With the proliferation of social media and technology, sneakerhead culture has risen to the forefront of popular culture. What once was an underground movement, has become a part of the public conversation. From athletes to celebrities, CEOs to hipsters, you will see sneakerheads in every level of society, all bonded in the love and passion for kicks.
Columbus in particular, has a growing sneakerhead culture. Not only does it have a specialized sneaker boutique in the Short North, Sole Classics, but the city now has a semi-annual sneaker convention called SneakerFreaks. The most recent 2015 and March 2016 events were able to draw 2,000+ attendees and 150+ vendors.
Ahead of the upcoming SneakerFreaks, September 18th, FlyPaper sat down with Dajon Reese (Columbus native, avid sneakerhead, thrift connoisseur, and shoe entrepreneur) to talk about his love of shoes and retro fashion.
If they’re gonna judge you for life, Say we can’t always be fly
“It started way back man, back before I can remember,” Reese said. “I think I started being a sneakerhead when I was a kid.”
For Reese, the love of shoes runs deep. From infancy, when his folks bought him baby-sized jordans, the love manifested itself and carried into his childhood. He didn’t always have a lot of money but it didn’t matter because the most important part was the shoes.
“I think it was just, honestly, something within the culture and community. Somebody with a fresh pair of js on, you thought they was doing it. You might not have a lot of money but if you come to school with a fresh pair of Js on, you was the man.”
It’s Michael Jordan, Man!
Those outside the sneaker culture are likely to be familiar with the idea of releasing new versions of old shoes. The concept is often criticized by people who don’t understand how anybody can repeatedly buy the same shoe, but for Reese, it’s personal. Armed with the privilege of actually being able to see MJ play, Reese’s favorite type of shoe has always been the Jordan. “I wear what I like,” he said. “Jordans will always have a special spot in my heart, the emotional attachment, but I wear what I like.”
The rerelease of shoes allows Reese new opportunities to connect with those emotions in ways that he wasn’t able to when he was younger. On top of the shoes being a fashion statement, there was an association between a memory and every time he laced up, it would all flash back to him. His favorite shoe, the Flu Game Jordan 12s, is the pair that Jordan wore when he dropped 63 points.
“It’s Michael Jordan! Growing up in the 90’s that’s what it was about. The only NBA games I remembered were the Chicago Bulls. And every time he dropped a new shoe, he’d actually wear them on the court. So his magical moments on the court translated over to the sneaker.
I was watching (the flu game) with my pops. That shoe was the one that set the stage for the Jordan 12s. I was never actually able to get it a pair when I was younger but it was the first pair I bought when I was an adult, in 2009.“
Now Reese owns several pairs of Jordan 12s, in all different color-ways.
Every Shoe Has A Story, But Only Legends Change The Culture
The NBA didn’t stop having great basketball players after Jordan retired so I asked Reese about Curry, Kobe, Lebron, Russ, and KD and if their amazing games, garnered the same prestige over for their shoe.
Reese thinks it would be cool if Lebron’s shoe get retro’d one day and commented that the value on them has already begun to go up.”If they were re-released in like 10, 20 years it would be a good look for Lebron and a good look for Nike,” he said. “Who knows if those memories will carry over. But I’ll wear a retro 7 of Lebron’s (the shoe he wore the last season of his first stint with the Cavaliers). I’ll wear a retro 2 of Lebron’s.”
“I don’t think it gets lost. Now we’re just in a different realm, a different society where shoes still have that value, where if you have a special player, years later you will remember how great that player was. Steph Curry hit all these threes in these shoes.”
As far as other great basketball players from the 90s, they all have similar amounts of history. Reese rocks with Penny’s and Griffey’s and other retro shoes but doesn’t really like foams. It’s too many bright colors and he’s not really big on all of that. “But if it’s a dope shoe, and I like it, I will buy it,” he reassures me. At the end of the day, fresh is fresh.
I asked Reese what his dream shoe was:
Space Jam. My all time favorite shoe. Growing up, I wasn’t able to get the shoes I really wanetd. That was one of the shoes I really wanted, I was in the 5th or 6th grade. My cousins got every single shoe. If they wanted it, they got it. Even if they didn’t want it, they’d still get it. They would wear their shoes and throw it in the closet after one wear. I would get like the 2 for $89 New Balances or like the Weapons. They was always getting Js. I’d be asking em, “you don’t want them j’s no more?” My cousin gave me his Space Jam 11s, mint condition and wore the hell out of them. I want a pair just because of the nostalgia and the memories.
I also want some Royal Jordan 1’s. Back when they FIRST released, they were $50 a piece at westland mall. Now they retail for $160 and go on the market for $800-$900 resell.
The dream shoes are the ones that I had growing up, or that take me back to a specific moment, a specific memory of like a house that I was staying in.
Contemporary Sneaker Culture
Sneakerheads comment on how hype beast are changing (ruining) the culture. Reese said that things are just different now.
“Right now, people just kind of in the moment,” Reese laments. “Lebron did these great things, but they aren’t really remembering the shoes he was wearing. It’s kinda lost because the values and principles that people are buying the shoes, for now, have shifted.
You still have wildly popular shoes like Yeezy’s, but they feel more like hype-beast shoes that people are gunning for. They are kind of taking all of that emotional connection away from the basketball shoes. It’s not just about the court, it’s about the culture.”
Celebrity endorsements have changed everything. Reese spoke of how if Kanye wears some ultraboost, then the resell value of those shoes will go through the roof. You’ll see stores pop up online with crazy prices. “Take the Jordan 1s,” Reese explains. “They only retail for 160. You look online and they go for like 700-800 dollars. The celebrity endorsement is king nowadays. Theres a lot of resellers. You gotta keep your connects up.”
“People buy shoes to resell them. You purchase a shoe for 150, and sell it for 300 350? And then people can buy the shoe, without even having to wait in line,” said Reese. Networking is extremely important in modern times. “A lot of shoe stores are using the ticket system so now, if you know the right people, have the right connects, you can just go pick up your shoe, by appointment.”
“The resellers are busting heads for these shoes and it’s watering down the culture. It’s cool but it’s taking away from the originality and unique style. You’re doing things because of propaganda. Everybody else is doing it, so you want to do it too. Cause everybody wants to look like that celebrity. People aren’t being who they truly are. People just trying to fit in.”
Finding Entryway as A Casual Sneaker Fan
Because of the aftermarket industry, with the steep prices, casual shoe fans might find it hard to get the shoes that they want. According to Reese, there are a lot of different ways to get in and get connected in the sneaker culture. When he started reselling himself, he started by just going to events and connecting with other people who have the same passions.
“One passion of mine is thrifting: Finding vintage retro apparel and then reselling that. In doing these events, I run across people who know people who know people in the sneaker world. Now I’m making connections with people so I can get those exclusive shoes too. I don’t like spending them crazy prices or anything either so I am glad that I can get them at retail value. It all just depends on who you know now.”
The key is owning your own personal style. “If you like something, it’s not hard getting in the game,” Reese said. “You can find a lot of steals at the thrift store, Plato’s closet and it’s all gently used. It might even be new. And you’re going to be paying a lot less. If it’s a shoe that you’d be paying retail price, you’d pay $190. Say somebody might want some quick cash so they go and sell their shoes. Now Platos will sell it to you for $60 and you made the come up.”
You don’t have to get caught in the hype of getting the shoes that’s in the headlines, on the release date. If you like a shoe then get it.
Retro Reese: The Thrill of the Deal
Thrifting has become a big part of Reese’s life. He now runs his own retro online shop where he resells the items that he finds in the thrift store. He effectively serves as conduit for those who don’t know how to thrift. He’ll grab the items that have appeal and put them all in one place for you to be able to choose from. In the process, he’s also developed his own sense of style that has a heavy emphasis on retro-fashion.
These days a huge chunk of his wardrobe was purchased in second-hand shops. This is a huge development from the Reese of his high school days, where he looked down on people who went to the thrift store.
Reese explains how he got into thrifting:
Back in highschool, I was going to career center at Ft. Hayes and I needed some scrubs,” Reese explained. My mom took me to the thrift store on high street and I was in there, MAD. Why you got me in the looking, thrifting. I thought thrifting got a bad rep. Only for poor people. But there was mad gems in there.
I found starter jackets and other stuff I couldn’t get as a kid and it was dirt cheap. I had a job, but it wasn’t padding my pockets or anything. It was like a summer gig. Thrifting opened up doors.
There’s NOTHING but steals in the thrift store. You just gotta look. I’m in so deep, that I know the sales around town. I know when the 50% off sales are. If you find anything that’s around $10-$15 , then you know its going to be new or like new. Then you get 50% off of that, you definitely can come out with a nice little outfit. A few outfits.
Now it’s like an addiction, but a good addiction. I be in the thrift store, and It’s like a rush. I go in with a mission, like if im looking for a snapback, I go and hit all the hat racks for the thrift shops across the city during that day.
I got a dope Tommy Hilfiger jacket and it’s literally $3.99. I’m like MAN somebody gave this away. Now I gotta know the story behind it. “Who owns this? Why did they give it away? What was their motive behind it.”
It became a new passion of his. He thrifted more and more as he went to college. People would compliment him on what he was wearing and then be taken aback when he told them it came from the thrift store. This translated into starting Retro Reese. He always wanted to own his own business but it was an organic process. Reese found some youth who were going through some of the same struggles that he was going through when he was a kid.
“We all wanted stuff, but might not have the necessary funds to make it happen,” he reflected. “I always wanted to keep that in mind and incorporate the youth. I try to bring some young cats that’s into the retro look, just like me and bring them along. You can look really nice without having to go the same route as everybody else. It might not have to be brand new. Knock down some of them stereotypes that the youth has about clothes.”
The Key To Succes is Thrifting, For ALL Ages
Millenials are really into thrifting, but Reese emphasizes that it isn’t just for the young people. “A lot of cats my age are into the retro look too,” he said. He tries to have a wide variety: team apparel, city and state-specific clothing because people like to get that type of stuff. “It’s for anybody who is just trying to have their own unique style and express themselves in their own way. Retro streetwear is really in right now. I don’t know how long that will be the case, but I feel like I will always have a clientele.”
Reese has been entertaining the idea of a co-op partnership. You may be seeing Retro Reese products showing up in a Short North boutique soon. For now, you can check his products on RetroReese.com. You will also see him at SneakerFreaks later this month.