During my first semester of graduate school at the University of Delaware, I made the curious decision to deliver a lecture on the cultural importance of the adidas Mutombo. My musings, since published in Sneaker Freaker, required innovative research. I had a pair tested in a conservation lab to ascertain each and every material used and spent hours pouring through Sports Illustrated microfilm. (This all happened before widespread digitization).

While these steps were useful in establishing concrete facts about the shoe, I needed narrative. I needed an expert. I needed advice from Russ Bengtson.

A UD alum himself, Bengtson answered a wide range of questions with deft wit and uncanny critical acumen. Unlike other self-proclaimed "sneaker experts," Bengtson's understanding of cultural context extends beyond the odd rap cover or lyrical reference. He champions technological innovation and boasts an archive of truly important footwear. He understands exactly what it is to be a connoisseur. (For the record, most "sneaker experts" haven't a fucking clue).

Mr. Bengtson no longer owns a pair of Mutombos [Yes I do! Er, somewhere. —RB] . He does, however, have 25 really cool pairs of shoes in his office. Today is also his birthday. —NICK SCHONBERGER