I began collecting sneakers my freshman year of college, during the fall of 2001. I had a job, I had disposable income, and I didn’t have to rely on my parents to supply me with money to move around in the streets. I worked at a major retail chain selling shoes, and I was good at it. I could tell you about supination, pronation, gait, and everything else you needed to know about sneakers from both an aesthetic and technical standpoint. I loved and still love shoes, and that was reflected by the kicks that I had in my closet.

You have to understand, things weren’t like they are today. There were no mainstream sneaker blogs and the only time magazines showed love to sneakers were a few pages in SLAM or a fashion feature in your favorite hip-hop mag. Or maybe you got a peep of them in a music video or from a commercial, but that's it. Sneakers weren’t pop culture—they were sub-culture.

That’s how I, and many others like me, stumbled upon Niketalk. We needed more. It was the game changer.

From Niketalk, you discovered that there were more freaks out there just like you. It was like X-Men, and you’d found out there were more mutants amongst the people than you first thought. That was the spawn. The network was there, the inspiration was there, and more importantly, the kicks where there.

Fast forward a few short years to the middle of the decade. The web was blowing up, social media was in its infancy, and a boom of sneaker culture emerged from the depths of the digital world. There were sites like Crooked Tongues, Sole Collector, Superfuture, The Hundreds, and, of course, the behemoth that was Niketalk was still going strong. Brands became increasingly aware of the influence that these sites had on kids who, like I did coming out of high school, had buying power.

There were always collectors, going back as far as sneakers have been around, but now these companies had a vehicle to reach the masses directly. Now, what was once a nuanced, underground street culture had turned into an emerging mass-consumer business with levels to it. Rappers were getting in on the act, becoming brand ambassadors and starting their own clothing lines and sneaker collaborations. Shops had exclusives, and the evolution of the camp-out and release-day madness would soon occur. It would set the tone for the way things are handled a decade later, for better or for worse.