@unclejackwah, an OG sneaker collector
Can you imagine a time when the only source of sneaker information would be manga? @unclejackwah can. The self-proclaimed “uncle” recounts his journey as a sneaker collector, which predates resale platforms and sneaker blogs. He tells us how technology changed sneaker culture and his quest to track down the shoes he missed in his youth.
@unclejackwah remembers leafing through the pages of the manga, slam dunk, and let yourself be drawn into his world of basketball and sneakers. The manga’s realistic sketches sparked in him a curiosity about the NBA, Michael Jordan, and sneaker culture. Soon he started picking up magazines like slam to learn more about sneakers.
Today, @unclejackwah continues to be fueled by that curiosity – he continues to hunt down the sneakers of his youth – mostly OG Air Jordans and classic Nike Air Max sneakers. @unclejackwah shares with us how the sneaker collection has changed from its beginnings in the early 2000s to today, especially as social media, resale sites and sneaker blogs have entered the scene.
How many pairs of sneakers do you currently own?
I’m thinking of over 350 pairs and storing everything at home. Due to some complaints from my family, I tried to reduce the number of pairs. I try to narrow it down to the ones I really want to wear and release new pairs every week. I save about 10 pairs each week.
How do you choose what to wear?
It really depends on what I like – how I feel that week. Sometimes these are the new pairs I want to wear on the weekends. It’s really based on intuition.
When and how did you start collecting sneakers?
I really started collecting sneakers seriously about 10 years ago when I started working full time. That’s when I started hunting down the shoes I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I was actually very inspired by the manga, slam dunk. They have very realistic representations of sneakers. From there, I started learning more about the NBA and Michael Jordan.
What was the grail hunt like at first?
The Niketalk forum was where I found local sneakerheads who had the sneakers I wanted. Eventually I became connected with sneakerheads based in Malaysia and Thailand. But it was hard to ship sneakers, and the best pairs were all in America. Someone had to fly over to buy it for you – it was super expensive.
What is the highest amount of money you have paid for a pair of sneakers?
I have a limit on the amount I would spend. I broke that limit last year when I bought the Off-White Air Jordan 2 for S$1200. Nothing else has ever crossed that line.
Which Nike collaboration has impressed you the most?
The Lance Mountain x Nike SB Jordan 1 was the first collaboration I really liked. He really did something different – if he ever released another collab, I would buy it.
How has the sneaker game changed since you started collecting sneakers?
The culture has changed a lot since I started collecting. We used to go to the Nike store and join the midnight queue for limited releases. That’s how we made friends – we kept seeing the same people and starting conversations. And the resale value wasn’t as great. You bought shoes in your size and wore what you liked. If you needed a different size or a different sneaker, you just swap and trade with other sneakerheads. There was no money involved – just pure love for sneakers. Today, people tend to go for the resale value rather than the sneakers themselves.
How has your collection evolved from when you owned your first sneaker to today?
It hasn’t really changed much in my opinion. I’m still focused on OG sneakers but now I have more collabs in my collection. But even then, it’s mostly based on OG silhouettes. Even when playing basketball, I stick with the OG basketball sneakers – Air Jordan 5, 6, 11 and 12. They are still quite comfortable.
How do you decide which sneaker to buy?
For me, the OG colorways of the Air Jordans 1-14 are an instant buy, as MJ actually wore them in his prime. But for collaborations, I will consider the story behind the sneaker and its design, such as colors and materials.
What are your five best sneakers of all time? Tell us why.
Jordan 1, Air Jordan 3, Air Jordan 4, Nike Dunks and Air Max 90. I have to include Air Force 1, so top 6! These sneakers will always be in my permanent rotation. They all hold special memories for me and were the sneakers I wish I had as a kid.
If you had to keep only one sneaker in your rotation, what would they be?
Air Jordan 1 “Bred” for sure. This is a sneaker I could wear for life. I have a pair of DS at home and they will follow me to my grave. Already told my wife!
Is there a Nike sneaker you feel like you’re sleeping on? Why does it deserve more attention?
I think it would be the Air Max 1, if I don’t go into Jordans. It’s one of Tinker Hatfield’s best designs and has influenced the design of so many sneakers – that’s why it’s in my permanent rotation.
In terms of Jordans, I think the Air Jordan 11 is starting to fall asleep. They were so coveted, but we just saw the Cool Grays sit down. But the culture is always changing and therefore it is constantly changing. It is truly one of the best shoes from the Jordan brand.
This interview has been edited and condensed.