Sneaker Freaker editor Simon "Woody" Wood has enough shoes to last the next decade. So plentiful the Melbournian's supply, that he need not wear the same pair of sneakers twice.
"I did a clear out recently and got rid of a couple of thousand pairs," he says of his hoard, some of which would resale at $10,000 due to brand, model and exclusivity. "It felt good to de-clutter, but I still have thousands."
What started as a stapled fanzine in 2002 to attract free shoes, avalanched into a tri-yearly magazine published in 40 countries. Launched at Revolver nightclub, Sneaker Freaker Issue 1 not only attracted footwear enthusiasts, but incurred media derision: What kind of idiot would start a magazine about sneakers?
An idiot, as it goes, who grew up in Lilydale, a suburb as remote and static as its end of train line location. Who at nine, lusted after adidas Rome, the blue striped white leather shoes. Whose world was upended at 13 by a family holiday to West Coast USA, where he clocked kids wearing Nike shoes and "bugged out" at details such as how they were laced.
A store in Canal Street, New York, a decade later, induced emotional paralysis. During a visit from London, where he worked in a Soho advertising agency as a self-taught graphic designer, a skill he learnt while assembling the student newspaper studying media at RMIT, the twenty-something stood dizzied for two hours.
"I walked in and there were around 40 pairs of Nike Air Force 1 on the wall," he says. "I started sweating. I wanted to buy them all, but purchased one pair. I kept them for decades until the toe had worn through and the heel had gone. They meant so much to me."
Come 2002, London, Berlin and New York sprouted sneaker dedicated stores. Coincidentally, fellow Australian Sandy Bodecker, originally a Nike footwear tester, pioneered its skateboarding division. Within it, he transformed the basketball shoe into the SB Dunk skater shoe; the template for creative and collectible kicks set.
The previous decade saw Michael's Air Jordan signature shoe, Mick Jagger's bouncing Reeboks in "Dancing In The Street", Beastie Boys rocking Adidas Campus, and Forrest Gump in Nike red swoosh Cortez seep into popular culture consciousness — the late Robin Williams an under-the-radar "mad" sneaker fiend.
Yet so broad is the question of who is responsible for the footwear's veneration, Wood spent five years writing the 650-page The Ultimate Sneaker Book to answer it. Chapters traverse Nike's monumental 2011 recreation of the McFly Back To The Future II boot, the history of Vans, sneaker poster design, and a 40-page deconstruction of Kanye West's Yeezy empire.
It's all personal
Celebrity and shoe collaborations like the newly signed adidas Originals deal with Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino though, remain trodden turf for Wood: Sneaker Freaker has designed shoes for Lacoste, adidas, Puma, Diadora and Globe.
Crocodile leather, rubberised calfskin and embellishments the materials of luxe brands, Wood maintains it's important to align your personal style to your shoe.
Case in point the Balenciaga Triple S sneaker, which he says you need to buy into the head-to-toe aesthetics to pull it off — Wood's own inspirations derived from sources ranging from 1990s Face magazines to "weird" hiking shoes to the Mad Max V8 Interceptor.
"Know what you like and stick to it but be open," he advises, on this Tuesday morning, wearing a pair of purple Nike Air Force 1 Low. "Be comfortable and make decisions intuitively. Probably ask your girlfriend as well, as she will have a much better idea of what you should be wearing than you do yourself."
Internationally valued for his expertise — in 2006 he was flown to New York for Nike Air Force 1 25th anniversary party at Gotham Hall, the entertainment, rappers Kanye West, Nas and KRS-One — Wood admits sneakers dominate his life.
"It's hard to think of an area of my life it hasn't taken over," he says. "To make this book, to do this business, it's an obsession. You get immersed. I see it in people who work at stores or at Nike. Sometimes you can feel trapped. But where else would you get exposed to this level of creativity?"
The Ultimate Sneaker Books by Simon Wood is published by Taschen. www.taschen.com