Superbalist’s Sneaker Buyer Devon Daniels on memories, sneaker culture and collecting.

Devon Daniels, sneaker fest, sneaker culture

Words by Lesego Ntsime | Images: Supplied

“I think for all of us, like with music, sneakers can create memories in time (and of places) and they do that for me,” shares Devon Daniels, Sneaker Buyer at Superbalist. All things begin with love, and this heart-capturing feeling lies at the centre of the sneaker aficionado’s story. With a collection that boasts some of the world’s best brands and drops that stretch into decades past, Devon talks us through the makings of his extensive collection - from cherished pairs to perfect pairs - as well as sneaker culture and how to start building a collection that might perhaps one day rival his.

Inspired by the texture and dimension that was prevalent in his childhood, Daniels attributes his love of sneakers to the people he watched growing up. “I've been obsessed with fashion and looking good from a really young age. Looking good and having your own identity meant a lot growing up on the Cape Flats,” he reflects fondly. That love would later be reignited during the rise of VHS and Thrasher magazine - an era in sneaker culture Daniels singles out as his favourite - and fully induct the sneaker buyer into a world that was steadily revolutionising and shifting footwear forever. 

“My real love for sneakers, especially for Air Max came about when I got introduced to Jungle and got my first taste of drum and bass around 97,” reveals the buyer, throwing in cultural references synonymous with late ‘90s/early noughties.”

Music and sneakers are woven together and this symbiotic relationship is apparent in Devon’s journey with sneakers. “Like listening to and appreciating all types of music, my collection could be categorised by genres, sub-genres and styles: the greatest hits/ golden oldies, top of the pops, essentials and experimental pairs,” he shares. “My most featured brand is Nike, followed by New Balance and a speck of everything else in between.” 

Devon Daniels, sneaker fest, sneaker culture

On his most cherished pairs, he adds that value is placed less on price and more on sentiment: “The special pairs I cherish are attached to people or memories and stories. I have two pairs of Nikes from the early 2000s that were made in South Africa - an Air Force 1 and Dunk that are special to me because they are attached to stories that transcend time -  beaten beyond wear from my teen years but safely stored away.” He adds, “I have a few pairs I've kept for 15 - 20 years and some are beyond wear now, but they bring back a flashback or memory. When I pull them out and tell someone a story about them, or see paint spills on them from a mission or relive an exact moment in time, it makes me smile.”

It’s safe to conclude that sneakers are going nowhere. As more people abandon their preconceived notions of sneakers and embrace the ever-growing sports luxe aesthetic, sneakers continue to expand their presence in the realm of shoes. “We need shoes! But no, we’ve evolved and adapted and sneakers have come to stay and be a part of our day to day wear. We seek comfort and innovation and, as far as i see it, the sports brands are doing the most innovating for our feet as well as staying top of mind as we scroll through our phones,” Devon observes.

Retro kicks are back, along with them the ‘dad aesthetic’. Defined by comfort, baggy silhouettes and voluminous proportions, kicks remain the essence of retro-inspired style archetypes.

“I recently picked up a pair of the Reebok Club C x Maison Margiela “Memory of shoes” which is a deconstructed all white pure buttery slice of heaven. I've been falling into the 90s classic “Dad Style" wearing them with Calvin Klein denim shorts, basic white tee and a NY Mets hat.”

The collecting never stops. On Devon’s wishlist? “A lot of the New Balance drops at the moment” the Nike Air Max Scorpion, Stüssy Air Penny 2s and Noah x Puma Clydes.

Devon Daniels, sneaker fest, sneaker culture

Intrinsic to sneaker culture is drip. If the sneakers make the statement, it’s the ‘fit that reinforces it. However, Daniels (born to a generation that grew with sneaker culture) doesn’t subscribe to this notion. “I don't really feel sneaker culture has inspired my style but, instead, evolves with it,” he comments. This statement summarises this story in the end it’s truly all about the sneaker. The way it wraps around your feet, the places you can go, the stories you’re willing to step into time and time again. 

And last but not least, we asked the Sneaker Buyer to share some tips on building a versatile and impressive collection. Take it from a pro: “Like the 10 commandments, the sneaker gods say: Chuck Taylor OG’s, Air Force 1 high & low, Puma suede, Air Max 1s, Air Max 90s, New Balance 574, Stan Smiths, Superstars, Reebok Classic Leather & Club C  and all in triple white of course or as the OG colourway for a pair would have been.”


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