Letters to the Editor

From the week of October 12, 2006

Just for Kicks

Sole on ice:Regarding Joel Warner's "Sole Survivor," in the September 28 issue:

It's amazing that in this day and age, there are folks who will spend a week's salary or more for some foreign-made goods (sneakers) to collect and catalogue. All to subsidize the obscene endorsement money paid to athletes such as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, etc. I could see if you had unlimited money like Paris Hilton and had a shoe fetish, but seriously.

As a pharmacist, let me tell you that we have medication for this.

Jim Aldridge
Golden

Sneaker attack:I highly appreciate the article on sneakerheads. I, too, was involved in that DMP issue. I had to buy a pair at a store in the Westminster Mall that was selling them for $650. I guess I wanted to thank Joel Warner for showing the world what some people do for shoes (and also showing them that I'm not the only crazy dude who camps out for some sneaks). Joel spelled it out for people who couldn't understand.

I will now keep this article and shove it toward anybody else who asks me, "Why?" Thanks again.

Jake January
Denver

Culture vultures:A satirist inclined to take on the rampant consumerism that defines contemporary America could do little better than to invent something like sneaker culture, which takes the consumerist ethos to its logical conclusion: Consumption becomes not merely the means with which to participate in a culture, but the culture itself.

However, sneaker culture already does a fine job of parodying itself; I laughed out loud at Bryan LaRoche's earnest declarations of love and passion for buying Nike shoes. I know of few other subcultures in which one's purchasing habits can confer celebrity status. As with many things, sneaker culture would be even funnier if it weren't so sad. Sneaker culture is the perfect example of top-down culture, a culture created by a corporation for the express purpose of increasing sales and which cannot exist anywhere beyond the boundaries of one company's products. A culture built upon addiction, ridiculous profits and sweatshop labor, all of which essentially get a pass here. A culture that is basically undead, in that there is activity but no actual life. Congratulations to Nike for creating this culture, to sneakerheads for buying into it, and to Westword for devoting a laughably uncritical cover story to it.

Kyle Smith
Littleton

There's no business like shoe business:I think it was a good idea to do a story about shoes, but in my opinion, it would have been a lot more interesting if you had done more research on sneaker freaks instead of pinpointing stores that just do it for the $$ and TV shows and people who buy retro or remake over-the-counter shoes who have jumped on the "shoe collection" bandwagon because it's the inthing to do.

If a shoe is original and has the true sole and cannot be remade in its original format, I would say that's impressive, but as a shoe collector myself, I see that over-the-counter shoe collectors who collect retros and remakes aren't that impressive. But it was a good push. Maybe if there is a next time, this message will inspire printing more facts about shoe collectors.

Marz
Denver

A doubting soul:"Soul Survivor" seems marginally believable at best -- 1,600 pairs is a lot of shoes. Did you personally see them, Joel? Or at least pictures of them? Because surely someone with that many shoes, who loves them as much as Bryan does, would have documentation of every one of his sneakers.

The next part I find suspiciously interesting is the fact that Bryan's entirefamily seems to be into shoes. Uncles seem far-fetched enough, but grandfather? This part is surely fictional. My grandfathers couldn't tell you the first thing about sneakers. Especially considering the fact that the modern sneaker dates back maybe forty years. It's not totally inconceivable, but I simply cannot see a man born sometime between 1910 and 1930 being that into shoes. This current generation is so focused on consumerism, whereas past generations, for the most part, went through financial struggles and weren't concerned with excess, or purchasing multiples of any items. Now, there were rich families, but considering that LaRoche's father worked at a factory, it's unlikely they were part of the rich elite.

I will admit the man has a passion for sneakers, just from looking at the items he's purchased on eBay in the last three months, even spending $800 on the shoes for the cover of the paper. The guy clearly loves his shoes, but it seems as though the story is loose and full of seeming half-truths and hard-to-swallow stories.

Joseph Sampson
Denver

Joel Warner responds: While much of Bryan LaRoche's incredible sneaker collection is stored with friends and family members across the country, I thoroughly researched the extent of the collection, speaking with many of those friends and relatives (including his father), personally viewing several hundred pairs of his shoes, and reading through the journals and records detailing LaRoche's shoe purchases, beginning when he was a young boy. As for how he can afford his habit, LaRoche budgets $300 each month to get his kicks -- though he admits he often goes over that. To find out more about the strange world of sneaker culture, check out theShoe Shine sneaker exhibition and contest at Andenken Gallery, 2110 Market Street, starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, October 21. Proceeds from the event benefit local nonprofit PULSE Arts, and LaRoche and DQ the Line Pimp may even be there, strutting their stuff.

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