A sneakerhead is defined as “a sneaker enthusiast,” and freshman Clayton Townsend said he absolutely fits this definition.
Shoe culture has been a part of this freshman’s life since seventh grade.
Townsend said that he, like many of his male middle-school classmates, used to often look online at sneakers that he hoped he would one day own.
But it wasn’t until eight months ago that Townsend made his dream of owning a pair of coveted Jordans a reality.
His first purchase, a ticket into the shoe-culture world, was a pair of 2006 Jordan Grape 5’s, which he bought for $40 (and eventually fixed and sold for $200) with money he saved from Christmas.
Townsend then bought a $150 pair of 2013 Grape 5’s.
The 5’s, whose model was first released in 1990, are white with a dark purple tongue. They have the iconic jumpman logo in an emerald color on the shoe’s tongue and heel. The shoe has a purple-and-black midsole with emerald shark teeth and accents.
Townsend earns all the money he spends on shoes by flipping them. He practices entrepreneurship when he buys and resells sneakers to make a profit, which he then puts towards more shoes for his collection or shoes to resell.
In addition to the 2013 Grape 5’s, Townsend’s Jordan collection includes Cherry 1 Lows, Independence 5’s, Fire Red 5’s, Infrared 6’s, Legend Blue 11’s, Playoff 12’s, and his favorite: the 2007 release of Aqua 8’s, which if deadstock (a sneakerhead term for “never worn”) retail for $500.
He finds all these shoes on eBay, where he “hunts for the best-priced sneakers.”
This hunting process includes extensive research.
“If I see a pair (of shoes) I like, I’ll look up how many were made, when the model was made, how many pairs were released, its average selling price, and whether or not it’s an authentic pair,” Townsend said.
All this research and hunting have made Townsend quite an authority when it comes to differentiating real Jordans from fake ones.
For example, when it came to buying the 5’s, he examined the shoe’s tongue and outline around the signature Jordan logo.
“On a real pair the shoe has a super-fat tongue,” Townsend said.
“But fakes don’t.
“The outline (around the Jordan logo) is also wider than the real pair’s, and a fake has bumpier leather since the machinery doesn’t cut it straight.”
Townsend said he prefers buying his shoes on eBay over other well-known sneaker sites such as Flight Club because the latter are “overpriced and overhyped.”
Along with learning all about shoes, Townsend has also learned a lot of sneaker lingo in the past two years.
Some other terms include “quickstrike” (a pair of Nike Airs that are extremely limited in quantity), “colorway” (a shoe’s color scheme), “retro” (a re-released pair), “OGs” (a pair that isn’t retro or a re-release, but original), and Doernbechers.
Doernbechers, named after the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, are shoes that the children in the hospital design.
Nike visits and lets the kids design their shoes with whatever they want, Townsend said.
The Doernbecher 4’s were a style with the Superman logo on them, so Nike went to DC to get the licensing.
Since Doernbechers are so rare, they end up retailing between $600-$1500, according to Townsend.
Townsend’s Aqua 8’s are OGs. And because of their old age, Townsend is planning on fixing them.
But Townsend isn’t the first to repair shoes either to resell or to keep.
In fact, Townsend got a lot of inspiration from Dominic Chambrone, better known as The Sneaker Surgeon (Chambrone is a self-taught shoemaker famous for his popular shoe customizations), and the 18-year-old YouTuber RetroSnickers, who makes a lot of money from sneaker surgery.
Townsend has “operated” on the 2006 Grape 5’s. A month after buying the shoes, Townsend spent $60 for the necessary supplies for the 5’s midsole swap, which he did by replacing and repainting the midsole.
Townsend poured boiling water over the shoe to remove all the glue, then replaced the crumbled midsole with the new donor and repainted it.
He then sold the shoes on eBay for a $100 profit.
Townsend said his next project is fixing his Aqua 8’s, which need a reglued and repainted sole and re-dyed suede.
Another project Townsend is hoping to complete is a Jordan clock (a clock with Jordan models 1-12 as the numbers).
So far Townsend has 1 o’clock (his Cherry 1 Lows), 5 o’clock (he has several pairs of 5’s to choose from), 6 o’clock (his Infrared 6’s), 8 o’clock(his Aqua 8’s), 9 o’clock (his Statue 9’s), 11 o’clock (his Legend Blue 11’s), and 12 o’clock (his Playoff 12’s).
However, he’s hesitant to buy a pair of Fire Red 4’s to use for his 4 o’clock because of their high asking price on eBay ($230), he said.
So why has Townsend spent over $700 on these shoes and fix-up supplies, along with countless hours researching?
It’s quite simple for Townsend, actually.
“I like being able to say ‘I have something you don’t,’” he said.
And by collecting rare Jordans, he’s able to do just that.
—By Katia Dahmani