Sneaker fans live by the motto: If the shoe fits, buy it

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Photo: Michael Frangomichalos

A picture of the “Red/White” Retro Jordan 2.

With the release of the first “Air Jordan” sneaker in 1985, basketball and pop culture was changed forever. Though these revolutionary shoes provided great ankle support, traction, and comfort on the court, they became the “must-have” item off the court. Due to Michael Jordan’s iconicism and growing popularity in the early ‘90s, every kid in the country wanted a pair of “Jordans.”

Even today, after Jordan has been out of the league for nearly 11 years, the demand for his shoes have increased even more — so much, that people crowd outside shopping malls for hours in hopes of purchasing a pair. Collecting “Air Jordans” is becoming more and more mainstream among the teens of America, and in the long run, results in a lot of cash being thrown at buying shoes.

Brayden Mattimore, a junior at Fairmont High School, was introduced to shoe collecting at a young age.

“Two of my mom’s good friends always wore a different pair of shoes every day when I would see them, and I started spending more time with them learning about shoes,” Mattimore said. “Then I learned that there is a whole community of shoe collectors and it’s somewhat of an unspoken family.”

Though most collectors, like Mattimore, love shoes because of their style, he also wants his shoes to represent him.

“I love shoe collecting for the smallest reason. I love hearing the words ‘I like your shoes, man.’ I think this is the biggest compliment I can ever receive.”

Mattimore owns more than 75 pairs of shoes, and he says he realizes all of the money he has spent on these have added up over time. He says he doesn’t regret purchasing any of his shoes, but down the road, they won’t be his first priority.

“Once I start supporting myself completely, I’ll still buy shoes when I have enough money, but probably not as often,” he said. “This is somewhat of an addiction that I don’t want to stop.”

On the other hand, purchasing a pair of “Retro” Air Jordans isn’t as easy as walking into a store and choosing from an assortment of shoes. Since the number of shoes produced doesn’t match the demand for them, stores like Champs and FootLocker are forced to hold ticket procedures and “first-come, first-serve” releases.

In 2000, popular Jordan models including the “Laney Retro 5,” which honors Michael Jordan’s high school in North Carolina, and the “Black Infared Retro 6” were available in store catalogs that customers could order over the phone.

The retail price of each of these pairs of shoes was $119.99, which translates to roughly $160 in today’s money. The “Laney Retro 5” retailed for $170 in 2013, and the “Black Infared 6” recently released for $170.

In 2015, for the Jordan brand’s 30th anniversary, a price increase of anywhere between $15 to $20 will be introduced to create a higher-quality retro shoe more similar to the original models. These remastered sneakers will manage to keep the classic Jordan look, with upgraded materials.

In the past, some customers have scolded Jordan over the cheap, flimsy materials they’re accused of using today in their shoes.

“The products put into crafting Jordans are nice, but nothing special,” Mattimore said. “After a few times of wearing a brand new pair, I can start to see creases form.”

However, when talking about the sneaker resale market, a simple crease in a pair of shoes can tremendously affect the amount of money they’re worth. Since some Jordan releases are scarcely distributed to shoe stores across the United States, sneaker collectors figure they can make two, or even three times the amount of money selling the shoes over what they purchased them for.

But storing shoes away in the closet for months — and even years — simply waiting for the right time to sell them isn’t what shoe collecting is for, according to Mattimore.

“The reason I buy shoes is to wear them, not to resell them,” he said. “There’s no question reselling Jordans is a quick and easy way to double your money, but I’d rather have the pair of shoes I’ve been dying to get, rather than turn around and sell them.”

While Mattimore believes in buying and wearing the shoes, others have grown out of shoe collecting. Junior Chase Nickles had been collecting Air Jordans since his freshman year. Recently, Nickles began selling a handful of his sneakers.

“I sold three pairs of my Jordans because I never wore them, hoping their value would increase over time,” Nickles said. “All together, my shoes sold for around $450, which is nice to have for gas money and other expenses I might have to cover.”

Nickles says he loves Jordans, but he doesn’t quite think they’re worth hundreds of dollars.

“I just don’t have the money anymore to spend on Jordans. And now I find it hard to buy $200 shoes when it only takes $15 to make them.”

When it comes to sneakers, Nickles says comfort is worth more than looks.

“In most cases, I think lower-end Nike shoes, like Roshe Runs and Free Runs, are much more comfortable than a pair of Air Jordans and just as stylish.”