It was 2007 and never did I know camping outside a Footlocker in Florida, for a Jordan III Retro would lead to what it has. Fast forward to 2018 and here we are. So thank you for clicking and welcome to my first The Good Life post, I hope you enjoy.
First up, a brief intro, my name is Sam. I’m from the UK and was born in the mid-eighties. Growing up in the 90’s I was into all the typical things most boys enjoyed: Lego, Mega-Drive, Football (Soccer), Where’s Wally, MTV, Wham Bars and WWF but none of these pastimes gripped me as much as box fresh trainers. The sensation of opening up a box, smelling those materials for the first time, trying not to crease the paper whilst peeling it back before seeing them in the flesh all sounds crazy, but really are sensations that are quiet romantic.
When I was young there were no boys my age living in my village, this led me to hang around with older kids. At most social events I was usually the youngest and naturally looked up to boys older than me. They obviously knew more about life and in-turn appeared much cooler. But it was their clothes and footwear that really stood out and caused me to work harder to earn their respect and fit in.
Around this time, one of my older friends went to Florida on a family holiday. He came back with a Nike Jordan T-shirt. It had the silhouettes of the first 6 Jordan models on the front and a small Jumpman and Nike swoosh nestled just below the neck line on the reverse. It was only a t-shirt, but to me it was more. It had such a foreign (American) look and feel to it and I loved the trainer images on his t-shirt, I was in awe. It was the first time I’d really seen Tinker's first six Jordan designs. For a sneaker at that time they were wild, built for a real grade-A superstar and via this T-shirt and its images I was hooked.
A year later another friend went to Florida also with family. His dad must have been tipped off that America had some amazing outlets as the whole family came back not only tanned but fitted out in Nike head to toe. They must have cleared out the whole Nike outlet, which back then was so cheap and full of US exclusives that we would never see, let alone get in the UK. Fresh back from holiday my friend came over telling me about his time in the Sunshine State. Before he said anything, all I could notice was what was on his feet. He came over wearing brand new Nike Air Max Plus TN Ultra Blue/Black (picture below) otherwise known as the Nike Tuned. I was blown away…
The shoe was first released in '97, but for that era the colours were insane, the design with multiple air bubbles, mini swoosh and overall shape just made it one really futuristic shoe. He knew he had something good and was clearly proud of them, wearing them everywhere he went. Again, I was green or in this case blue with envy, I loved them and my hunger was growing. Sadly, my shoe game at this time wasn’t great, I had Converse Run N Slams (picture below). A basketball shoe from ‘93 and although I loved them they weren’t as ‘cool’ or respected as anything Nike, adidas or even Reebok were putting out around that time.
My thirst for sneakers was now well and truly alive and it needed the juice to quench it. By now you can imagine I literally thought Florida was some sort of far away Nike paradise.
My mum never flew when we were young, so a transatlantic holiday was never on the cards. So, because of this, while on my own family holidays across Europe, all I wanted to do was visit the huge out of town sports department stores. Although leagues apart from what I imagined Florida to be like, they didn’t disappoint. There was often these huge sporting stores outside every big city and even better independent stores within most European towns.
Between them, the footwear selection was incredible and there were styles and colourways I had never seen back in the UK. I wanted so many pairs, so I behaved all holiday to justify to my parents to buy me a pair (a fair trade I thought at the time). If I was lucky enough to get a new pair on holiday, I always loved coming home to the UK because I knew that no one in school would be wearing the same and that earned serious school yard props.
From then on it became common practise and over time my sneaker habits developed - I’d save my pocket money all year for the next trip to Europe and pick up as many pairs as my money allowed.
However, it wasn’t until 2007 that my first sneaker camp out took place, ironically, in my self-created sneaker paradise Florida - of all places. This was my first trip to the States with friends and it was after we’d finished school. Of course I was heading straight to the stores. I started chatting with the manager of the Florida Mall Footlocker and he tipped me off they had the Jordan III ‘Fire Red’ OG releasing later that week (2006 release below).
He said they would be hard to get, so arrive early! Remember this was pre-social media and Internet was very basic so you only heard of releases through word of mouth. Ironically enough it was the third shoe that featured on my friends Jordan T-shirt all those years before, so there was no way I wasn’t going to try get myself a pair. I persuaded a friend to join me as our network of friends in Florida at that time was…zero - Facebook had only just begun!
Then the day before the release came, I was certain I was going back to Footlocker to try my luck. We showed up to the mall around 10PM, joining a half decent queue. Although the store wasn’t opening until 10AM the following morning, I was already buzzing with adrenaline, we were actually doing it.
Sticking to my commitment of treating my friend to a McDonald's for joining me (yes it was that easy!) we had our position. We were two British white boys amongst a predominantly black, all American queue and we were definitely the youngest there.
Sticking out like two sore thumbs everyone wanted to chat with us and work out our reason for being there. Intimidated at first, we soon realised all the guys queuing were there for the same reason, to own the shoes and wear them the following day. Everyone had their story as to why they were camping and why this shoe was special for them. Not a single reseller in sight, no bots, no iPhones. Not one person who camped actually slept, we chatted all night and music played.
The experience was amazing, totally different to what we see now. Despite appearing different, we felt really welcomed. I learned so much that evening and it was that night that the term sneaker community really showed me her beautiful face; this community feel is something I’ve always tried to encourage wherever I’ve gone.
10AM the following morning came and I luckily got my pair, in my size, which gave me such a buzz that I proudly wore them to death.
Since then a lot has happened and I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with the sneaker scene across the UK, Europe and now here in the UAE. I've also worked globally for some of the biggest footwear brands and sneaker events.
I’ll be keeping The Good Life pages filled over the next few months posting on a variety of topics, plus I’ll be getting friends involved in the process so if you have any comments or suggestions e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ll read them all, but only reply to the good ones! ;)
Thanks for reading, stay safe and be kind to one another.
Author: Sam Atherton
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by our contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Good Life