If anyone knows how to amass an impressive curated collection, it’s a sneakerhead. Known for obsessing over rare, limited-edition pairs, contacting proxy buyers to nab styles that are only available overseas and subscribing to publications like Sneaker Freaker, they’re the ultimate collectors. As such, not only do they know when the latest Nike collab is going to hit the streets, they’re experts on fine-tuning the perfect edit. We asked The RealReal’s resident sneakerhead, Lead Designer Eric Johnson, to spill the details on how he built his sneaker collection and just as important, how he stores, cares for and edits his prized possessions, often with consignment in mind.
How many pairs of sneakers do you own?
At one point I had over 300 pairs, but now I’ve managed to get to just under 100. These aren’t just Nikes and Adidas either, I have a lot of luxury brands in my collection. These days I’m a lot more picky about what I pick up.
When did you start collecting?
I’d say I started seriously collecting in 2008. It was a year after moving to SF, I had an apartment with space, the city provided a ton of sneaker spots to frequent, and I was finally making enough money to start obtaining the sneakers I drooled over online for years.
What’s your most prized pair?
A pair of the first retroed Nike Air Max 90 Infrared. The shoe itself isn’t that valuable, and Nike has made so many variants of that model/colorway it’s lost its luster, but for me it was THE sneaker that got me hooked, and with most older collectors, the shoe is a staple. I still own that pair and wear them regularly.
Have you ever gone to great lengths to get a certain pair?
Before learning about proxy buyers, I once stayed up till 3am to bid on a pair of shoes on a Japanese auction site. I don’t know a single lick of Japanese, but thanks to Google translate and help from a couple forum friends, I got my shoes, but I didn’t get any sleep.
What’s the rarest or most unique pair of sneakers you own?
Of the shoes I still have, I’d say my pair of Converse x Number (N)ine Chuck Taylor All Star. Now of past-owned shoes, my most unique would have to be a pair of pony hair Rick Owens Geobasket, and the rarest would be a pair of Nike SB True Reds. I still regret selling those to this day. The True Reds were the first hot all-red shoe (technically), before all-red shoes were the thing.
What are your tips on collecting?
1. Stay organized
Living in the city makes collecting a nightmare. Sometimes it’s a compromise of having shoes in my workspace as well as the majority of the closet and bedroom, and all the rest end up in storage. Then comes the headache of keeping tabs on which sneakers are where, which have been sold, and which are on the chopping block. Google Docs helps a lot, lol.
2. Have rules & know when to let go
Originally I didn’t have rules; I was a fiend. I’d buy multiple pairs of the same shoe, sometimes in different sizes if I couldn’t get a second in the exact size. At this point it’s definitely a one in, one out rule, although sometimes it’s a two in, one out kinda week. Main idea being that a pair needs to cover the cost or at least 50% of a new purchase. Also, no dupes unless it’s of a shoe I seriously like, or having a second pair “on ice” would be a financially sound idea. And the biggest rule: no unworn shoes. If they don’t get worn in a month after purchase, they have to go, unless it’s due to weather.
Umit Benan High-Top Sneakers consigned by Eric, orig. $645, now $310
A couple things determine for me when it’s time to let a pair go. If I find them in my closet or storage and don’t even recall purchasing them, then I must have bought them on a whim and would be better off without them. Just like stocks, if you find that there is a high demand in the market for a particular shoe, and it’s not a regularly worn shoe, let it go and buy something you’re gonna get more use out of. There also can be the case of having shoes that are based on the same silhouette. Like a lot of the luxury brands have a sneaker extremely similar to the Adidas Stan Smith. Unless the material quality is that amazing or there is something unique about them, there is no need to own both, as most people won’t even know the difference at a glance.
3. Consign & reinvest
100% of my consigning is based on slimming down my collection or swapping a pair for something new that has caught my eye. Sometimes you also get caught up with a particular model and end up with multiple colorways of the same shoe. Once my hype dies down a bit, I usually consign all expect for my favorite versions. This is a rough estimate but I’ve consigned at least 300 pairs, probably more. I was able to purchase all my shoes last year off of consignment money.
4. Keep your sneakers in good shape
Know the materials your shoes are made of because each material has its own set of care requirements. All leathers are not the same and you can really ruin a shoe treating them as such.
Let your shoes breath. When I get home I don’t just throw my shoes back in a box/container. I usually let them air out overnight and put them up in the morning.
Shoe trees! They don’t have to be expensive cedar ones, the plastic ones work just as well. Leather wears, creases and stretches over time, and shoe trees help to minimize the loss of the original shape.
Invest in good cleaning products and tools. There are tons of great products on the market now dedicated to cleaning shoes, and even a few household cleaners that are great as well. Also if you’re as OCD about it as me, buy a soft bristle toothbrush for getting in the cracks and crevices. I use a kids Sesame Street one, because why not.
5. Wear your kicks!
At this point I have only one pair of shoes that I refuse to consign, and they aren’t even sneakers. They are so nice, that I can’t bring myself to wear them, and have just been sitting on my shelf for years at this point. Over the past couple years though, I’ve followed the words of the great DJ Clark Kent and Russ Bengtson: “Wear your kicks!” I don’t want a museum collection. I want to be able to pull a great pair of shoes off the shelf, go about my day, and not really care that my shoes aren’t in pristine condition anymore. As long as I maintain and keep them clean, I will always be able to consign them later. And what’s the fun in collecting all these shoes if you can’t even enjoy them?
Inspired to build your own ideal sneaker closet? Whether you’re ready to expand your collection or edit by consigning, we’ve got you covered!