Spungie demonstrates by walking over to a shoe. “Before the Internet craze, when kids would walk into a store and see something, they’d be like, ‘Holy shit! What the fuck is that? Oh my God!’” He calls over to invisible friends. “‘You see this, dawg? How much is this?’” He puts the shoe back on the shelf. “Now it’s like, kids walk in and they be like, ‘I seen that. They want $240 on blahdy-blah Web site. That’s cool that they have it, but whatever.’”
Three weeks ago, sneakerheads camped outside Concepts for the chance to spend $300 on Nike’s “Defining Moments Package,” a two-pack limited-release reissue of Air Jordans VI and XI that was publicized on sneaker blogs.
“It was a mess,” says Concepts’s Point, who describes his regulars as “hood dudes” who are “unemployed and get their money whatever way.” Now, “everybody’s hearing about this kind of thing now, so it’s a big thing for everybody to get involved with. Whereas before, it was something that only a select few people do.”
Sneakerheads are widely considered educated consumers, able to name-drop the history, background, and designer of a particular shoe. But burgeoning popularity tends to breed ignorance. “People that have no idea what they’re talking about and they’ll come in and ask for a rare, exclusive sneaker and I’m like, ‘What the fuck? Did you just come out of a time capsule? Those came out four years ago,’” says Point. “Or like when [The] Game rapped about having a pair of Air Max 95s [in “To Love It Or Hate It”], I had three kids come in and ask me for a pair and they were standing right in front of five different Air Maxes. I’m like, ‘You’re standing right in front of them — pick a color, stupid.’”
The ex-con sneaker scribbler
Yellow, white, and navy Adidas Ozwegos. Those were the sneakers Rob Heppler had on his feet when the then-18-year-old stabbed a stranger in the face 13 times, slit his throat, stole his wallet, ran off with his car, and left the man to die in the woods.
It was a messy situation, full of complicated moral gray areas, that drove Heppler nearly to murder another man in 1998. Crunked out from a week of drinking and swallowing pills, the trashed teenager nearly passed out at his older cousin’s Northeastern University graduation party when a 36-year-old guy offered him a ride home. Heppler doesn’t remember going with the stranger, but he does recall waking up drunk at 4 am in the dude’s car, and says the guy put his hand down his pants. “I quickly removed his hand and let him know I wasn’t gay.” When the man brought Heppler back to his place, Heppler says he fled into the woods to hitchhike and the man followed him. So the 18-year-old pulled out a weapon and attacked him. Again and again.
Heppler was paroled in 2002. A charismatic, quick-witted blunt-talker who says that in jail “my personality kept me safe,” the dark-haired ex-con landed a Web-support job after he got out. “I spend all day with the Internet in front of me. So when I got sick of using it for porn, I was like, ‘What else can I look up on here?’” he says, half-kidding. He found sneakers. “Then it was, ‘Oh wow, there’s another level of coolness that they don’t really advertise or tell you about.’ And I just got deeper and deeper.”