How this international student found his place in Melbourne as a sneakerhead
You can never have too many shoes as the saying goes. But for Gabriel, an avid collector of prized sneakers, the shoes he purchases aren’t just made for walking. Gabriel is part of the larger sneakerhead community who have created a culture which includes people from different backgrounds around the world.
Currently studying in college, Gabriel has collected sneakers since he was a young boy in China.
“Firstly, it was only about watching the shoes of basketball superstars on TV”, he says.
What started as a passive interest soon became a monumental part of his life. His high school friends especially played a big role, influencing him to buy his first sneaker, a pair of the Air Jordan 1 ‘Bred’, one of the most valued sneakers on the market. At the time, they were valued at $400AUD (this particular shoe was famous for its association with legendary basketballer, Michael Jordan, who was fined $5,000 by the NBA every time he wore it on court).
His interests in sneakers quickly blossomed when he joined the community in Xiamen, his home city, which already had largely consisted of his own friends. When he came to Melbourne however, Gabriel had to start over. He sought out Melbourne’s sneaker community, finding Melbourne’s popular sneaker stores and began to expand his social circle.
“I usually go to stores like Kickz 101 and the Secret Sneaker Store, which are my favourite and I usually talk with the staff in there to try and get to know more about the new shoes that are coming up,” Gabriel said.
It wasn’t before long until Gabriel was fully integrated. Gabriel communicated to others across social media where he organised trades with others, shared information about sneaker drops (when a new sneaker was set to release in stores) and arranging with others on how to get the sneakers the wanted. He also began meeting other sneakerheads at social events, parties and exhibitions; the most recent event being Melbourne’s Sneakercon.
Today, Gabriel’s collection is huge; he says he buys around 30 to 40 pairs of sneakers a year. His favourite brand, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Air Jordan.
“I tried to collect the whole series of Jordan sneakers, which [start from] Jordan 1 to Jordan 31,” Gabriel said.
While some may scoff at his spending habits, Gabriel also knows that there is money to be made with his purchases too.
To fund his sneaker buying habits, Gabriel quickly adopted a mind for business and become involved in the re-selling culture within the sneakerhead community. Whenever a new design would drop, Gabriel would purchase whatever stock he could and sell them off at a higher price later when buyer demand would be high and retail stock ran low.
Gabriel profited enough from these buyers and spent what he gained on more sneakers. His most expensive pair, he says, is the Nike Air Mag, which he bought for a staggering $3,000AUD.
“This shoe was made for the movie Back to the Future,” Gabriel explained. The pair is considered ‘the holy grail’ of sneakers and is highly sought after due to its limited quality and self-lacing technology, just like in the film.
But collecting and selling sneakers aren’t the only thing on his mind. In the future, Gabriel hopes to create a YouTube channel dedicated to Melbourne’s sneaker community. He wants to produce videos and interview others with the same passion for sneakers as he does; think Humans of New York but with Melbourne’s sneaker community instead.
It is clear then, that sneaker collecting for Gabriel is more than just a hobby. For Gabriel, it has become his life.
This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.