x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Common ground for serious sneakerheads

Men's fashion issue It's usually women who have a closetful of shoes but one Dubai-based rapper has been having a love affair with sneakers his entire life.

The rapper Young Vaughn has been collecting sneakers since he was little.
The rapper Young Vaughn has been collecting sneakers since he was little.

The 20-year-old Dubai-based hip-hop musician and self-confessed sneakerhead Young Vaughn talks about his passion for kicks. I probably have 80 or 90 pairs of sneakers. I've been collecting them ever since I was a kid. I was nine or 10 when I got my first pair of Air Jordans, Jordan XIIs, and I fell in love with the way a fresh pair looks and feels, and how everybody would look at you like: "You got the new Jordans?"

I've still got some pairs I haven't worn yet. I've got the Nike Air Yeezys, the ones they did with Kanye. There are only 3,000 pairs in each colour, and I've got one but the heat here would really mess it up. I was thinking about getting another pair so I have the stock, and five years from now I can sell them. If I have the money, I'll buy two pairs of the same shoes. I'll buy a pair of Jordan IIs today, and next year I'll buy them again. Some shoes are classics and you can buy them any time. The oldest ones I have are probably the first shoes I bought, Jordan XIIs, which I've had since I was eight. I keep them as memorabilia.

My family lives in Abu Dhabi, so I've got some shoes there, some shoes in Dubai where I live, and some shoes in Manila. I keep them in the boxes and stack them up in my room. My family understands. My dad actually got me into the game because when I was a kid he had a pair of Jordan Vs and I would always wear them. Of course they were too big on me. I thought: "When I grow up I'm going to have a pair of Jordan Vs." I actually just got a couple of pairs last month. Michael Jordan shoes are basically the best.

The sneaker culture is like being a connoisseur. Sometimes older is better. I'm not really looking for new releases. I'm looking for the retro ones, the ones that are hard to find. You can buy second-hand shoes that are dead stock, so they've never been worn. In the UAE things have barely started. I've seen kids walking out with crazy pairs, sure, but there are only a few serious sneakerheads. I talk to them a lot and trade with them. There are kids here that are confused - they will just buy, buy, buy without knowing what they're buying. I feel bad for them. They're wasting their money and sometimes buying fakes. If you're going to get into the culture you've got to do it right because otherwise you're disrespecting the culture.

I feel like sneaker collecting is a big element of hip-hop. If you're into hip-hop, you start your outfit off with your shoes. So before I go to sleep I decide what I'm going to wear tomorrow, which shoes am I going to pick. I buy sneakers two or three times a month. I have friends over in Singapore, which is a sneaker hot spot. It's crazy out there, so we basically call each other up - it's pretty cool. I think it's a good thing because on any other day I wouldn't be talking to these people. Some of them don't know English but if I say: "Where can I find Jordan I?" they'll be like: "Oh, here. I'll give you this guy's number". There's no age or colour or language problem: it's one common thing. You love sneakers - that's our language.

People queue for weekends sometimes to get the sneakers. For the recent Air Yeezy release, a friend of mine queued up for me because I told him I'd give him these Air Maxes that he wanted. I think the main reason I travel is for sneakers, so I come back here and people are like: "Where'd you get that?" It's good to have rare pieces because people know you really looked for them. Sneakerheads are not going to be saying: "Man I'm so jealous." It's more like: "I appreciate that you really looked out for that. You really loved that pair."

For my favourite shops, there's one called Warped in Singapore, in the Far East Plaza. And there's Fight Club in New York. There's not much here. Nike sometimes drops some cool stuff but they're not exclusives or collectables. The reissues are cool. I like the Adidas Original line right now because they're bringing back the old stuff, but they also have Jeremy Scott, an avant-garde designer, making crazy shoes. I'm cool with that because you can't really be stuck in one era. So go ahead and invent stuff, that's cool.