Sole Searching

The Hunt for the Perfect Sneakers

Shopping for sneakers takes patience and know-how. Here are a few tricks to find the right pair.

A couple mornings every month I log onto my favorite sneaker shopping apps with hopes of winning an opportunity to purchase the hype shoe-de jour. It’s almost always a soul crushing exercise. Partially because I almost never win. But mostly because on those rare occasions when I do win the raffle and the shoes, I am always seized by the realization that countless other dudes coveted those same shoes and got them and even more bros wanted them and got left out. It’s a funny thing: Doggedly pursuing an acute sense of personal style while simultaneously longing for an item that is, I am sorry to say, common.

The real problem with chasing the hype wave is that it saps building a truly great sneaker collection of the its truest and purest joy: the hunt. Chasing hype is being told what to do and what to like and then following orders. In the late 70s and early 80s — before sneakers were a mainstream culture phenomenon — the raison d’tere for connoisseurs was searching out the rarest of the rare. Namely, the obscure imports and never before seen color ways. As As the Godfather of Sneaker Culture, Bobbito Garcia explains in his landmark 2003 book, Where’d You Get Those?, hearing those four words — Where’d You Get Those? — signified success. Those collectors achieved elevated exclusivity through incredible acts of will and creativity: Intricate lacing patterns, maybe a little extra flavor courtesy of a Krink pen. Some guys stashed a pair of their favorite sneaker for seven or eight years until that model was long forgotten before pulling them out and minting them as new classics. OGs like Bobbito sought out little known shoe stores with left over stock and even took overseas shoe shopping expeditions, all in pursuit of the uncommon.

I do my best to carry forth the ingenuity of those OG sneaker hawks in all of my shopping, but especially when it comes to my sneakers. The hunt is what transforms a pair of blue suede Jordan IIIs from a cool pair into a really cool story about the day a few years back when I happened upon an Asbury Park, New Jersey vintage shop where the owner quietly sold impossible to find classic Jordans out the ‘employees only’ area in the back of his store.

When dad’s ask me for advice on amping up their sneaker game. I always give them my three most reliable morsels of advice.

The resale market is your friend. Resale apps like Goat and StockX and sites like Flight Club and Stadium Goods is where all of the hype pairs you couldn’t score wind up. But I’m not encouraging you to pay over market prices for sneakers. I love the resale sites because they all possess a deep stock of shoes that were missed or ignored by the hype beasts. Aimless browsing on these platforms can yield incredible booty. As a way of keeping things fresh and uncommon, I frequently provide myself with a challenge — I’m only browsing Chinese New Years or Dia del Muerte editions. Or, I’m only buying shoes released before 2019.

Be a clearance shopper. The world’s best sneaker boutiques — places like Sneaker Politics in Louisiana or Concepts in Boston, Massachusetts run continuous sales and frequency stage massive clearance events on their websites. These sales are a dependable source for unique (some might say weird), high fashion sneakers marked way down to bargain prices. Log on with an open mind and you might score a pair that is truly special — something you never imagined yourself wearing or being able to responsibly afford.

Go abroad. Sneaker retailers abroad are often provided different stock items than American retailers. To find something your friends won’t have and will never see, browse the e-commerce sites for European sneaker boutiques like Berlin’s SoleBox or Hannon in the UK.