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By Led Black

Sneaker_fiend My life-long addiction to sneakers began innocently enough with Kangaroos.  You remember Roos; those were the sneakers that had a pocket with a zipper on the side.  My friends and I would keep a dollar in there just in case you had to buy a slice or some lemonheads or something, but the first sneaker that really made an impression on me was the Adidas Shelltop.  My brother, who is ten years my senior, had a pair with the blue stripes.  Those sneakers were about 50 bucks, which at the time was a whole lot of loot.  They were so beautiful, a work of art in footwear form.  My brother hardly wore his new expensive kicks with the fat shoelaces.  I remember one day my mother was in my brother’s room watching her Novelas (Spanish language soap-operas) when I decided to make my move.  While my mom was engrossed with her show I took the opportunity to deface my brother sneakers with a magic marker.  I still don’t know why I did it.  Was it jealously because I couldn’t have those beautiful sneakers or revenge because my brother was a big bully?  Well anyway, when the shit hit the fan I blamed my cousins instead of owning up to it.  Let me tell you, my cousins got the beating of a lifetime.  They still, to this day, remind me of the beat down they received at the hands of my uncle.

Once I hit Junior High, P.S. 143 in Washington Heights, I was a full-fledged sneaker addict.  My mom knew how important sneakers were to me, so even though she couldn’t buy me new clothes all the time, she kept my sneaker game tight.  She enabled my habit by buying me a new pair of kicks every few months.  I started to get recognition for my kicks and I was hooked.  I remember I was the first kid in school who had the blue Air Revolutions as well as the blue and orange Patrick Ewing kicks.  The Ewing’s eventually got stolen from my locker at the High Bridge Public pool – so I in turn, stole some other poor unfortunate soul’s sneakers so I wouldn’t have to walk home barefoot. The one sneaker from that era I wish I could get my hands on again is the special edition Run-DMC snakeskin Adidas shoe.  They were so hot, I was the only cat in my whole hood to have those.

In 1988, my addiction took a turn for the worse.  That was the year that the Air Jordan III came out.  My life would never be the same again.  Those were the hottest kicks I had ever seen.  Words could not describe how I felt the moment I saw those shoes.  From that point on, Air Jordan’s would become my sneaker of choice. Jordan’s are the sneaker par excellence.  In almost every old picture I have of myself I‘m wearing Jordan’s.  I can still recall waiting in front of Foot Locker, with the other sneaker fiends, for it to open to get my fix on.  You see, a lot of times if you don’t get your Jordan’s on the release date you might not be able to get them at all.  You know I wasn’t having that. 

As I entered adulthood I was still a sneaker fiend, even more so, because I was able to pay for my habit.  I have about 12 pairs of Jordan’s, still in the box, in my closet.  I only wear them on special occasions.  The thing for sneaker fiends is that we live for “The Nod”.  “The Nod” is when someone on the street has to take a quick look at your sneakers because they can’t believe you have those kicks on brand new.  It’s a subtle way of acknowledging your sneaker prowess.  That’s what it is all about, that is the source of our high.  Now that I’m a grown ass man with a family and a mortgage hanging over my head, I can no longer afford to keep buying Jordan’s.  That’s okay though because I got my stash.  My sneaker game is still tight.

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  1. Reply
    a savage just like you...

    yo… u painted a pitcure clear enuff to keep resonating in my head.. great write.. good to see originality and skill are still a respected artform… keep up the good work…

  2. Reply

    Led, One of the reasons I look forward to reading your pieces is because it always hits home. Maybe you should think about writing the memoires of a second generation Dominican in NY!!! Your book can turn into a sitcom and you will be the next Seinfeld. You never know!!!! Take care.

  3. Reply

    Damn…reading about those ADIDAS shell tops with fat laces took me back to the old days. The days of colored Lee jeans, wind breaker jackets, Kangols and gazelle glasses. Man, I miss those times. As always my Brother….great writing.

  4. Reply
    Joanny G.

    Damn Leo,
    You be laying shit down. I can relate because I too was recognized for my kicks, and I loved every minute of it.

  5. Reply

    I really liked this piece! As usual you have an uncanny way of bringing us back to our childhood! Now I understand why my ex’s had so many damn sneakers!

  6. Reply

    thse are a sweet pair of Nike Air Force 1’s, and the nubuck / leather combination works well. Looks like Carolina Blue in the photo, as far as I can tell.

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