Friday, 20 April 2007

The Sunday Age Coverage

To Jazz, a sole mate is a joy to behold

By Rachel Wells
December 11, 2005

Jazz BONIFACIO is a confessed sneaker addict. The 27-year-old from Ormond owns more than 300 pairs, and estimates that he has spent more than $40,000 on his beloved sneaker collection.

"I've always been into shoes, ever since I was a teenager," says the foot-wear designer, who started collecting sneakers seriously only three years ago.

"It's a lot of money, but I guess it's become a little bit of an obsession," he said. "I hear about a new shoe that's coming out, and it's like I have to have that pair. It's pretty bad."

Mr Bonifacio says he wears only 80 per cent of the shoes he owns. The rest he has in their original boxes as keepsakes or to sell or trade later. Once sneakers have been worn, they lose 30-60 per cent of their value, he says.

He says his penchant for sneakers is driven by a love of design and nostalgia for vintage styles.

"When I was about 13, I really got into basketball and Michael Jordan. My dad bought me my first pair of Jordan's, and it started from there really."

Mr Bonifacio is not alone in his fetish for sneakers. There are tens of thousands of sneaker collectors across the globe willing to fork out sometimes thousands of dollars for a pair of sneakers.,0.jpg

Sneaker prices are at an all-time high due to an increase in the number of collectors and the fact that supply for the most coveted vintage styles is dwindling.

"The serious collectors overseas pay up to $US10,000 for a pair, and there's some collectors here who will pay up to $US5000," says Simon Wood, editor of Sneaker Freaker magazine, a biannual publication for enthusiasts.

"There's a shortage of what we call dead stock - of vintage shoes that haven't been worn or taken out of the box. You used to be able to go to old warehouses and get these kinds of shoes for $5 or $10, but that doesn't happen any more . . . now you're forking out thousands for them."

Mr Wood says there are several types of sneaker collectors: those who collect sneakers to wear, those who collect for "bragging rights", and those who collect simply to make money once supply has dried up.

One Hawthorn-based sneaker fanatic, Hans Donovon Cheong, says he wears 60 per cent to 80 per cent of his 300-pair collection.

"I think they should be worn," he says. "That's what they were made for. There's some vintage styles that I don't wear, though, mainly because they don't stand the test of time, and sometimes I won't wear a pair so I can trade them or re-sell them."

Mr Cheong says the most he has paid was $US800 for a pair of Adidas Superstars, a limited-edition release to celebrate the company's 35th anniversary. Mr Bonifacio says he would pay several thousand dollars for a pair of rare sneakers. "The first pair of serious sneakers I ever owned were Nike Jordan 4s," he says. "I can't believe it but my mum threw them out. I'd pay a couple of grand now." … 48134.html

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