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9 Sep, 2009 09:25

“Compulsive sneaker disorder” persists in NY despite crisis

Despite the recession, sneaker lovers in New York have not lost their passion for the footwear and continue to spend thousands.

While for athletes, sneakers are essential footwear, for diehard collectors the sporty rubber soles are an obsession.

Alex Smith is a self-described sneakerhead from New York. With roughly 130 pairs, his cluttered closet is his personal temple to the sneaker.

“I just love it. It’s kind of like a sense of accomplishment I get when I come in here,” he said.

Smith estimates his collection to be worth $10,000. His biggest purchase is custom made Nike I.D’s for $820.

“Everybody will just stop and stare… They do a double take or ask me where I got them from,” Alex says.

Bragging rights and a thirst for individuality, Smith is an emblem for New York City’s sneaker culture.

Footwear fanatics are searching and spending endlessly – despite the recession – just to land the latest limited pair of rubber soles.

True sneakerheads feed their addiction at exclusive boutiques where, from the outside, you can barely even tell there’s a shop inside.

Accessing the so-called gentlemen’s club, you’ll find exclusive styles displayed like museum pieces, standing atop mahogany shelves or behind glass cases, with prices topping one thousand dollars.

“It’s about art. It’s about passion. It’s about history. It’s about nostalgia. All different walks of life coming together in one soul, the bottom of one shoe,” said Chris Vidal, manager at Alife Rivington Club.

He said while impulse buying has slowed, the register keeps on ringing.

The collectible kicks championed by basketball player Michael Jordan are credited for originally spawning the sneakerhead phenomenon. Nike is the Manolo Blahnik of the sportsman’s footwear fetish.

“Yeah I think my top was 483. I call it CSD: Compulsive sneaker disorder!” Vidal said.

While most worry about losing the shirt off their back, for sneakerheads success lies in keeping their feet exclusively covered.