Sole searching with sneaker collector Nam Quan
words: MATTHEW COWAN | photos: BAO ZOAN
How long have you been collecting sneakers?
I started in 2013. I had no idea about clothing brands and sneakers. A friend took me to a sneaker shop where I picked up my first pair. After that I took notice of the sneaker culture, studied about it online and thought it was great, so I started collecting.
What do you collect?
I only collect Air Max, especially the Air Max 1 because it’s a very historical design. It was the first pair of Nike with the bubble heel and the red and white colorway. The originals were released in 1987. To buy a pair you’re looking at US$2,000 to US$3,000.
Have you always been into sneakers?
I didn’t have this lifelong love for sneakers or anything, but one day I just suddenly liked the look of shoes, especially sneakers. I’ve always liked to dress well. I kind of grew up a metrosexual guy who really cared about the way I looked
Explain the attraction to collecting.
I’m a shopaholic. I always want to buy something — that’s one of my problems to be honest! If I want to achieve something, if I want to own something, I work hard to get it. I like to push things, so in terms of collecting sneakers, I have to be full-on with it. I also share information and the histories about the sneakers online for other sneaker heads.
Rumour has it you’ve become a celebrity in the sneaker head space?
I have 13,000 followers on Facebook and 5,000 on Instagram. They message me all the time asking my advice. They will ask to meet me, which is quite funny. I don’t know what to say when they show up, it’s like, ‘Hey guys, any questions or…anything?’ Then they ask questions, usually about the kind of sneakers they want to buy. A lot of the time they say they just want to hear it from me in-person!
How do collectors find out about the release date of a limited edition sneaker?
The sneaker game has become an important part of pop culture and relies on social media. Six months before a release, campaigns will run online to create a buzz. My networks in Bangkok, Singapore and France will also let me know when the next sneaker is coming out and ask if I want to place an order. There’s software now called Sneaker Bot which detects when new sneakers are being released and orders you the pair automatically. It’s worth it because very quickly a highly sought after US$140 pair of sneakers can be resold for US$500.
How many pairs do you have at the moment and do you wear them all?
I only have 27 pairs at the moment, but recently it was up to about 80 pairs. I sold a lot of them. I wear all of them. I have some expensive rare models that I only wear on certain occasions or on certain days when I know I’m not going to beat them up too much. I always have a pair of flip flops with me in case it rains I tend to wear my favourite ones to the movies, when I expect to run into young people who I want to impress. I kind of position myself where I know I’m going to get some feedback.
Are there any scams?
There are a lots. When a shoe has such a high resale value, it’s inevitable that there will be fakes. It’s really hard to differentiate between fake ones and the real ones. We do a ‘legit check’ which involves kids sending me photos of their sneakers to see if they are authentic or not. To be honest, I can’t tell unless I have a real pair in one hand and their pair in the other. That’s how good the fakes are.
Could I unwittingly buy a pair of shoes that are collectible?
No. People know how to research these things online, so they never really make it to the shelves. There would be next to no chance of you unwittingly buying a pair of limited edition shoes, especially in Vietnam because there are no stores here that stock them.
What’s your favourite sneaker right now?
Nike Air Max 1 OG