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In early editions of the April 21 Style section, the name of sneaker collector Ian Callender was misspelled.

Sole of the Sneakerhead

We Want Your Retro, Hard-to-Find Shoe Styles, The Fanatics Said. So the Companies Ran With It.

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page C01

Ian Callender's parents are upstairs in their charming Mitchellville home; mother in her office, father in the kitchen. Callender is in the basement, which, for today, has been completely pimped out. Jill Scott's lovely falsetto plays in the background, the lights are dimmed to a soft glow. Barry White would be proud.

The wine-colored, crescent-shaped couch is crowded with eight sultry models, all in undergarments that, if woven together, could make a shirt for an 18-month-old. Nestled in the middle is Callender, who isn't smiling. For one, he can't because he's supposed to be giving off a Don Corleone-meets-Don Juan vibe, and two, it's hard to be smiley when your girlfriend is watching from a few feet away.

Ian Callender, 23, has dozens of Nike Dunk SB sneakers in his collection of vintage basketball shoes. Pictured with his babies at his home in Mitchellville, he has parted with some of the shoes on eBay. (Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

The model in the yellow two-piece thingy asks, "So how much are all of these worth?"

"The ones that y'all are holding are about $2,000," Callender says.

Now he smiles.

The models gasp. Callender has posed them holding part of his collection of rare Nike Dunk SBs -- cool sneakers, to you there in wingtips -- as a photographer friend clicks away. Eight pairs of shoes worth $2,000.

Callender is a regular guy, Drexel University grad, good job. But he has a habit. He has amassed a dazzling collection of hard-to-find sneakers, mostly limited-edition Nikes that, if they can be found, might cost $300 to $500 a pair, retail. If he sold them on eBay, he could rake in several thousand dollars, easy.

And he is not alone in his habit. Legions of collectors are standing, zombielike, in the wee hours outside shoe stores, waiting for them to open, mumbling words like "deadstock" and "F.O.T.B." These people, mostly young men, are called sneakerheads. Sneakerheads want one thing: the coolest, rarest sneaker on the market, whether it be Adidas, Bape or Reebok. And right now, that sneaker is the Nike Dunk SB.

In February, a mini riot broke out at a store on New York's Lower East Side as sneakerheads camped out in freezing temperatures for days to get the new SB release, the Pigeon Dunk, for $300 a pair. When the store opened, according to the New York Post, 70 people were in line. Twenty got the shoes, the other 50 got attitudes.

In the age of sneakers with pumps, straps, lights, air bubbles and silver briefcases (the 2002 XVII Air Jordans came in a metallic attache for $200), Nike Dunk SBs are the anti-New Age Nikes. They are what Nike used to be: simple leather sneakers. They are the last Nikes your dad bought when basketball shorts were shorts, not knickerbockers. They are not attached to or endorsed by super athletes, unless you consider Jude Law shelling out $600 for a vintage pair an athletic endorsement. This time around, designs include stars, tie-dye, camouflage, plaid, zebra stripes.

Callender, 23, has been a sneakerhead since 1999, when he bought Nike Air Jordans for $100 while he was in college "trying to find myself." He found himself deep inside his soles. Now he has 60 pairs, half of which are Dunk SBs. Callender loves them all equally. They are his babies.

But what is the attraction? What is it that has sneakerheads standing in lines for hours to get old-looking Nikes with funky zebra stripes?

"To be honest with you, I have no idea," says Callender, a systems engineer. "They're just different."

Non-collectors sometimes look at collectors as odd people, obsessives who hoard oddness. For the collector, they are unabashedly fascinated with the object of desire. They purchase and protect it, even if it means only being able to say they are among the few who possess it.

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