Some folks spend their days hunting for old video games. Others prowl for rare antiques. And then there is the rare breed of collector who will travel the world, wait at stores for hours and spend thousands — yes, thousands — of dollars on sneakers. DJ AM is one of these proud, hard-working sneakerheads.
In a recent episode of HBO's "Entourage," the Los Angeles nightlife fixture (real name: Adam Goldstein) got a chance to show off his sneaker-sniffing skills by beating Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) to the punch when he nabbed the last pair of limited-edition Fukijamas at the Undefeated store in Santa Monica, California. Vince (Adrien Grenier) may have been shocked at the large number of people lining up for the footwear, but according to DJ AM, this kind of thing happens all the time.
"It was pretty realistic," DJ AM said of his TV cameo. "I have definitely waited on line for shoes several times, and I have no problems doing it. If you want them, you want them."
He admitted he once waited three hours for a pair of Nike Air Max 95s that came out exclusively at Niketown in Beverly Hills. "I knew they were very limited and I needed to make sure I got them," he said. "That's one of my favorite shoes of all time. There's hundreds of different colors of the exact same style, but I have almost all of them. And it's tough, because certain colors you can only get in one part of Germany or something. So I waited on line instead of paying a fortune to some kid who was selling them on the Internet."
As for Fukijama, many sneakerheads think the inspiration for his character was a cross between graffiti artists Futura 2000 and Stash, or fashion designer/musician Hiroshi Fujiwara, all of whom have created limited-edition sneakers with Nike. Others have theorized he was loosely based on Japanese designer Nigo, the man behind the line A Bathing Ape.
"The fact that he does that elaborate box with Turtle's name on it shows there's nothing like exclusivity," explained Dee Wells, advertising director for sneaker-junkie magazine Sole Collector. "Sneakerheads want to have something you don't have. It's that children's mentality, like, 'I have ice cream, and you don't. Look what I found, look what I have!' "
DJ AM began collecting sneakers eight years ago, but they first caught his eye when he was a little kid growing up in Philly and his grandmother took him to buy shoes for the first day of school. He saw a pair of Air Jordan 1s and was instantly hooked. "It looked like the Millennium Falcon," he said. "It looked like a toy from 'Star Wars,' and I was begging her. They were $70 and that was unheard of, and she was like, 'Oh no.' "
Later, she got them for him, and from then on amassing sneakers "became a very bad addiction," he said. "I always wanted to [collect] as a kid, but it was very tough. They get expensive. Thank God they're not Jimmy Choos. If I was a girl and I collected shoes, I'd be dead broke."
Sneakers can get pricey, though — especially when you're into hunting down dead stock (sneaker lingo for kicks that are unworn and have never been removed from their box), rare or limited-edition pairs.
Wells has heard of someone shelling out $6,000 for an original pair of Air Jordan 6s that Michael Jordan actually wore in a game when the Bulls won the NBA championship in 1991. "It's like owning a piece of God's clothing," said Wells. "Every sneaker has a story to tell, however big, bad or ugly the experience. Getting the sneakers, or getting disappointed because mom or dad won't get it for you, that makes you want it even more."
DJ AM recalled a recent charity event where dead-stock pairs of Air Jordans, numbers 1-21, were auctioned off for close to half a million dollars. His personal collection currently consists of 600 pairs of sneakers, which he coordinates by style and model. "Some weeks I buy 10 pairs, some weeks I get one, but I definitely get one pair a week. It's all about the vintage ones, the exclusive ones, the quick strikes — and Nike has tons of collaborations with tons of different people and companies."
The DJ said he has paid as much as $3,000 for a pair of dead-stock Air Jordan originals from 1985 with the tags still on them. He surfs eBay and Web sites like VintageKicks.com and hits up message boards on sites such as NikeTalk.com and CrookedTongues.com for the latest sneaker updates. Overseas trips to DJ usually turn into major shopping sprees too. "Records and sneakers are things I've collected forever and ever," said AM. "I work in Japan every Halloween and every time I go there, I go nuts."
Some of his most prized sneakers include two pairs of Nike PlayStation Air Force 1s that were made exclusively for a PlayStation party (Nike only made 200 of them, and they have sold online for up to $3,000), and a pair of Eminem Air Jordan 4s that were made for the release of the rapper's Encore LP. Only 50 pairs of the Eminem Jordans were made; they've sold for close to $7,500.
As for the $20,000 Fukijama gold-leaf sneakers that Vince bought Turtle in "Entourage," DJ AM did get a sneak peek, and they were definitely sizzling hot. "They were amazing," he said. "I was in shock. When I opened the box and saw them, I was like, wow. I figured it would be empty. My reaction was, 'How can I take these? What do I got to do to get 'em?' "
Unfortunately, he didn't get to keep the pair. But DJ AM can always console himself by taking a trip down to his sneaker cellar (dubbed the "ice box") to check out his own extensive collection of dead-stock shoes — or he can slip on his own pair of white DJ AM Air Force 1s that feature his name in graffiti on the heel.