I never thought that sneakers could get you recognition beyond someone giving you a compliment in public when I started collecting them around 15 years ago. I also didn’t know that I’d still be obsessed with shoes in my mid-30s. But here we are now. A lot has changed since I first got into it, though, and some things have stayed the same. I’m no longer buying garish, bright high-tops or willing to shell out a good portion of my paycheck just to compete with other guys on who has the coolest shoes. Through all that, I still love sneakers, even if it feels tiring at times—trying to keep up with the latest trends and release dates can often pass you by without any recollection. It’s just that my appreciation for sneakers has changed as I’ve gotten older.
It’s not a bad time to be an elder footwear connoisseur. The dad sneaker trend is at its plateau, and it’s easier than ever to get away with wearing early-retirement shoes and still look like you’ve got it. At 33 I feel like I’ve hit my 40s at this point; some even think I’m already there. It was never my thing, but there’s no way I’m wearing ripped skinny jeans and high-top Air Jordans. Give me some elastic-waisted shorts and a pair of suede running sneakers and I’m at my best.
The thing about being a sneaker obsessive is that you can never really give it up. A person can’t just transition from owning 300 pairs of shoes to owning a pair or two of sneakers that they wear on the weekends or use to mow the lawn. You’ll always have an innate desire to wear something good on your feet. It’s just that your taste changes over the years. Or maybe it doesn’t for some.
There are plenty of people in their 30s and 40s wearing Air Jordan XIs, Air Max 95s, or any shoe that gives them a glimpse into their teenage years. That will never go out of style, even if they’re paired with stonewash Wrangler jeans that make them look like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. Some look like aged collectors that can’t give up their one true love—like a suburban dad who cranks up the Metallica while giving the ‘83 Mustang a wash to show the kids he’s still got it, much to his wife’s dismay. Out of touch, but a legend in his own mind.
There are also people our age and older who are trying to dress like the youth. It looks painful, uncomfortable, and a sign that they’re focusing their energy in the wrong direction. If you’re 35, camping out for Supreme, or spending a chunk of your income on sneakers at StockX or Stadium Goods, you may want to rethink things. But if it makes you happy, who am I to tell you no? It’s just not for me. I saw the new CEO of StockX wearing an Off-White leather jacket with Off-White x Nike Air Force 1s. It was the real life version of the “How Do You Do Fellow Kids?” meme. A streetwear Arthur Fonzarelli.
The nice thing about being into sneakers and clothes, or whatever we want to call this lifestyle, as we get older is that we start to understand the art of subtlety. You can be a sneaker person and wear a pair of white-and-green Stan Smiths, or New Balance 990s, or Nike Tailwinds. Those aren’t shoes that are going to crank the necks of someone walking down the street, but something that makes you feel good and confident about yourself. That’s part of the reason why a lot of us got into sneakers in the first place.
As we get older, we see the marketing shift, even if ever so slightly, to the growing demographic of old, washed-up sneaker folks. ‘70s runners, which are boring to anyone who bases their opinions around hype, have become cool. The loud, bold designs oof Jordan Brand’s catalog have fallen out of favor almost entirely for the Jordan 1 and Jordan III—shoes you can wear every day. Ripped jeans and leather pants have gone away in place of jeans that fit or a pair of shorts. It’s nice, good living, even some of the youngins have started to take notes from us old guys. Who would have thought you could be cool past the expired-by date? You hate to see it.