all images by Pete Forester

by Pete Forester

Some understand. Many don't. Between disregard and acceptance of the passion for sneakers comes tolerance. Who can better understand tolerance for the stranger elements of sneaker collecting, buying, and trading than mothers of sneakerheads? We caught up with some of the moms attending Sneaker Con in New York and asked them about their experiences dealing with this strange beast: their sneakerhead offspring.

What is it sneaker moms do in these environments? What do they understand? What are their hopes for their kids? And ultimately, perhaps most importantly, do they think this is insane? Here's what they had to say:

How do moms spend their time at these things?

Gwen Kahn
Here with:
son Justin; collecting sneakers for 1 year
I normally follow him around and hold the money. I hold the money. I don’t want him walking around with the cash.

Angela DiRenzo
Here with:
sons Joe, Joseph; collecting sneakers for 3 years
I wait. I used to follow him, but this trip I was forbidden to actually follow. So I just took a seat out here and read, waited. I went inside for a while, checked it out. Made sure it was kosher.

Yelitza Graterol
Here with:
son London; collecting sneakers for 2 years
Last time I spent a lot of money buying, and this year I brought shoes to sell.

Janine Slachmuylder
Here with:
 son Blake; collecting sneakers for 2 years
I thought it would be much more chaotic than it is. It’s pretty well organized. It’s a very friendly crowd, which I was surprised at. I thought it was a rougher group of people, maybe a little more aggressive, but everybody seems to be in it for the same reason. Just for the love of the sneaker, which is really nice to see.

Michele Brown

Rufina Khelemsky
Here with:
son Ross; collecting sneakers for 2 years
I help him to sell and to trade.

Dana Tucker
Here with:
 son Miles; collecting sneakers for 3 years
I watch him. I know the kind of stuffhe’s looking for, so I let him browse. But I want to make sure that someone knows he’s with a parent so that he’s not taken advantage of.

Michele Brown
Here with: son Spencer, collecting sneakers for 4 years
Look at all the shoes, talk to and meet new people. We split up. I wander around. I’ve met a few people, reoccurring friends… He goes and resells and sometimes I buy shoes for me.

Kara Shoulin
Here with:
son Grayon; collecting sneakers for 1 year
Been here about an hour. My son traded a pair of shoes. I’m looking for one specific pair of shoes for myself which I’ll never find. Old Nike Air Maxes that are three shades of red [Air Max 95s]. I’m never gunna find them.

Sherrie Young
Here with: nephew Quentin; collecting sneakers for 2 years
I told him I’d go wait for him outside.

Denise Falbowski
Here with: son Jake; collecting sneakers for 2 years
Sit and wait. I take one lap around, check it out, and text constantly. I’m happy for them because I know they’re having a great time. It’s meant a lot of them. So we’re just waiting… I’m just the mom that follows my son around and makes my son happy. It’s an expensive little habit.

Donna Delieto
Here with: son Anthony; collecting sneakers for 2 years
We’re just traveling through, looking at the different tables. He’s pretty much the expert

Juli Matti
Here with:
son Gregory; collecting sneakers for 2 years
Last year he was into sneakers. He was a little obsessed with it, he would spend hours online. That was his number one hobby. I was  okay, I learned a lot. It was something new for me, so I took an interest in it—learning the different names, the different styles, the prices, the stories behind them. I took an interest in it as well.

Gwen Khan, with son Justin

First impressions on sneaker culture…

Gwen: I don’t mind doing it as long as it makes him happy.

Sherrie: What’s so interesting is a lot of people I see are very nerdy. And you can see when they bump into you they say, “Sorry ma’am. Excuse me.” It’s that mannerism, that respect that’s there. Which is cool. But you can tell a lot of them are nerds. They’re nerdy. They’re nerdy about sneakers. And what I find very fascinating is that you have parents who are with their kids supporting it. I heard somebody outside on the phone say, “Well, do you think you could get more money for this? Start out high and then work your way low.”

Denise: This is the Super Bowl. Given the problem now, the deficit we’ll say, he’s not as pumped as he might be. We’re losing the Super Bowl this trip. But I still think we had a good time, which is important.

Janine: I’m pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this is. Even just looking at the amazing variety of sneakers out there and the amount of money that’s changing hands and the prices of some of these. It’s been really very interesting.

How did your kids get into sneakers?

Dana: It was one of the retro Jordans. I don’t know the specific one. But I just remember him coming home and saying “I need to get Jordans.” Before then he was wearing Skechers. And then he said, “I want these Jordans,” and from then on it’s been no more Skechers.

Donna: Well my husband passed away about seven years ago, so he was very much into Jordans, so bottom line was, once he was old enough to figure out that was a good idea, and I made the one mistake, I said, “Andy, you should get more into shoes,” and boy, wow. He took my advice. I think it’s great. It honors his dad.

Yelitza: He bought those [LeBron] basketball sneakers. Since that moment, forget about it. Every week we had to spend money on sneakers. Every time a new one comes out

Denise: Oh God. Do I remember the moment when I knew I was in trouble with this? It started with socks. That’s true. It was socks. What were those things called? Nike Elites! Oh my gosh, we must have 50 pairs of those.

Yelitza Graterol

On the business of being a sneakerhead…

Donna: I was just telling him he needs to open his own sneaker business. Everybody else seems to be. Personally, I get it. I get the collectable aspect of it. This is amazing, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before.

Janine: I don’t think money-wise it’s a good investment. I think it’s a fun hobby to do. I know that there are some guys that do this as an investment, but they’re really the ones who spend hours and hours shopping for those good deals, know the prices, sell it at a profit, and that’s not what our intention is. Our intention is really just for the fun of it… He’s having fun with it.

Juli: I think it’s nice to keep it as a hobby. I think if you’re doing it to trade or to make a lot of money I don’t know how feasible that is. We weren’t that successful… I mean he did sell them but not for what he hoped for. A lot below retail. He’s happy he’s not coming home with them but his expectations were really not met. He wanted money. He wanted a new computer for school. He made enough for that, so I’m happy for that. And a little disappointed, but I’m okay.

Kara: It’s teaching him a lot about business. He’s tried to sell within his school and he’s also tried to sell on eBay. Both have been not successful and successful. He’s learning about profit margin and that kind of stuff. So yeah, at first I was hesitant, but like I said he’s been kind of relentless. And he’s doing his own eBay thing, and I think he’s learning a lot about money. So that’s interesting.

Rufina: I think he learns entrepreneurial skills. He’s young, but how to trade, how to buy, buy cheaper, sell more expensive. All this stuff I think is very useful. Because no matter what kind of business he’s going to do, whether he’s going to run some kind of company that advertises composers, or he’s gonna sell nails and hammers, still he’ll need entrepreneurial skills. And they’re basically the same; the same rules apply. So this is an excellent opportunity to learn.

What do you think of sneaker culture after seeing this?

Angela: I’m not fully supporting because I’ve been funding a lot of this. But, I think when he bought and sold the Yeezys, those Yeezys, whatever they’re called. [750 Boost] He bought them at a very high price and sold them for double. That’s where I just said, “This is crazy, I guess there’s something I’m not understanding here.”

Dana: There’s a lot of things kids can be involved in that’s not just about shoes… It’s a culture and I think as a culture the shoes, he’s tied to different players, he does his research, so I think it’s helped to be more savvy as a consumer. He understands what the cost of things are.

Denise: I think it’s an obsession. He’s made some nice friends; he’s made some nice connections. I think it puts him a little too much behind the computer because of it. So it’s a constant pull to get him away from it. But there’s a lot of other things that could be way worse than sneakers. So we will embrace the sneaker.

Donna: I think it’s exciting. It’s something I share with him. 

Rufina Khelemsky

Juli: Last year he was into sneakers - he was a little obsessed with it. He would spend hours online; that was his number one hobby. The number one thing he liked to do. This year, he’s not. So he came to sell seven pairs. He’s sold six. He has one left. He’s not into it no more. I think he realizes that he really went in head over heels. He’s down to 22 now. But he enjoyed it while he was interested in it. And, you know, I enjoyed it.

Kara: He was relentless about the trading. He brought home a pair of his friend’s shoes and they were in good shape. I was afraid he was going to bring home a crappy old pair of shoes and be like “Oh I gave away my $200 shoes for a $35 pair of Target sneakers.”

Rufina: Honestly, I like the fact that my child has some kind of hobby. Maybe he becomes more popular in school because of it. He tries to make extra money, to work, to do something because he has an interest. He’s motivated. This gives him a motivation to do something extra.

Sherrie: The amount of money for sneakers has always been mind boggling to me. I mean when I was growing up Pro Keds were the sneakers. My parents were like, ‘We’ll give you your allowance, but you’ve got to get the rest of it yourself.’ That’s how I grew up. When I realized I had to pay for it myself I was like, ‘I’m not putting all my money on sneakers.’ But I understand that it’s the culture and that’s what they like.

Who’s really paying for the sneakers?

Angela: I bought them. I’ve funded the majority of this habit.

Denise: I bankroll some of it. And he trades and buys and what have you, so he pays for a lot of them now. Today he lost $200 amongst the crowd in cash. You know that’s not coming back. So, it’s a sad moment today.

Dana: We’re buying him the shoes, it’s birthday money, whatever chore money he can get, but we give him a threshold so he knows the limit and so he researches the shoes. He can’t go over the limit, even for a Christmas present we won’t go over the limit. He’s been going after those Foamposites, we just can’t pay the $200. It just doesn’t make sense. So it’s something for him to look forward to and to work towards.

Donna Delieto with son Anthony

Michele: This is the coolest thing. He’s saved. He’s flipped them. I’ve bought him a pair here or there for special occasions. He’s even bought me my first pair. He’s taken my daughter and I on vacation with money that he’s made. He takes me out for dinner now, and a cocktail.

Sherrie: I just try to instill in him that this is all fine and good, but you’ve got to learn how to save too. He tells me he is saving if he makes money off the sneakers, but I don’t check to see if he’s really doing it.

Do you think this is a phase that your kid will grow out of?

Angela: I think it will eventually fade out, like everything. I think you kind of go through your cycles with things. Maybe they go on to bigger and better things… There’s always some thing that you want. Sneakers have lasted a while, I think they’ll still be around for a while. But I think eventually it will evolve into something else.

Dana: It’s his personality. The shoes, the way he wears them with the different types of clothes, I just think it’s a part of who he is and I don’t think it will ever go away.

Yelitza: I don’t know. I wish. Because money. Whatever shoe comes out, you have to spend. I want to say this is the last [SneakerCon], but it’s never is the last one.