Sneaker collecting is the hip-hop generation's stamp book.
"I have no idea why people collect stamps, but I don't knock them for it," says Alex Wang of San Jose, creative director for Sole Collector, a bimonthly guide to sneakerhead culture founded in 2003. (Callender was featured in Issue 4, and he hopes that the pics taken in his parents' basement make their way into an upcoming issue. To arrange the shoot, he called a friend, who called a friend, and before he knew it his basement looked like the Playboy Mansion.)
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)
Wang, aka Retrokid, 28, has 600 pairs of sneakers. He is also administrator for an online message board called NikeTalk. Message boards are how sneakerheads find out the most important aspect of their collecting: the drop date.
On a local sneaker release day, it goes like this: Callender gets up around 6 a.m. and treks out to Pitcrew, a skate store in Frederick, 55 miles from his parents' house. "Out there you don't have to stand in line; you can sit in your car," he says. "People know who is first and who is second."
When the store opens, the sneakerheads line up and buy the shoes.
"The only problem is if you want two pairs you have to wait until the line has gone through one complete time," Callender says.
Is Nike brilliant or what?
Here is how they did it:
The original Dunk debuted in 1985 to coincide with Nike's "Be True to Your School" promotion. The company picked eight NCAA Division I college teams -- Iowa, Michigan, Duke, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Syracuse, Villanova, St. John's and Georgetown -- and made Dunks to match their uniforms. (The Georgetown Dunks had "Hoyas" written in block letters.) Over the next two decades Nike morphed sneakers into everything short of astronaut boots.
In 2001, the Nike brain trust created a skateboard division but decided that instead of coming up with a new skateboard shoe straight out of the gate, it would first re-release the classic Dunks, which had been popular with skateboarders in the '80s.
To get skate cred and underground love for the re-release, Nike got major skate companies including Supreme, Zoo York and London DJ Unkle to create patterns for the Dunk. This new breed was christened the Nike Dunk SB (as in skateboard), then offered only at skate shops and boutiques in limited quantities. The suggested retail price was $65, but specialty shops found they could sell them for up to $500.
Most stores get only 20 to 30 pairs, and that's what has fueled the sneakerhead rage.
Kevin Imamura, communications manager for Nike's skateboarding division, says he's not certain how many SB versions have been created, but the Web site shows about 65. "We release stuff all the time," Imamura says. "That's a part of the surprise."
"The Pigeon Dunk was only sold in New York," Wang says, "and if you live in L.A., you couldn't get them unless you knew someone that was going to stand outside for hours. If you wanted them, you had to pay markup."