The Stash Down Under
Meet Garvin Louie, the LeBron James of sneaker collectors.
KICKS: Speaking of natural change, how have you seen sneaker collecting evolve over the course of LeBron’s pro career?
GL: There has been a dramatic shift. Ten years ago, I felt like I was the only person in Melbourne who was making a fuss about collecting LeBrons. You would see a few guys wearing them on the court but that’s mainly because all the players shopped at the local Foot Locker. In 2004, I could buy just about any colorway I wanted without ever having to line up. I could also go online and order knowing the colorway I wanted, and my size would be in stock. I remember the Big Apple 6s proved easier to purchase from the Niketown in Manhattan than my lamb with rice from the Halal Guys on 53rd Street the night before. Even with the release of the South Beach 8s, I remember only having to line up for an hour. Since then, the hype has taken over because LeBron is now a champion. More people are paying attention. The recent LeBron X Denims release was a perfect example: There were people camping out for three days. That’s unheard of here in Melbourne. I also find myself speaking with people who think they’re collectors but really, they started out with the LeBron 9 and now they’re working backwards. I understand that not everyone could have “been there” when the AZGs were released but dammit, I was! At least that’s what I tell myself when others show me their equally impressive, and growing, collections [laughs].
The thing is, shoes these days are far more accessible. If I miss a release I know that: one, If I really want them, I’ll be able to get them eventually. Two, There will always be half-a-dozen websites still stocking them, albeit at a premium. Or three, someone, somewhere, is willing to sell and ship them. For that reason, despite what the hypebeasts will tell you, kicks don’t have that same mystique about them anymore. Sure, it’s not easy getting a pair of LeBron IIs from eight years ago but the sneaker community makes anything possible. Is that good or bad? Well, that depends on whether or not you’re someone who already owns a pair or if you’re hunting.
When I started owning LeBrons, there was no such thing as “What Did You Wear Today,” Instagram, Facebook or websites dedicated solely to kicks. There was no Foot Locker Unlocked, YouTube reviews, eBay or the idea of “limited editions.” For that reason, specific models were not as identifiable as they are now.
KICKS: Are there any memorable stories attached to any of your purchases?
GL: Sure. I have a few stories I don’t mind sharing. There was one time I remember dragging my wife out of the hotel early during our vacation’s final day in NYC. I made her miss some Black Friday sales so I could be in line early at Niketown to buy two pairs of the Big Apple 6s the day after seeing LeBron dismantle the Knicks inside Madison Square Garden. Good times. There was another time I purchased a pair of Zoom LeBron IIs on eBay from this guy in Cleveland immediately after The Decision. He confessed he’d bought them in hopes that LeBron would retire a Cav after winning multiple rings. I guess his heartbreak was my gain. One Christmas Eve, I tweeted a picture of the LeBron Christma Day editions under my tree. While I slept, the image was retreated and was eventually picked up by LeBron. You can imagine my joy and shock the next morning when I woke to see that none other than LeBron was enjoying my pic. That morning, I was the proverbial kid on Christmas. Lastly, it was pretty cool when a story about my LeBrons was picked up by Complex Magazine and rated one of their 25 craziest collections. Oh, and I actually wore my LeBron debut game AZGs to the hospital for the birth of my daughter. I’ll never forget that.
KICKS: Are you someone who cares deeply about the performance aspects of the LeBrons or is the love mostly superficial?
GL: Performance matters, definitely. Perhaps more so now than it did previously. A decade ago, it was less about the innovation and more about the story the shoes told. Nike’s strategy has since changed. Today, with the proliferation of dozens of colorways and the kids hyping every second release, I must admit that I’ve lost some of the passion for owning everything out there, plus, as you know, my life and priorities have also changed now that I’m a father. As a long-time collector, it’s getting harder to remain engaged with everything but as long as Jason Petire keeps pushing the innovation envelope, I’m on board. As the years pass, I find myself becoming increasingly interested in the technical aspects of LeBron’s new shoes. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism to combat all the hype, or maybe it’s just my tastes maturing. I’ll go with the latter.
KICKS: You mentioned the new, heightened perspective on life—did having a child altered your desire to collect?
GL: I’ve actually sold quite a few pairs of my LeBrons over the past six months to help make space at home. I’ve also reduced the collection down to a more manageable size but I’m still holding onto the pairs I really like. Nevertheless, I can always be found balling in the latest LeBrons each season. So long as his signature line continues to evolve, I’ll remain an avid and loyal customer.
KICKS: Will retro LeBrons be a thing or is that something you dread?
GL: I fear the day. LeBron said it himself, he’s not MJ. He wants to build his own legacy and I feel that should include his anthology of shoes. There’s a reason sneaker brands who ruled 15, 20 years ago, are now ghosts—they tried to peddle the same thing over and over. But I trust Nike will continue to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things. For me, retro LeBrons would be boring.
KICKS: As you say, you started collecting LeBrons at the ground floor. Now that his shoes are in the penthouse, does your attitude towards collecting change? Are you more interested in unearthing the next, rather than feasting on what feels like sneaker fast food?
GL: Yes, it does. I’ve also slowed my purchasing habits right down. Now, I’m happy with just the “Home” and “Road” styles. That’s enough for me. Those will endure because they were NBA game-worn but the odd limited edition is always nice—I have to confess that I bought the Denims recently. And while they might match my pink business shirt or get me lots of “Likes”, they won’t remind me of any actual Lebron James basketball, and isn’t that what signature hoop shoes are really all about?
KICKS: I believe so, but I also don’t have a collection 80 deep. Let me ask you this, now that LeBron truly is The King, do you get the feeling his shoes have taken on added meaning?
GL: As a LeBron fan, I’m thrilled at the possibility of a three-peat. As a collector, I’ve been there since he didn’t have enough talent around him to even make the Playoffs, but so long as his sneakers remain the top-rated performance models, I’ll be interested.