If you know even a little bit about me, you probably know that I’m a sneakerhead. I’ve been infatuated with sneakers since I was in middle school, where I simultaneously fell in love with basketball.
I was around 13 years old then. By the time I started my business in 2015 just after my 35th birthday, I had amassed around 400 pairs of shoes.
A Little More Backstory
On the school bus ride home, I would hope that the mail delivery that day contained something I got excited about every month. A certain publication that contained so many of my hopes and dreams.
The newest Eastbay catalog.
Eastbay is currently an online retailer that sells athletic supplies. Back then, the internet didn't exist, so everything was mail-order. Baseball gear, football equipment, soccer cleats, and of course - the only thing I cared about - basketball sneakers. Idolizing certain basketball players, I wanted to wear the same shoes as they did. As much as I knew it could never happen, I fantasized about being an NBA player.
Without internet nor a ride to the mall, Eastbay was my only way of gawking at shoes. Each month’s issue contained the latest and greatest in hoops footwear, and I would thumb through it and drool over all of the crazy designs.
If I caught a glimpse of that logo upon opening the mailbox, I immediately turned giddy like I had just found $100 in my pocket.
I Dreamed of Designing My Own Sneakers
I didn’t just stare at the shoes; I’d get a blank sheet of paper and start drawing my own sneaker designs. I was fascinated by how a certain curve or shape made the shoes look faster. I loved how a subtle change in the color blocking could turn a “meh.” shoe into a must-have, “damn, son!” sneaker.
At the time, I didn’t know that being a sneaker designer could be a real career. If I knew what I know now and today’s internet and social media existed back then, I would’ve been drawing shoes and posting them to Instagram like crazy.
Nowadays, shoe manufacturers have special programs that groom high school kids to become shoe designers. There’s even a school which specializes in footwear design; it was founded by a former Nike footwear designer. Students get hands-on experience and mentorship from the top designers in the game.
In theory, I could still chase this dream - but I’m eons behind. Instead, I’m feeding the passion by being a collector.
The point of all of that backstory is to show that there’s more behind my obsession than just liking shoes. You could say they’re a part of me. They represent an unrealized dream I've had since childhood.
As full-time Tinlun Studio started to become a reality, I realized that I was sitting on a ton of startup capital in the form of shoes. I didn't hesitate. Ok maybe a tiny bit.
You could say that my willingness to chop down my collection is the ultimate litmus test for how badly I want to run my own business. I honestly never thought I would ever sell my shoes in huge collection-downsizing fashion.
If you would’ve asked me before 2015 if I’d ever sell my shoes, I would’ve said, “Only if I’m in some sort of financial crisis.” So far, I’ve sold around 150 pairs of shoes - 50 just in the past month (and counting).
It Hasn't Been Easy
Parting ways with the shoes hasn’t been easy; I’ve been selling them in waves. The first couple of waves weren’t too painful - the impulse purchases and the duplicates (yes, I stocked up on multiple pairs of the more coveted shoes).
Eventually came shoes that I loved and actually had a story attached to, but never got around to wearing anymore because, quite simply, I’m too old to pull off wearing those kinds of shoes.
For example, I had Jordans that I got during during my friend’s Bachelor weekend in Montreal - we woke up just before sunrise (after being up till 4am) to walk several blocks in 20-degree weather to wait in line for 2 hours.
Many were rare exclusives that only released in certain countries, or purchased during trips to specific cities. Others were instances of striking gold finding bargain-bin gems on random trips to Marshall’s.
My groomsmen and I even wore Jordans at my wedding.
Collect Memories, Not Things.
Letting go of a lot of these shoes means saying goodbye to something with a great memory associated with it. As silly as it sounds, these sneakers have real sentimental value to me.
But what I realize now is that I get to re-live these memories one last time before the shoes go to someone else. And hopefully with their new owners, they can create new memories. The only thing these shoes are creating on my shelf is an impressive layer of dust.
I'm Still a Sneakerhead
Even though I'm downsizing my collection by a large amount, I’m still a sneakerhead; that won't change. My passion for sneaker culture greatly influences my work and my personal style, and it’s ultimately an underlying part of the Tinlun brand. I still keep a close eye on the new styles that are releasing.
What has changed is that I have bigger goals and priorities in my life now. I have a family to support, and I want to do that by doing what I love. And when you want something bad enough, you're willing to make significant sacrifices.