The loudest voices in the sneaker community mostly yell lyrics about “The Hustle” and about how hard they are, and periodically pull quotes from The Wolf of Wall Street, Scarface, and Goodfellas. Fuck you, pay me. It’s all about the hustle. Making sure my money’s right.
They preach a priority of financial security. And I’m not in the choir.
If I’m going to be honest, I’ve skipped meals for shoes.
I’ve had my phone turned off. I’ve paid rent really, really late. I’ve bought Wendy’s with change my roommate left in the living room. And I’ve gone to bed hungry. All to make sure I got laced correctly.
My money wasn’t right. It wasn’t right at all. I decided to take some time away from working, so my income was thin. But any intelligent person would have made the choice to prioritize food over sneakers. I made the other choice.
But any intelligent person would have made the choice to prioritize food over sneakers. I made the other choice.
When I wanted something, I had to figure out how to get it. I’m not one of those people who's been working since before they hit puberty, but I’ve been working the system for that long. Whether it was through manipulation, coercion, or earning a few quick bucks, I figured out how to get what I wanted. It usually involved sacrifices and made me a scrappy guy.
That's why I hate most sneaker releases. I hate that stores and brands operate on such a short release schedule that we don’t see or hear about the shoe until it’s nearly being released. I understand the strategy behind it: I used to help plan these strategies when I ran retail operations. But for someone who is trying to budget for a release it’s a nightmare. If you hear that a double pack of shoes is coming out in two weeks, you’re automatically out $800 (because obviously you need 2 pairs each). Come up with $800 in two weeks without making any budget cuts. I dare you.
Sometimes I look at my wall of sneakers and remember those times that I skipped going out or think about what it would be like to have cable. My Yeezys are mad worn, but I could still go on a vacation with the money I’d make from selling them. I have at least 10 pairs of shoes that are worth $400 each that I’ve never worn once. I could let all those go and live a much more comfortable life. But I’m not sure it’s worth it.
I learned how to justify anything to anyone, and justify anything to myself. And there is solid logic behind my choice. I should tell you that shoes are not as important as making sure you’re well fed through the weekend, or as important as paying your cell phone bill on time, or keeping your landlord off your back. But the way that I’ve worked it out is that it’s cheaper to pay a late payment fee to AT&T than to pay resale for a pair of collabs. If I wait until my paycheck, I’ll have to buy at resale price and lose $150. One choice is pride, the other is financial stupidity. Right? Or am I lying to myself? I honestly can’t tell anymore.
I’ve found that a pair sits on my shelf longer than someone remembers the delinquency required to obtain it. AT&T forgives that late payment if you get it in during the right window, but Nike.com won’t forgive you if you try to swing by a week later for them Js. They’re already gone. And when I look at my shelves, I don’t remember what it was like eating Popeyes four times the week those Liquid Gold Lunar Force 1s dropped, but I will remember what it’s like to wear them.
Sneakers have always been a distraction. I once left one of my best friends alone in a movie to try to buy a pair of shoes on my phone (the reception was terribad and I missed out). I’ve turned down dates with solid 9s based on crappy footwear. I’ve left work for a 45 minute “trip to Duane Reade” to catch a quickstrike at 21Mercer. These are distractions, and have gotten in the way, but they’ve never led to getting my phone shut off.
I’ve made shitty decisions in the sneaker world, and will continue to toe the line between responsible and desperate. My situation has changed completely from when I was choosing between Js and a sandwich, but the scrappy guy that lives inside of me is always ready to tap in.
Please don't do what I do. It's dumb, and if you have the capacity to feel shame you'll feel it. What I do represents an unhealthy relationship with identity, money, and consumerism. Personally, I'd rather bear this cross than another, because I look pretty dope doing it, but it's not sustainable. It's immature and unsophisticated, but it's the hand I have now, and I'm playing it.
Pete Forester is eating shitty dinners this week and skipping out of work just so he can get those murdered out Qasas. He cannot wait to hear all the different ways you’re going to call him lame and childish. He’s on Twitter @Pete_Forester, if you want to tell him to his face.