When foamposite sneakers first came out in 1997, Chris Barnett wanted a pair badly. The molded design was considered an innovation and the latest in street fashion. Unfortunately, the shoes sold for about $180 a pair.
“My grandpa and my mom were like there’s no way I’m spending that much money on a sneaker,” he recalls.
These days, Barnett, 30, spends as much of his own money as he wants on sneakers, and he’s not alone in his fondness for upper-end athletic footwear. Barnett expects hundreds of “sneaker heads” to show up for Sole Purpose, a sneaker convention he’s organized Saturday at Abode Venue.
“I have attended one (sneaker convention) before, a couple years ago,” he said. “It wasn’t to this magnitude.”
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Sixteen vendor tables have been rented for the event. Some people will be selling shoes, some will be trading them, and some will just be showing off their personal collections.
“I’m going to display, but if the price is right, I’ll sell or trade,” said Alajae Allen, a Wichita resident who says he’s been into sneakers about five years and now owns about 50 pairs. “It doesn’t really matter. It’s something to do.”
Like many collectors, Allen wears some of his sneakers and keeps others in mint condition. Even used sneakers can be traded if they’re not too worn. “I wear them, but not too often,” Allen said.
His personal favorites: a pair of Black Cement Nike Air Jordan 3’s.
Another participant is Andy Kim, who owns Mathematics, a men’s clothing store, along with his bother, Minh Ho. Although Mathematics doesn’t currently sell sneakers, “they kind of go hand-in-hand with” with the street fashions the store carries, Kim said. “We’ve always been about shoes.”
Kim said he owns about 45 pairs of shoes; his brother “probably has like 150.”
“I think what it really is, you get so attached to a pair of shoes. Sometimes it’s quality. Sometimes it’s rarity. It’s like an action figure.”
Kim plans to display his boutique’s clothes alongside the family’s personal collection of shoes. In his opinion, the hottest sneakers right now are “any (Nike Air) Jordan 11’s.”
As a retailer, Kim is interested in how the shoe resale market operates. As he describes it, Nike sells its shoes in limited quantities, knowing they are going to rise in value – perhaps as a way of keeping the brand hot years after its most famous endorser, Michael Jordan, last scored a basket.
“It’s a really underground market that Nike is well aware of,” he said.
He predicts Sole Purpose will catch on.
“Other cities, like Oklahoma City, have these annually, and they’re real popular. I know people from Wichita who go to Kansas City for things like this, people that don’t even wear them.”
Barnett got his first pair of nice sneakers, a pair of Air Jordans, in 1990. “I have a picture somewhere of me in those sneakers,” he said. “When I was deep into my Jordan phase, I had like 63 pairs of them.”
He “fell out of love” with the Jordan line a couple years ago, though as a sneaker connoisseur he still keeps up with it. Today, he’s more into shoes endorsed by LeBron James and Penny Hardaway.
The most expensive of all may be a pair endorsed by entertainer Kanye West, which retailed for about $250. “Now, to resell that shoe, is like $5,000,” Barnett said.
Barnett expects at least one pair of Wests at the show. Another highlight, he said, should be a display by members of an Oklahoma City group called the OK Soles.
“They have a ton of Kevin Durant sneakers,” he said, referring to shoes endorsed by the Oklahoma Thunder NBA team star. “Every person in the group has a favorite line they go after. When they come together, it’s a really amazing display.”
Barnett, who works for the Sedgwick County Health Department, is promoting the convention along with fellow members of The CRWN marketing group. In addition to sneakers, the event will feature on-site hair cutting by Incision Premium Barbershop and music from DJ Carbon and hip hop artists Kyle Aaron and XV.