The Greatest Shoe on Earth

What is your favourite possession? What is the one thing that you cherish above all others? Male or female, from ketchup-smeared child to piss-and-biscuit-smelling geriatric, there is fair chance that we have all held an inanimate object so dear to our hearts that it actually hurt when it wasn’t near. Or, remember if you can, before the sensual joy of owning, holding and adoring it, the thrill of the chase: seeing it on a shop shelf or a magazine page, locating it in the flesh/material, evaluating the purchase – whether or not it was worth the money, weighed heavily against the straight up need for that to be yours in order for the Universe to align itself with the joy in your heart.

Tinker Hatfield

You, intelligent reader that you are, do not need to be told that from the outset this is an absurdly superficial view of the World – that the true sense of desire and fulfilment comes from the knowledge and trust of deep friendship, family, companionship, spirituality and a whole heap of other wholesome attributes that put all of this shameless consumerism in a pile labelled ‘bad things’, and make sure that myself and my Glaswegian friend Curly George are heading south to the Big Fire when the day comes. I doubt we will be on our own, eh? As Frank Zappa answered so very sagely when asked why communism was doomed to fail, “…people just like owning shit”. He was right and of course the greatest irony of this is that the single largest communist regime remaining manufactures the majority of “shit” for us to consume.

And, to add to this shitshow, as if my own cravings to consume were not enough, my career has been based around peddling consumables to the general public for years. In truth my career was shaped around two things: 1) the recession of ’91-’92, that pushed interest rates to an eye-watering and punishing 13.5% under John Major’s anonymous leadership, and led to an unemployment rate of nearly 10% – this meant that (promising) young wasters such as myself, that were to leave education prematurely were extremely unlikely to get any job worth having, and 2) my mother getting (mildly) drunk at a dinner party and volunteering me for an interview at a large department store in Knightsbridge (that cannot be named, but was owned by a Jabba the Hutt-impersonating, British passport-less, style-dodging, Michael Jackson statue-commissioning, sex-pest).

Fortunately I worked in a department with a product I already had a passion for: ‘sports shoes’ was the official title, but we all have other names for them. Sneakers, trainers, kicks, wheels, the list could go on, but products that I had worn, known about, seen on tv or in magazines – and coveted – actually became my profession that started an addiction that continues 20 years later. To this end, the total lack of funds available at the time for the purchase of the one product I coveted above all others at the time, and my subsequent career within the sports business rendered my craving deeper.

Initially released in 1990, The Nike Air Jordan V (in black/silver, before any pedants ask) was the fifth incarnation of the signature basketball shoe of Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever to play the game. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the legendary Nike employee tasked with matching Jordan’s record-breaking exploits on the court, it married perfect design with the technical requirements of a professional sportsman, but then took it to the streets for fashion. The ‘V’ is regarded by many as the most collectable sneaker ever made, and as such it creates a stir every time it is released. And last week, the original colour was re-released. It is different in pure detail to the original to ensure that those that still own a pair will not be compromised in their collectable and antique-level value. However, I am now the proud owner of the one shoe I had coveted for over 20 years. Other versions of the shoe have been released in varying colours – this will be the sixth incarnation of this shoe I have owned – but not in the original colour. This is the gatefold vinyl version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band rather than the re-packaged CD or download.

Tokyo V – does not come with free bucket of confetti or wobbly car, but might cost $1000

Now, and this is the tricky bit, I can’t begin to explain to some what it is about sneakers that has a hold of my brain. But to those of us that wear them, live the streetwear fashion life that has come with it, and watched what was our little hobby become a global phenomenon worth billions of dollars, they can be the most beautiful items to mankind. And on top of this, the AJ V is the pinnacle of this. To try and explain it, in my eyes it is the Chanel little black dress with laces; the E-Type Jaguar with reflective tongue; the London Underground Map with lacelocks; the Coke Bottle with an insole; the Ray Ban Wayfarer for the foot. It is a timeless classic champion of design, and as such when a very limited release or colour appears, it can go for hundreds of dollars. One recent release that came out for a store in Tokyo, had pairs appearing on ebay for over $1000 within hours of going on sale.

So, while you ladies fawn over your Louboutins, Frye boots or Jimmy Choo’s, just think that the next time you see a guy walking down the street in a brand new pair of kicks, or staring in a sports shop window with his hand on the window, he could be wearing or wanting shoes that make yours look like they cost less than a tramp’s . Or, in the case of the newest addition to my collection, make him feel 10 foot tall, knowing in his heart he is wearing (in his opinion) the greatest shoe on Earth.

Gratuitous picture of a vintage Jaguar E-Type