I think about it in the shower. In bed, alone, in the dark. It’s an infatuation of magnitudes that would hit an 8 on the Richter scale. I can’t help it. I’ve been this way since about 12 years old, when I discovered how good it felt.
When I finally decide on how I’m going to unleash the kraken that is my addiction—white, black, round, flat—I tiptoe down to my basement, like I’m on some clandestine mission of pleasure. I place one hand on the wood of my closet door, trying to prevent the squeak of the rusted hinges from blowing up my spot. I pull down the string to the light bulb hanging on my ceiling, and contain my excitement in an effort equivalent to people right before a surprise. I simply admire.
T-shirts organized by color (mostly black), brand (mainly Nike), and sports team (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, Rangers) all to my left. To my right, sneakers for days. All Nike’s except for the lonely pair of all-black Converse; the ugly, but beautiful duckling of my collection.
Every day my outfits need to match my sneakers.
My baba, a man who nitpicks about everything, from the front door being open for too long, letting the heat out, to my car parked too close to the curb, afraid that I’ll suddenly forget how to drive and scuff up my rims, finally acknowledged the abundance of sneakers I owned last week at dinner. My yiayia and papou, more worriers, were over and as my yiayia scooped a spoonful of mana-mou-made potatoes onto her plate; my baba says, “I almost got scared when I saw how many sneakers you have.” I was asked how many sneakers I owned by one of the Greeks at the table and I replied with “I don’t know, only about 50.”
It was like I had told them I wanted to convert, that I was tired of speaking the Greek language and suddenly wanted to learn Turkish. “Yiati re, Demetri,” my yiayia asked, confused as to why I had so many, “na xsodevis ta lefta sou,” imploring me to save my money. More Gre-glish/Eng-Greek uproar shook the silverware on my wooden kitchen table about the confession I had just made about the apparent sneaker-crime I had committed but I only stared at my father and shook my head at his most recent moment of instigation.
What you should also know about me is that I don’t wear many colors, very few actually. So then that means all my sneakers probably all look the same, right? Well, I don’t just wear plain black t-shirts and plain grey t-shirts. My black t-shirts also have red letters on them, which means I have to match it with one pair of my black and red sneakers. I have Yankees t-shirts that have lime green logos, which are matched with my black and lime green sneakers. Shall I continue or do we get the picture?
I’m sure all this sounds silly. I’ve had guys tell me that they own one pair of sneakers, wear them every day, and buy a new pair only when the shoes become un-wearable. (I have no clue what un-wearable means because I keep all my sneakers in Sistine-Chapel-clean condition, but I’ll get there later) Now after I convulse a bit, fight off the urge to ask him if “he’s fucking crazy?!”, and hide my twitching eye of disgust, I regain my cool and understand that not everyone is like me. Not everyone is as ridiculously, insanely, meticulously, OCD-ly, incredibly, outstandingly, out-of-this-worldly, OMG-ly, turn-around-and-stare, AWESOME.
I really do think about it in the shower, getting ready for work or class. It’s important to be prepared. I visualize what sneakers will go with which colored jeans with which black and (insert random color) t-shirt. I have left my house, gazed down at my outfit, turned around, and went back to change because I wasn’t matching enough. I even match at the gym. Why not? I need to set the tone with every step of my Nikes. Have people talking like this dude knows what’s up. Some people do yoga and find their chi in the last downward dog of a vinyasa. I find mine this way. I can’t breathe normally unless I match.
People watching, as I’m sure to many others, is a hobby of mine. It’s not like I don’t check out the opposite sex. I do, more than I probably should. When I see a pretty girl, I always start from the top, look at her face and attempt to figure out the color of her eyes. Always. What? Don’t you believe me? Anyway. With a guy, I start from the bottom up. I’ll be waiting for the 2 or the 3 train in Penn Station, looking like a damn bobblehead doll. I can’t help it. I need to know.
No man, not the all blue Air Max’s with a red v-neck. Go home and change, right now.
Come on bro. Red and white Converses with a yellow button-down? Why? Just why.
Lime green Flight Falcons with a navy polo? Do you even own a mirror?
You think I’m joking? It genuinely hurts. Part of me thinks I have this unofficial civil duty to inform people on their matching-mishaps, on their wrong-doings to the rest of the sneaker-loving community and extreme color coordinators of the world. Does witnessing something like I spoke about above justify a citizen arrest? I mean I know it’s not exactly a public offense but to this sneaker-loving-Greek, it is.
I’m not trying to offend anyone. If you don’t match your sneakers to your outfit, if you only own one pair of sneakers that you sadly wear to both the gym and on a night out with your boys that you “clean” with a wet piece of Bounty, then that’s fine. I’m sure you’re still a great person. And I know how all this sounds, like I belong next to Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A self-centered, narcissistic, materialistic, cares-solely-about-his-appearance sociopath. Let me see if I can help my cause.
I spend about fifty dollars a month on sneaker cleaning supplies. I find my brush that’s also meant to clean the black rims on my Acura and scrub away for hours, in front of the television, judging what sneakers each actor wears. Now it’s not that my sneakers are drive-your-truck-through-the-mud dirty but they deserve to be in pristine condition. I clean them like I brush my teeth, like I wash my hair and body in the shower, covering every inch. I’ve spent close to an hour on one sneaker alone, on the bottom that no one sees but me when I slip them off my feet after a long commute on the Long Island Railroad from Manhattan. Just because you don’t see my upper thighs (good because they’re pale as fuck) doesn’t mean they don’t receive as much body wash as my calves.
I’m not one of those guys that gets stepped on or steps in a puddle and quickly rushes to lick his fingers and smudge out any temporary blemishes on his sneakers. I patiently wait until I’m in private, without squealing like Neve Campbell in Scream, and lick my fingers and smudge out any temporary blemishes on my sneakers. But I am one of those guys who collects sneakers, matches them to all his clothes, looks at them on his feet in the mirror that’s perfectly placed on the floor of his closet that gives him the best angle, side to side, top to bottom.
I’m a sneakerhead.
Demetri Raftopoulos is a kind-of-young writer currently in the creative writing MFA program at The New School where he shows off all his different sneakers to all his friends. He currently resides in Long Island with his mother and father but hopes to flee the coup very soon and buy as many sneakers as he wants without the watchful, sneaker-oppressive eyes of his parents.