by Larry Gallagher

The easiest answer to the above question is: “Of course, you’re never too old to collect sneakers.” To be honest, there’s no real definitive answer as to when a person needs to hang it up on collecting, but I do think as you grow older you have to become a SMARTER collector and try to understand a few key things. 

Collecting and Hoarding Are Two Very Different Things

Sneakerheads often get a bum rap when it comes to the general public’s outlook of them. But for what it is worth, most people collect one type of thing or another. Whether it’s bottle caps, stamps, sports cards, vintage wines, fine art, or a number of other items, most people have something in their life they geek out for. Collecting, in all forms, can be therapeutic and fun for the majority of those involved. A healthy collector is honest with themselves and is usually willing to accept when they need to either let go of their collection or at least lighten up on the habit a bit. The real problem kicks in when collecting turns to hoarding, and unfortunately, hoarding is a very real problem in the sneaker community. 

There’s a weird stigma amongst sneakerheads where being into the shoes themselves often isn’t good enough. Many times it’s more about how many pairs of heat you have, as opposed to just enjoying having them. I know for myself, the biggest sign of immaturity in a sneakerhead is when ALL they’re worried about is what’s coming next. There is this insane mindset that to be a “real sneakerhead” you have to own, at any given moment, hundreds and hundreds of pairs of sneakers. This is where a healthy collector morphs into a hoarder and often has so many shoes they don’t even really remember everything in their collection. 

I’ve been there before. At my peak I probably had about 150 pairs of sneakers built up and it took marriage and children to make me realize that I didn’t really need to hold onto them to still love sneakers. To some in the community it may just mean that I indeed did get “too old to be a sneakerhead,” but with age should come some type of maturity. There has to come a point where every sneakerhead assesses when their collection has grown a little out of control.

Collections Are Meant To Be Appreciated

via Larry Gallagher

There is the moment when you realize that collections are NOT meant to just be displayed. What is the point of having some truly rare and beautiful pieces of footwear if all you are going to do is keep them locked up in storage until they eventually rot away and are unable to ever be worn? 

If you love sneakers the way so many of us do, wouldn’t you want to share that passion with others? I love running into someone on the street and just chatting about the fresh pair of kicks that they’re wearing. That’s where the fun in all of this is. It’s supposed to be why we all do this. 

Simply wearing your sneakers without worrying about ruining their resell status is probably another one of those signs that you’re too old to collect sneakers, because you don’t care about what people think of your choices. 

Getting to that point for me was a breath of fresh air and made being a sneakerhead a hell of a lot more fun. I picked up two of my personal favorite pairs this winter. Both the Air Jordan IV “Legend Blue” (it’s still Columbia to me) and the Nike Dunk High Premium SB “Salt Stains” were shoes I just really liked and wanted to wear, and wear them I do. The photograph above may show some people that I’m just not “with it anymore” because I let my Js get scuffed and actually have salt stains on my “Salt Stains”. I love these kicks way too much to just have them stored in a box. 

You Don’t Need To Have Tons of Sneakers To Be A Sneakerhead

via Hulk Hogan

I think the key to this whole question of “When are you too old to collect sneakers?” revolves around one word, and that’s “collect.” To me, being a sneakerhead is timeless. You can be in your 80s and still appreciate a great shoe, and so to that extent there truly is no age limit. 

Building up a great collection is all well and good, but unless you plan on opening up your own Shoezeum, what are you really going to do with all of those kicks? With time, even the best made sneakers fall apart, and no sneakerhead is looking to have a collection of crumbled up OGs to brag about. The truth is, all things pass with time and one day even the most passionate collectors come to realize there are more important things than how many pairs of kicks you have locked away. Whether it’s a family, a career or just getting out there and enjoying everything the world has to offer, as people grow older you just start to see life in a different way and you stop worrying about building up things you can’t take with you when you’re gone.

As for me, I don’t consider myself a “sneaker collector” anymore. There are times that I have a solid 30-40 pairs in rotation and there are other moments where I just sell off 90 percent of my kicks to pay some bills because I can always pick up another pair later if I really want them. 

Allowing myself to have the freedom of not caring about a collection anymore has made me enjoy sneakers in a whole new way and honestly I wouldn’t want to go back. To many of you, I may be the definition of someone who is too old to collect sneakers, but in my eyes, I’m just a guy who loves a good pair of kicks.

When it all comes down to it, the most real answer I can give to you when I ponder the question above is that you are too old to collect sneakers when you realize you don’t need to collect them to be a sneakerhead.

Larry Gallagher is a writer based in New Jersey. You can follow him on Twitter here