My dad has told me all my life that “you can never have too much money or too many books.” I agree, but plenty of people out there would include sneakers on that list as well.
I own a lot of sneakers. To most normal people, I probably have too many.
I’ve waited with bated breath to enter my credit card information for an impossible-to-cop release, and I’ve revisited pairs that flew under the radar, finding them for under retail long after the brand or sneaker stores put them on clearance.
Sometimes the pursuit is what comes to define a pair. Other times, it’s the journey of wearing them into the ground until they’re little more than a scrap of leather glued to a rubber sole. The feeling of buying sneakers can become as addictive as a drug if you let it. I think we’ve all gone through a phase at some point: draining half a paycheck on multiple new pairs, arriving home after a long day at work to see three (or four, or five…) packages at our doorsteps waiting to be opened.
But like any high, there’s something to be said for moderation. Noted collectors and YouTubers have recently stated their intentions to offload their enormous sneaker stockpiles for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s to help pay the bills, to save for something bigger, or just to resist the materialistic feeling of simply having too many, people who have made a name—and in some cases, a career—off the hobby are deciding that now is the right time to let go.
We live in a time when Marie Kondo and her mystical methods of decluttering have become the model for anyone treading through a backlog of antiques and childhood possessions. Whether you choose to abide by her stringent regulations regarding what makes the cut, there’s a pretty compelling case to cut down your sneaker collection, you just have to find it for yourself. This is less a matter of setting up proper storage and more about finding the right mindset to maintain a minimalist sneaker rotation. For anyone used to cycling through dozens of pairs, it takes some convincing.
Take it from me. A couple of years ago, I made an effort to never wear the same pair twice a week, a lifestyle that begged for a constant influx of new shoes. At first, that may seem like a world of endless possibilities, but it often resembles an illusion of choice. Having dozens or hundreds to pick from each day can be daunting, as the paradox of choice suggests, it’s easier to pick a number between 1 and 10 than it is to choose one between 1 and 100. Sneaker brands aren’t going to be producing less products any time soon, but there’s nothing stopping consumers with being more picky when it comes to spending.
This mentality not only applies to deciding which ones to get rid of, but also to the sneakers that I actually wear. My stable has recently whittled its way down to just a handful of pairs that receive week-in, week-out wear. These broken-in and worn down shoes provide the foundation to my daily routine while other, newer pairs play host to a thin layer of dust as they wait on my shelves: a stark contrast to my previous habits.
Surprisingly, rather than feeling constricted by this newfound rotation of three or four, I am liberated from the mental gymnastics brought on by taking stock of which pair to wear and the consuming feeling that my room is progressively closing in on me.
That liberation has brought peace to my weekends as well. You don’t know freedom until you can wake up on Saturday morning without the the strain of committing the mental energy and real money for sneakers that, let’s face it, won’t be worn more than ten times. This represents the core problem with maintaining enormous collections: an inevitable inclination toward a chosen few.
Those choices don’t even have to qualify as your “favorite” pairs either. In my experience, the upper echelon, grail-level pairs aren’t the ones that stick with you longest. It’s the ones you can depend on that go the distance, that you throw in your bag for vacation on a whim and end up wearing every day. For me, the reliability of some Chuck Taylor ’70s, Vans Slip-ons and some monochrome Flyknit Racers have rendered a good portion of my sneaker collection obsolete.
In the past few months, they’ve unintentionally found their way into a majority of my days, offering the simplicity to work with pretty much any outfit I pick out in the morning. In a sneaker world where it can be tempting to buy a new pair every week, those have kept me from overloading my already cramped apartment. This distinction quickly becomes a blessing as just a few months worth of cutting back brings unheard of benefits to both your wallet and your well-being. The choice of what to do with your newfound sneaker savings is yours to make, but try to spend it on something other than footwear for once.
Through all of this—collections large or small—it’s important to remember than sneakers are a conduit for self-expression. Every day brings another opportunity to channel ourselves through our footwear. As I’ve found myself becoming predictable, I’ve embraced a philosophy of reliability, of investment in the things around me rather than what’s on my feet that day.
It seems there’s a reason my dad left sneakers off that list.
Now, check out our recap of the best sneakers of 2019 (so far).