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Gone are the days when sneakers, or trainers, were worn solely for athletic purposes or by the odd sports jock as leisure wear. What was once predominantly a sub-culture has evolved over the years into a global mass consumer business worth billions of dollar. This is the heart of urban fashion with an edge. From Vans, Keds and Chuck Taylors to Reebok, Nike and Adidas, the rise of the exclusive sports sneaker is now an unstoppable force driven by fashion-forward hobbyists. In Thailand, where accessibility to often-rare models can be challenging, re-sale prices have soared to hundreds of thousands of baht. Many spend a great deal of time and money on them, including these five enthusiasts who talk to Thailand Tatler about their sports shoe fetish.

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Akarat Vanarat

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It goes without saying one does not have to be a sneakerhead to appreciate sports shoes. “I’ve always liked sneakers,” says Akarat Vanarat, founder of furniture and accessories retailer Motif. More commonly known as Oak, he adds, “I tend to go for white ones and although I’m not a collector per se, I do have quite a few pairs.” With a preference for sneakers that are a bit dressy, it comes as no surprise that amidst his array of shoes are luxury pairs by top couture houses such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Hermes, Prada and Balmain.

It is the combination of elegance and functionality in these high-end sneakers that Oak finds so appealing. Recognised for their superior construction and emphasis on quality materials, these brands have arguably become serious contenders to sportswear giants such as Nike and Adidas. That said, Oak also has an interest in the more sporty and streetwear brands. “I have many pairs of Adidas sneakers as well,” he says. “Mostly the Adidas Ultra Boosts, which I have in several colours. That’s probably the pair I wear most often.”

As opposed to the collectors fixated on keeping each pair spotlessly clean—owning multiple pairs but never wearing them—the businessman makes sure his shoes are used until they are worn out. A pair of sneakers he is looking forward to obtaining is Abloh’s Off White collaboration with Vans. “I would definitely like to add them to my growing collection,” he smiles.

Nontawat Charoenchasri

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Known for his eclectic sense of fashion, Moo Nontawat Charoenchasri’s collection of sneakers reflects his distinctive and intriguingly unique appearance. The founder and design director of Ductstore the Design Guru, he is a highly creative individual who, rather than constantly following what is hyped and in trend, focuses on the creative inspiration or story behind the production of each pair of shoes he buys. He usually opts for the more provocative and rebellious kind. “I see them as a work of art,” says Moo.

From Balenciaga’s recently released Oversized Triple S, Nike’s Comme Des Garcons Homme Plus Dinosaur Air Force 1 and Reebok’s Instapump Fury Vetements Doodle to the more toned down Nike Off-white Vapormax among many others, the man has a collection he can talk about for days.

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Despite his reverence for his sneakers, Moo actually wears them regulary. In fact, his daily outfits are chosen according to the shoes he wears. “There is only one pair I don’t dare to wear,” he smiles. “The Nike Zvezdochka sneakers by Marc Newson. To me, they are a true work of art and Newson also happens to be my favourite designer.” The most expensive pair of sneakers Moo has bought cost approximately 36,000 baht. Regardless of how much he fancies them though, he makes it a point to never spend more than 40,000 baht on a pair.

While his favourite sneaker brand is Nike, he’s also a big fan of Comme des Garcons and Dr Martens. In fact, Moo’s enthusiasm for shoes isn’t limited to sneakers but also takes in a large selection of different types of footwear, most of which can only be described as avant-garde and truly unique. His wedding shoes, a prized pair of Comme des Garcons Plus in white leather with its eye-catching fringe and his Dr Martens for Comme des Garcons Homme Deux Graffiti are the perfect example of this.

Somboon Muangsirikwan

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There are sneaker enthusiasts and then there sneakerheads. Somboon Muangsirikwan most definitely figures among the latter. A familiar face in the sneaker landscape in Thailand and abroad, he is more commonly known as Jeed. His relationship with sports shoes began long before today’s booming obsession and came about as a result of his interest in the hip-hop culture, which, let’s face, it is synonymous with sneaker culture. Having a father who is a fan of Michael Jordan buying him sports shoes regularly from abroad certainly helped to get Jeed started. “I’ve also played basketball—another driver for the sneaker scene—since I was young,” he says.

It was in 1996 that Jeed’s interest in these shoes was consolidated, a time when sneaker brands increased innovation. It was also then that he began to take an interest in Japanese fashion, which fed the idea of sneakers having a greater purpose than simply sportswear. He owns several Nike Jordans with the infamous Air Jordan 1 original from 1985 being the first pair he was truly proud to own. Nike’s React Element 87, the latest very limited cushioned lifestyle release, is his go-to pair at the moment. Like all true sneakerheads Jeed keeps his shoes in immaculate condition, cleaning them every night before putting them back in storage.

He’s been a collector for over 20 years and a Nike Thailand influencer for around 10 years, the latter enabling him to combine his passion with work, for which he is grateful. Ten years ago, his collection reached the 500 pair mark. “I stopped counting a long time ago,” he laughs. “Back in the day, when there was a pair that I truly loved, I would buy three,” he says. In line with the mindset of all true old school collectors he adds, “One to stock, one to rock, one to trade.”

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Although it is hard for him to single out an all-time favourite pair, he is currently fond of the NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0, the result of a collaboration between Tom Sachs and Nike and inspired by Sachs’ meetings with NASA’s specialised scientists. In addition to his role as a Nike influencer, Jeed is also a creative consultant to several brands including Nike, Hennesy, Belvedere, Siam Discovery and Club 21 Thailand and is currently working on a PR/marketing project with Siam Discovery while maintaining his vlog Sub_cults, a dynamic platform on Facebook for travel.

Nithitat Sawaengsat

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Surrounded by only a small fraction of his collection of sneakers in this photo is Nithitat Sawaengsat, merchandise director at Atmos, Japan’s legendary sneaker retailer in Bangkok. Also a real estate broker for the family-owned business, Pop, as he prefers to be called, is a relative newcomer to the sneaker scene but has already managed to accumulate around 300 pairs in just two years. Among them are brands such as Vans, Converse, Adidas and Nike. “Most of them are Nikes,” he says. A pair you will find Pop frequently rocking is the Nike Air Force 1 V Lones. But if intense walking is required, he opts for the Nike Air Presto.
“I also like Adidas,” he says. “Especially the Nmd Human Race model by Pharell Williams, who is a favourite artist.”

Re-sale prices for these shoes have skyrocketed of late but that hasn’t prevented Pop from purchasing them when it comes to very limited editions. The most expensive pair he has bought to date set him back 250,000 baht. “They were the Air Max 1 Parra,” he says. “When something is very limited edition, you have to be willing to pay the price.”

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Some pairs have remained in storage without being worn. “I don’t wear them because I know some of my friends will purposely try to step on them to annoy me,” he laughs. And of course shoe maintenance is a big deal for any sneakerhead. “I clean my shoes, including the under soles, every day without fail,” he says. Being a part of the Atmos family has definitely made it easier for him to obtain certain pairs of shoes and despite his family and friends calling him crazy, Pop admits he is still currently purchasing up to four pairs a week and has no plan to stop any time soon.

Chayapol Wassanachotikul

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Chayapol Wassanachotikul, founder of urban clothing line Faceless, is a loyal member of the Adidas brigade. “If we are talking about sneakers, I only collect and wear Adidas,” he says with a laugh. The former bearbrick toy collector is a David Beckham admirer and it is the superstar’s collaboration with Adidas that initially drew him to the brand. “As I began to educate myself on the brand I just fell in love with the stories behind each collection,” he says. “The 2007 Flavour of the World pack, for example, launched two pairs of Adidas sneakers each month celebrating different holidays around the world—Halloween and French National Day and so on. Prior to that, they launched a collection called Material of the World, which celebrated the originality of different fabrics from around the globe.”

Chayapol has racked up a collection of a little over 200 pairs. Among some of the favourites are the Adidas Nmd Human Race by Pharell Williams, the iconic Adidas ZX, and the Hellboy models. “I used to clean them a lot,” he says, “But truth be told, after I reached 100 pairs I stopped being so fussy about the maintenance.” During his peak collecting days he would buy a pair a week, but as time has gone by the Adidas fan admits he has been working on not going overboard. And because he doesn’t buy his sneakers from resellers, Chayapol doesn’t spend exagerated amounts on them, with the highest single outlay so far being a reasonably modest 10,000 baht.

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Unlike many young sneakerheads today, Chayapol is no fad-follower. He prefers pairs with a background story that appeals to him and isn’t phased when it comes to outrageously trending pairs such as the Yeezys. “I hate Yeezys,” he laughs.

“I am still loyal to the brand but I must admit I have been buying fewer pairs of sneakers lately. Of late Adidas has become so focused on celebrities and trends—the thrill of exclusivity and the stories behind the shoes have become increasingly diluted.”

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Tags: Adidas, Vans, Louis Vuitton, Street Style, Sneakers, Sneaker, Somboon Muangsirikwan, Reebok, Off White, Pharell Williams, Nontawat Charoenchasri, Nithitat Sawaengsat, Nike, Chayapol Wassanachotikul, Sneakerhead, Yeezy, Comme Des Garcons, Akarat Vanarat, Menswear, Balmain