By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

Editor's Note: Scoop Jackson knows enough about shoes to fill a book. And before he joined Page 2, he did -- authoring "Sole Provider: 30 Years of Nike Basketball." He also has worked on commercial campaigns for Nike.

As kids, we never thought of them as really more than what they were: shoes.


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True, some of us made them our hobby, some of us collected, some made sure we were the first on our block to obtain the freshness the minute they hit the corner sports store, some allowed our kicks to define who we really were. But for most of us – sneak freaks, shoe heads, ekins, sole collectors, kicksologists – the shoe game is one that is built on nothing else but passion.

Passion for design. Passion for style. Passion for performance, product, originality and rareness. Passion for Airness. Over the last 25 years, there has existed an international subculture unlike any other in the world. One that has connected different races, different religions, different lifestyles, different ways of life. All differences pushed to the side, accepted and ignored, all for the passion.

And when someone doesn't understand the power – understand how grown men can spend days talking about the intricacies of the lacing system of original Air Darwins, or the line design of the Puma Romas or the color ways of k1x, or the 35-year history of the Adidas Superstar – that the sole has on our soul, we never look at these people the same. "How can you not get it?" we say to them, while we create an us-against-them mentality. "Two hundred bucks for a pair of gym shoes?" is the response most heard. Yeah, but "they're Italian leather 1's or retro Jordan IV's in black suede," is what we say to self, knowing that expressing these rationalities out loud will only complicate the matter more. So we internalize our passion.

Knowing that the power will never find those that wear Skechers.

* * * * *

When does a trend turn into a culture? When does the supply really meet the demand? When does having 300 pairs of Air Force 1's become too much?

The game is not a game anymore. It's become a business, our business. Kicks, the end all to our be all. Show 'em our motto: SHOES ARE LIMOS FOR YOUR FEET. We obey this like thirst. We thirst for more shoes every day. From Eastbay to eBay, the globe gets spanned for that one-of- a-kind pair or that one-of 500 pair that won't cross the water for six months. It's all the same. And the shoe companies know it; that's why they continuously supply the demand. Millions spent on athletes to rep, more millions spent on marketing and advertising. Billions are recouped.

It's a phenom like no other. One that can't be explained or studied, rational'd or logic'd. It can only be understood. Understood by those of us who've stood in line all night to cop the Jordan XI midnight release. For those of us who have had a hard time making a decision about "my girl or my kicks." For those of us who went to prom in 'em or got married in 'em. For those of us who still walk around with toothbrushes and new shoestrings in our pockets – just in case , you know, just in case. For those of us who refuse to say the words Manolo Blahnik because we know a woman's shoe game can't compete with what we got in our closets.

Only we understand.

And the difference between us and them is simple: At least we admit that we have issues.

Plus, there's no way in hell we drop a couple of G's on a pair of shoes.

Unless MJ actually wore them.

Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.


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