Art enthusiasts collect Picassos. Baseball fans collect autographed balls. Shoe collectors, or “sneakerheads,” buy the Nike Air Jordan.
The term sneakerhead refers to a person who collects rare, original or exclusive shoes. Fairhill native Chris Jackson, 32, fits that description. Jackson has been collecting basketball legend Michael Jordan’s Nike Air sneakers for more than 20 years and understands actually purchasing the sneakers in Fairhill can be challenging.
“I have always been a fan of Jordan and his kicks,” Jackson said. “It’s not just about the shoe’s design, it’s the history of Jordan’s career through his shoes that brings back memories of me watching him. I try to collect every pair he wore throughout his career.”
Park’s Shoe Center, located on 2732 Germantown Ave., has trouble obtaining newly released Jordan shoes. Employee June Santana, 28, has worked at the store for years and explained the amount of retro shoes and sizes the store receives from Nike are not at the levels it needs to satisfy their customers.
“Our customers’ shoe sizes are normally over a 10, but we almost always only get sizes 8 through 9 1/2,” Santana said. “We miss out on money we could be making at times.”
Jordan played in the NBA for 16 seasons. Every year Nike released a new pair of Jordan shoes for the upcoming season — which would quickly sell out in most shoe stores. Over time, Nike created a Jordan brand within its company that would become extremely popular; it has grossed over $1 billion dollars in revenue. The company now sells sporting equipment, clothing and various sports’ cleats and shoes.
Nike’s bread and butter has always been releasing retro versions of the original 16 pairs of shoes Jordan wore during his career. However, not all stores — especially ones that are not chains — receive the same shipments and sizes of retro sneakers needed to meet their customers’ demands.
Mike Lee, 28, works at a shoe store on the other side of Germantown Avenue. Lee said chain shoe stores, such as a Footlocker, receive more retro shoes and sizes because they can place a bigger order with Nike.
“A chain store can order more Nike and Jordan apparel and shoes. To get the retro J’s [Jordan sneakers] you have to spend a certain amount,” Lee said. “Non-chain stores usually can’t spend as much so they miss out.”
Lee also acknowledged that Nike ships out a small amount of retro shoes to stores in general to keep its demand and popularity high.
“Nike does a pretty good job keeping the buzz around J’s high and making them hard to get — which makes customers want them even more. Unfortunately, it also can do the same thing for the shoe stores.”