The original Air Jordan III released when I was 16, and there was no sneaker I’d ever wanted more in my life. At the time I was trying out for my high school volleyball team, and I actually went to the coach to find out whether the black Jordan IIIs would be acceptable on-court wear. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about—I didn’t make the team and I didn’t even get the shoes (bought IIs on clearance for $70 instead)—but at least I had my priorities straight.
Twenty-seven years later, I’m standing in the parking lot of a suburban Long Island thrift store, a lightly worn pair of the last black/cement Jordan III retros in a brown paper bag with some other soon-to-be cast-offs, looking into the back of an unattended box truck. Am I really going to put these in there? I didn’t, actually, mainly because just anyone could have grabbed them right back out.
Don’t keep a pair of sneakers just because you feel like you have to own a pair.
And, after going inside and seeing some of their pricing—like $50 for a worn Landry Fields Knicks swingman jersey — I was happy I didn’t. I wound up taking them to the Salvation Army down the block instead. I’d tell you exactly which one, but this was weeks ago. They’re long gone by now, assuming they even made it to the sales racks.
Why would I do this? There were a number of reasons, not the least of which was the thought of how excited someone would be to find a pair of “grails” at a thrift store. I know that feeling. Back in the early ‘90s I got my first pair of Air Jordan 1s at a thrift store in Delaware.
Later, at a different thrift store in the same area, I found a pair of Bordeaux VIIs. The Bordeauxs are long gone, but the 1s are still around, somewhere in the new SLAM offices. They were a parting gift of sorts to the old office when I left back in 2004. Hopefully they stay there forever.
There was more to it than just that, though. Because while I still appreciate the III’s design and history, I just wasn’t wearing them that much anymore. Part of it was the Jumpman on the back in place of the proper “Nike Air” that was on the 1994 retros, which I wore to death. Part of it was the plastic-y feel of the tongue and oversoft tumbled leather, neither of which felt right. Maybe when the IIIs are eventually remastered I’ll fall back in love. This pair, though? The feeling wasn’t there. I wasn’t wearing them, and surely someone else would.
Which leads to a larger truth: Don’t keep a pair of sneakers, or buy a pair of sneakers, just because you feel like you have to own a pair. Because you really don’t. There are countless pairs of “must-have” sneakers that I, in fact, don’t have. Does this make me any less of an aficionado? I don’t think so. Maybe my collection is fundamentally incomplete—”oh my God, you don’t have __________?” — but I’m perfectly OK with that.
There was definitely a time where I felt like I needed to own every single numbered Jordan if I was a REAL sneaker guy. But that was before releases were an everyday thing, before I had to rent a storage unit, before I set a self-imposed (and, OK, girlfriend-imposed) limit on how many pairs I could keep in the apartment. I can certainly appreciate a sneaker without owning it.
And if I DO decide I need to own a pair, well, I can always hit up the local thrift stores. Sometimes, I hear, people donate gems.