem wasn’t exactly a ‘fond’ experience, it’s looked upon as a pivotal and unprecedented moment in the New York City sneaker scene and is quite often recalled in conversations discussing the most memorable moments in sneaker history – especially because it was a shoe designed for ‘New York City’. The level of attraction of the sneaker to the NYC sneakerhead was an insurmountable force, and what transpired on the morning of February 22nd was a pure display of how serious the sneaker game was in New York City (believe it or not, there were police escorts for every individual who managed to purchase a pair). All-in-all, New York had an undeniable head start to the sneaker game, and that’s just the way it’s been for decades; fashion in New York is distinct from that of Los Angeles or anywhere overseas, mainly because it was heavily focused on what was on people’s feet.

$850. Worth every penny.

By 2002-2003, having 20-30 pairs of sneakers wasn’t unheard of, but in today’s sneaker scene where several big-ticket items hit stores on a monthly basis, 20-30 pairs is rather pedestrian. Quite honestly, I don’t know how some of these younger kids do it, especially with increased prices and irresistible releases stacked on top of one another. Once I began working full time in ‘sneakers’, the ‘itch’ came back with a furious vengeance and my sneaker collection grew with it; I emphatically searched for those unaffordable early-decade releases that have appreciated so much in value – the ones I consider the ‘Mona Lisas’ and ‘Starry Nights’ of sneakers. Just a month ago I spent $850 on a pair of Air Max 1s from 2005 – the first collaboration with Dutch artist Parra – and they weren’t even brand new! Some would call that downright insane, but most (if not all) who can relate would consider it money well spent. I do appreciate and respect all the original models from the 80’s and 90’s, and much of Nike Sportswear’s latest releases that I enjoy thoroughly are manifestations of the brand’s earlier designs, but I think I clearly laid out why I like what I like and why I have several pairs of Air Max 1s, Air Max 90s, Air Max 95s, and Dunks – they will always be more than sneakers. Unfortunately, the production of these special releases have slowed down considerably over the last few years, so while my focus is indeed on obtaining those earlier releases that have eluded me, there’s still so much more in sneakers that i’ve yet to explore. That’s one of the most exciting aspects about being involved in all of this – knowing that there’s a lot more ahead while having a lot to cover. As for how many sneakers I own? I’m not quite sure as the last time I did a rough count was when I moved to a new apartment a year ago, but I might be able to pull off the ‘one pair a day for a year’.

Witnessing the state of the sneaker culture today, i’m not surprised one bit that Sneakerpedia has become such an international hit. 9,000+ members and a library of sneakers that reaches all tastes and sneakers scenes – it’s the perfect way to explore the depth and richness of sneaker history. The U.S., Europe, and Asia are so distinct from one another, and Sneakerpedia offers a unique window into how different the sneaker scene really is – that’s something that’s never really existed before. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life so my localized outlook on sneakers may or may not clash with the opinions of my fellow judges, but that’s just another learning experience about this hobby we all share. I truly can’t wait to see the finalists for the Crate Of The Month, so if you’re reading this, keep uploading your kicks and we look forward to learning about your own personal sneaker story!

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