Hip-hop music has a distinctive culture, style and identity.
You only have to walk down the street in any city around the world to find countless people wearing all kinds of sneaker brands. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, New Balance, Converse, DC and more.
There are also numerous websites dedicated to the latest sneakers, with sites like HypeBeast giving consumers an ‘in’ on the latest sneaker trends.
Hyping kicks also adds to the anticipation of releases which can see people queuing up to buy limited edition styles like last year’s Nike Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoons.
But it’s not only those traditional sports labels that are hitting the big time on the casual shoe front. Luxury labels have also been putting their money (and names) where it counts, including Raf Simons' various collaborations with Adidas.
One of those collabs are these sneakers which could only rival the Balenciaga ‘Triple S’ - a hit off the runway in 2017, renowned for their inclusion in the ‘ugly aesthetic’ that has filtered into fashion vocabulary.
Or how about a pair of Valentino ‘Heroes’ which will set you back close to NZ$1200?
DJ Sir-Vere (aka Phil Bell) is an Auckland DJ who owns more than 500 pairs of sneakers.
As a self-described “sneakerhead”, it’s a safe bet that he knows how the industry moves.
Sonia Sly meets DJ Sir-Vere to talk about Sneakerhead culture for RNZ podcast series My Heels Are Killing Me.
Sir-Vere has been collecting sneakers for 25 years. The collection fills two storage units. He could switch pairs once a day and still not wear the same shoe for almost a year.
“Fashion is identity in hip-hop,” he says from a studio at Mai FM in Auckland where he’s just finished his on-air shift.
He’s brought along half a dozen pairs to show me and drags the boxes in a big sack into the studio.
“You couldn’t really look good dancing without cool sneakers on,” he says as he recounts the history around hip-hop culture in New Zealand and what it meant to find your own style back when he launched his career in music two decades ago.
Hip-hop isn’t the only aspect that informs Sir-Vere’s collection, but a love of basketball.
“I choose to collect Jordan's [because they are] the biggest brand in the world apart from Nike.”
Sneakerhead culture is a global phenomenon and collectors will hunt out exclusive, and newly released pairs, including some that may never even hit the pavement.
Regarded as a $55 billion industry, Sir-Vere says the convention Sneaker Con held in New York brings in at least 10,000 people through doors, and Time Magazine reports an estimate of between 10 and 20 thousand styles of kicks on offer.
Sneakers are big business and many collectors will keep their kicks ‘on ice’.
“It means they are untouched [and] also known as dead-stock,” Sir-Vere says.
An unworn pair of sneakers left in their box can fetch far more than the original purchase price, much like many other collectable items.
But there are some exceptions.
“Some people do it because they can’t bring themselves to wear them, which is me on some occasions,” laughs Sir-Vere.
Of his 500 plus pairs of kicks, Sir-Vere has quite a few rare and covetable sneakers including the Air Jordan 11’s known in the scene as ‘the greatest sneaker of all time’ and a pair of retro Jordan 11 Space Jams worn by Michael Jordan in the movie, Space Jam.
Given to him by Nike who was his sponsor at the time, the sneakers have number 45 on the heel - Jordan’s new number when he returned to basketball after retirement.
For those in the know, mystery surrounds the shoe.
Produced as a sample the style was never released and Sir-Vere believes there may be only 20 pairs in existence. While he was lucky to get them for free, today his Jordan 11 Space Jams are worth between US$10,000 to $20,000.
Online magazine HighSnobiety released a story early this year claiming that 2018 is set to be the biggest year for sneaker reselling profits.
Sir-Vere is attuned to the worth of his collection, and would never leave a precious pair in the back of his boot.
Sneaker culture is also big in Asia and capitalising on the popularity, brands tap into the market with unique collaborations.
Sir-Vere also owns a pair of shoes released especially for the Asian market - a collab between Air Jordan and Manga comic Slam Dunk.
The basketball style boots feature a subtle, almost glass-like print from the manga comic across the shoe.
Unlike some collectors, Sir-Vere isn’t super precious about his collection and his shoes have been known to hit the stage and the pavement.
Some people can’t believe he steps out in limited edition styles worth thousands of dollars, but Sir-Vere buys his shoes mainly to be worn.
That said, he also purchased multiple pairs of styles he loves, with at least one pair kept on ice.
Currently, Sir-Vere keeps a handy 100 pairs at home, and every six months he returns them to his storage units, bringing out another 100 pairs.
So is there an end in sight for Sir-Vere’s collection?
“There are at least ten pairs I’ve got my eye on,” he says.
Spoken like a true sneakerhead.
Find out more about DJ Sir-Vere’s sneaker obsession and B-Boy Step One and B-Girl Nossy's hip hop-inspired fashion in this episode of My Heels Are Killing Me.