How sneaker lovers get their kicks

One step ahead: Supawat Attrapreyangkul, a 32-year-old sneaker collector.

It was once said that "good shoes take you to good places". What makes a good shoe could be its durability, comfort or, by some people's criteria, its rarity. Nowadays, the latter is what drives sneaker collectors to wait in line for three days just to get their hands on a special pair.

Running shoes are now treated as highly coveted collectors' items. In January 2015, a lengthy line-up of sneaker lovers gathered at Siam Square in Bangkok to purchase the NMD, a limited edition of Adidas sneakers, marking the start of the shoe craze sweeping Thailand.

Social media has helped sneaker lovers come together in Thailand. Facebook group Adidas Market Thailand has over 200,000 members who flaunt their sneaker collection or gush over the latest trends. Another group, Sneaker Party Thailand, has around 48,000 members. Occasionally, these groups organise events and parties to show off their hip kicks in real life.

PHOTO: Kritini U-dompol

The Chiang Mai Sneaker Festival was held last month, marking the first major sneaker fan gathering in northern Thailand. Generally, these events are hosted in central provinces, mainly Bangkok.

The event brought together sneaker lovers to trade and exchange their collectibles while offering glimpses of some rare, valuable editions that are hard to find in regular stores.

Most attendees showed up sporting oversized T-shirts, ripped jeans and, naturally, the most trendy running shoes.

Brunch met Supawat "Fong" Attrapreyangkul, a 32-year-old sneaker collector whose collection is valued at around 2 million baht. Supawat was an organiser at the Chiang Mai festival.

While the original price of a pair of shoes can cost only a couple thousand baht, Supawat says: "People are willing to pay more for resale versions because they are limited in number. They want to show off that they have something unique and different from other people."

While most people make a standard visit to the shoe store for a pair of runners, collectors go on hunts for the most unique editions, often rummaging through dead stock. The shoe's value depends on its rarity.

"Some designs are produced in limited numbers, motivating people to buy a pair for their collection regardless of how absurd the price is," says Supawat.

Inspired by Back to the Future, the Nike Air Mag 2011 is one such example of a much hyped shoe that's hard to find. When it was launched six years ago, the original retail price was around 85,000 baht. Now, the same pair is worth over 300,000 baht.

Another example is the Adidas Yeezy Boot from Kanye West's 2015 collection. Its original retail price was 8,690 baht. Now, collectors could pay up to 80,000 baht for a pair.

pairs to spare: Japanese-Thai Yuya, right, a sneaker reseller.

Supawat says investing in shoes is a profitable business: "It's not difficult for me to decide to invest 20,000 baht in a pair of sneakers, knowing that the price can double in a couple of months."

Savvy marketing schemes have helped stir up hype over the launch of new sneakers. One such example was the launch of the Adidas Yeezy V2 Zebra last February in Thailand.

A casual trip to the shoe store is no longer what it takes for sneaker fans to sate their addiction. With the Yeezy launch, they >> >> had to make an online booking one day in advance. The company then picked 50 names from a draw, selling one pair of Adidas Yeezy V2 Zebra to each fan.

Those 50 lucky fans then came to the designated store the next day and purchased the shoes in person. The original retail price was 8,690 baht.

After that, the rule of supply and demand induced a spike in value. The resale price of the Adidas Yeezy V2 has now risen to over 50,000 baht.

"This does not make sense for people who have no interest in the trend. It's only for the collectors, who capitalise on the rarity of the shoes and respond to unique marketing techniques that create hype," said Supawat.

Yuya, a Japanese-Thai, is a reseller from the Chiang Mai festival. He rocked a ripped T-shirt and distressed jeans from brand name Fear of God, or FOG, famously worn by Justin Bieber.

Yuya says the sneaker hype only came to Thailand a couple years ago, even though it's been present for several years now in places like the United States and Japan.

PHOTO: Kritini U-dompol

"Thais are slightly behind the trend. But it is the beginning of the sneaker era in Thailand now," he said.

"People who are not into sneakers may think that it's ridiculous. But people like to dress like their idols such as Kanye West and Justin Bieber. So they are willing to pay whatever amount to look like these celebrities. It's led to a sneaker craze in Thailand."

For some young Thais, shoes are just there to protect your feet.

College student Nichanun Punyachareon says: "Good shoes for me are whatever is wearable and comfortable at a suitable price."

Wachirawong Wongtanaboon, another college student, recalls asking his parents to buy a limited edition pair of shoes, only to have them look at him in disapproval.

"They made me realise the ridiculous price of this trend," he said. "I've decided I had better spend money on something more useful."

Yuya admitted that, like any trend, the shoe hype could be only fleeting.

"Thais are not real sneaker fanatics. They just like following the hype," he said.

"One day the price of a pair of shoes may drop. Many youngsters will stop following the sneaker hype."

As Steve Martin, an American actor and writer, once wrote: "If you want to judge someone, walk a mile in their shoes." So it is up to consumers -- you, the individual -- to decide what shoes are the right fit.

gotta catch 'em all: Adidas' Yeezy lines are known to more than double in retail prices.

shoes in: The Chiang Mai Sneaker Festival, above. A collectors' display of Adidas, Onisuka and Gucci pairs, right. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

got sole: The limited edition Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 boasts advanced technology that adjusts the shoelace to perfectly fit one's feet. It's been reported that only people with connections to the company can get a hand on these shoes, with a resale price of 140,000 baht. photos: SUPPLIED

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