Dane Maharaj is Young Matlock

Working as a corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer funds this tastemaker’s sneaker obsession

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Andile Phewa

As a man who obsesses about sneakers, clothing and niche objets, Dane Maharaj needs to make bank in order to keep those box logo T-shirts on his back. And it’s his job as a corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer at a top-tier commercial law firm allows him to burn Commes des Garcons candles and wash his pet Shih Tzus with Aesop shampoo.

Despite a day job spent making men with generational wealth richer (Dane advises companies or high net worth individuals who want to buy or sell companies or assets) Young Matlock, as he’s known in these streets, probably has more on-tap knowledge about a Supreme drop or a New Balance Made in UK pack than he does the Companies Act, and in his “real life” he’s a sneakerhead – even though he’s hesitant to be labeled as such, and even more irked at being called a hypebeast.

“There’s a negative connotation to the term ‘hypebeast’: as someone who just buys and wears what’s popular and ‘hyped’ as opposed to forming their own tastes and opinions. Everyone buys into hype now and again, but I like to think I don’t really buy or wear anything unless I actually like it to begin with.” 

The irony is that working in an industry known for its conservative dress sense, where judges can actually kick you out of court if you’re not appropriately dressed (read up on the Attorneys Act if you think we kid) means Dane must wear a suit and tie to work.

“I have a few tailored suits and a few off-the-rack suits from ‘luxury’ brands and like to keep things interesting with less common fabrics and prints, like a Prince of Wales check or Window Pane check. I generally wear them with a crisp white shirt and simple accessories like a pocket square and leather strap dress watch.”

When it comes to suiting, Dane says that fit and quality of fabric are more important than the brand, and although he was photographed wearing sneakers in our photo shoot, this was purely for flex and he’s usually rocking a pair of monk straps, brogues or Oxfords.

Now as a man who takes his presentation very seriously, Dane’s advice to guys dressing for the workplace is the same as what he’d dish out for guys looking to up their downtime gear.

“I think you should wear what suits you and what actually fits you. Pay attention to what you’re buying. Do a bit of research and look at all the materials and options at your price point. Don’t just walk into the mall and buy a pair of chinos. You might be able to pick up a pair of Edwin Japanese twill chinos for a similar price point, which will last you much longer and probably fit much better. Don’t be afraid to try new things and take a few risks – but at the same time remember that you aren’t Riky Rick.”

Building his outfits from the kicks up, Dane likes to wear heritage brands, labels who are doing new things in the culture, and then also keeps homegrown heroes Upper Echelon, Sol-Sol, Young and Lazy, and 2Bop in his rotations.

Sneakers will always be Dane’s first love though, and ever since that first pair of North Star Xcitements, he’s taken a huge amount of pride in his footwear. Nowadays, instead of stacking his shoe boxes on top of one another, his collection takes pride in a bespoke storage solution where the initial idea was to get rid of whatever didn’t fit.

“I think I've come to terms with the fact that this isn't actually going to happen. I've tried to organise it by brand and silhouette, but I still have a massive overflow and will probably have to build another closet on the adjacent wall pretty soon.”

Dane says Instagram has been good for the sneaker community. He appreciates how it’s allowed him to connect with like-minded people and given him access to information, images and shoes that were previously inaccessible. The downside to this technology, however, is how a lot of people who are new to the culture aren’t developing their own tastes.

“Copping shit and wearing shit based on the likes you’re going to get, or what you saw A$AP Rocky wearing at Fashion Week, as opposed to what actually appeals to you. There are so many copies of copies of copies out there, shout out Trent Reznor, and Instagram encourages this mindset by ‘rewarding’ you for being a lemming. It’s creating a legion of mindless drones who fly the flag of ‘sneakerhead’ but actually have no appreciation for this culture.”

Dane's passion is more than just fetishizing obscure things that other people don’t have, and he values the attention to detail, the quality of the product, and the story behind something, whether it’s a suit or a key fob.

“That Aesop dog shampoo, for example, may sound ludicrous, but the fact is that the quality of the ingredients in that shampoo are miles ahead of anything you’d find in a petshop brand so I’m happy to spend money on it. That’s generally my approach to buying ‘luxury’ goods or spending money on more niche brands.”

The sneaker game isn’t about how much money you spend or the size of your collection, because like Dane says, “You can’t buy your way in.” Instead, it’s about wearing what you like and the enjoyment you get from participating. “It’s about the materials and fabrication, it’s about the technology used in the shoes, it’s about the history and heritage of the silhouette.”

To rely on the clichéd trope – it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.