Everyone remembers their first love. You remember everything about them. From the feeling you got the first time you met to the excitement and nervousness of your first date. You remember everything. Each moment acting as a check point in the story that is your life. Your first movie. Your first dance. Your first kiss. Your first… well, you know. You remember the names of those involved. What they wore. How they smelled. Where you were. These are the important memories you have locked inside the time capsule of your mind. And for a sneakerhead and their first shoe there’s no difference (Well, there is unless you take your shoes out on dinner dates and bring them back home to… well, you know. It’s 2014 and I’ve seen crazier things on the internet).
I remember my first shoe, the black and red Air Jordan 12 – dubbed “Flu Game.” Up until this point I was used to going to Payless or K-Mart (do they still exist?) and getting whatever off brand shoe looked closest to the coolest looking Nike shoe at that time. I would think to myself “From a distance and if someone were squinting could these pass as Jordans?” And if that weren’t bad enough I had a cousin, Chene, who had every pair of every shoe. Dude was like 8 years old rocking player exclusives. I probably wouldn’t have been tormented as much if it weren’t for the fact that we were in the same grade and going to the same school. It got to the point where I started to wonder if he was Phil Knight’s secret love child and instead of paying child support Mr. Knight would just drop off a pair of shoes every week.
Things reached the ultimate worse when in the 7th grade I had a pair of Pro-Wings (you know, the shoes old people wear when they power walk in the early hours of the morning at the local mall because they’re cheap and they’ve reached the age where you no longer care about what looks good as long as it helps ease the arthritis. Yeah those shoes.) and I used whiteout to cover the logo and hand drew Nike check marks in their place. I somehow made it through the entire school day without my classmates noticing (NOTE: this is before kids got soft and parents decided to bully proof everything, so things could’ve gotten real bad, real quick for me). It wasn’t until during our basketball game later that night that someone noticed. I played power forward and I was posting up, and right when I was making my move to shoot a fadeaway jumper a group of kids in the stands starting pointing at my feet. As I’m spinning into my fadeaway a kid points and yells out “Heeeyyy, look at that guys shoes. He drew those on there.” That’s when the sudden realization that “being poor sucked” hit my consciousness (later I found out that it wasn’t so much me being poor as it was my family being flagrantly cheap). But, as much humiliation and embarrassment I found myself in that day the basketball gods were in the process of doing me a huge favor.
In the fall of 1997, my Aunt Juanita and I were headed to Eastland Mall on Detroit’s northeast side. Sports was a way that I was at least guaranteed a pair of new shoes each season. But this time things were different. Over the summer I had went from a shoe size 13 to a size 15. It would be the first and last time I would find joy when I would go to a store and they didn’t have what I needed. The K-marts (seriously, are they still around?) and Payless’ of the world didn’t go up to a size 15. This meant that my family would have to quit acting like poor peasants and cough up some dough for my new kicks. We went to every shoe store in the mall, finding nothing in my size, before finally stopping at the last one, Footlocker. My aunt asks the saleslady to bring out every basketball shoe they had in my size. I remember this moment distinctly. The lady comes out with 5 boxes and places them on a bench. I open up the first four boxes, NOTHING. And then I came to the fifth box. Now this is before Jordan Brand had their own specific box and Jordans came in the black Nike box with the red lid but for some reason I knew this box was special.
I took my time opening the box the same way Charlie slowly unwrapped that Wonka chocolate bar. But instead of finding a golden ticket I found something better, my first love. The black and red Air Jordan 12’s. I swear to this day that the lights dimmed in the store and a heavenly light shined from the box as I opened it. I think I saw a dove fly by and I swear Diddy (no wait, this is based in ’97. He still went by Puff Daddy then)……ok, Puffy was dancing in the corner with a reflective suit going “Take that, take that, take that.” That part is still kinda fuzzy but what I do know is that I was in love. I tried on the shoe. LIKE A GLOVE!!! (In my Ace Ventura voice). Got to the register and that’s when it seemed as if fate was going to once again “c” block. “$159.00”, said the saleslady. My aunt gave her a look. “Put them back, I’m not paying that much for a pair of shoes”. That’s when I started praying like crazy and it worked. Whether she did it because she needed the commission or because she genuinely felt sorry for me, the saleslady began to work my aunt. She sells her on the idea that more money meant better quality which in turn would save her money in the long run. I’m like, “Ain’t no way she’s gonna buy—“. “Okay, I’ll buy them this time but next time you’re getting something cheaper.”
I couldn’t wait to get home and show off my new girlfriend. I couldn’t wait to go to school and show her off to my classmates and to my Nike sponsored cousin. I had the hottest girl in the room with me (technically so did 3 other of my classmates but this is my story). That’s how most sneakerheads feel when they get their first shoe. The black and red 12’s aren’t necessarily the greatest looking shoe. I’ve purchased better looking shoes since then but they’ve remained my sentimental favorites. No matter how many shoes I own in my collection it still feels incomplete without them in my closet. It’s the same with your first real love. You might date better looking people but they’ll never replace that sentimental parking spot reserved for your first love.
Most sneakerheads have a pretty good idea of the value of each shoe that comes out but that one shoe, their first, holds more nostalgic importance to them than any other. That one shoe sparked their love of sneakers. It has become the foundation of their passion as well as their collection. No matter what the average value is for that shoe on the market, it holds at least twice that much sentimental value with you. It’s like a family photo. You’re not going to see my family photo’s just as priceless as your own family photo. To each their own they say. No matter the shoe, we can all relate to that feeling of your first love. The day you became a sneakerhead. Tell us below, what was your first love?