New York City
As 24-year-old Justin Gaddy walks past hundreds of Skittle-colored sneakers tied to a chain link fence and a painting of a wad of cash eating a doughnut, he notices something odd: His sneakers—the black, red and extremely rare Nike Air Max LeBron VIIIs—are everywhere. “I’ve seen six other dudes here with these on,” says Gaddy, whose 80-pair shoe collection is worth around $10,000.
If there’s any place to find half a dozen men wearing two-week-old shoes that are already impossible to find, it’s Sneaker Pimps, a touring event celebrating sneaker culture with shoe vendors, hip-hop, video game tournaments and live art demonstrations. It was started in Sydney in 2003 by Peter Fahey, a twentysomething Australian “sneakerhead” connoisseur. Since then, he’s taken the event to more than 60 cities and put on more than 200 shows with the help of performers like Ghostface Killah, Paul Wall and Rick Ross.
Gavin Brown, an 18-year-old college student wearing a pair of gray and blue glow-in-the-dark Nike Blazers, is one of those sneakerheads at the recent New York City event. Hovering over his phone and lifting his eyes only to peek at passing feet, Brown says he’s obsessed with sneakers because “they define you as a person. When you look at someone, you can tell what kind of person they are by the sneakers they’re wearing.”
As for Gaddy, he’s not concerned about six other people wearing the LeBron-endorsed space boots. “Only real sneakerheads have these,” he says. “I saw those other dudes in the line with me the night they came out.” —ADAM K. RAYMOND