To say that I’m out of touch when it comes to the world of sneakers is an understatement. The last time that I actually purchased a pair of sneakers was a couple of years ago, and to tell you the truth they were nothing special. Actually I didn’t even know how “special” a pair of sneaks could be until today. That’s because I happened to walk into a new store on Elmwood Avenue called Sole High, which specializes in sneaker culture.
When it comes to the art of sneakers, Sole High might as well be the Albright-Knox. The shop carries sneakers that range from and Airmax Nike ($75) to the Kanye West Red October ($5500). They have pairs of brand name sneakers that were inspired by Versace, Michael Jordan, Kanye West and Central Park in NYC… and everything in-between. Each pair speaks to the lifestyle of urban youth, who dream big when it comes to the sport of basketball and the pros that play the game (and the celebs that pay tribute to the players).
I spoke to Polo Gerber (photo left), the GM of Sole High, who told me that he had just come back from SneakerCon in NYC last week. SneakerCon is where a lot of the orders get filled. Orders? Yes. Most of the sneakers in Sole High are on consignment from collectors (sorta like baseball cards, but sneakers). A customer can purchase the exact sneaker that is carried in the shop, or they can ask to have a specific size ordered (where SneakerCon comes in to play). “There are a lot of collectors out there,” Polo told me. “All of the shoes are authenticated, so collectors know that we sell the real deal. Before we opened, people had to travel to bigger cities to find these types of sneakers. Now we have people traveling here to see what we have. We’re expanding the sneaker culture in Buffalo. We wanted to bring something to Buffalo that nobody ever expected would be here.”
As I mentioned, this industry is a completely foreign world to me. But I can see how people could get enticed to own a pair of sneakers that look more like art than something that worn on the feet. Each sneaker tells a story of a designer, a place and an experience. The history of sneaker culture is seen on the walls of Sole High. Some sneakers look so high tech that they resemble futuristic spaceships. Others look like they were painted by renowned artists. Still others take on more traditional basketball designs, but even those are tricked out in some fashion. All of the sneakers are shrink-wrapped, so that customers are guaranteed that they will not so much as have a fingerprint on them. Many of these sneakers will remain in shrink-wrap, as their price continues to escalate from year to year.
While browsing the selections at Sole High I also spoke to Marcus Hoag (photo right), who is in charge of the restoration and custom order department. Yep, you guessed it. Some collectors do wear their sneakers, but when the Jordans get scuffed up they are brought back in to get refurbished (from the soles to the skins). Marcus ensures that each pair looks as close to brand new, before they hit the street again. “As for our custom orders,” he told me. “We specialize in personalized artwork that gives the sneaker a truly one-of-a-kind look. Next week Fred Jackson from the Buffalo Bills is coming in to get his sneakers customized. It’s a “one of one” factory paint job.”
It is not uncommon for people to camp out, or wait in insanely long lines for sneakers. High Sole ensures that customers will never wait in a long line. They also price their sneakers competitively to compete with online sales and auctions. Plus, there’s nothing like looking at some of these beauties in person. Like I said, it’s a trip to a gallery filled with sneaker after sneaker. The shop even has some show-pieces that are not even for sale, such as the Spike Lee signed Jordan 4 tribute shoe. But you can purchase the unreleased Gucci shoe that was discontinued before it even hit the shelves. These guys have just about everything imaginable, and then some. “We also offer a safe haven for people to conduct trades away from the street,” added Polo. “Collectors can come in here and make a transaction with other collectors. We will even document the shoes that are being worn by the customer on Instagram. We take the photos with a backdrop of Nike shoe boxes for the full effect.”
If you are interested in checking out Sole High, pay a visit to 569 Elmwood Avenue, and Polo and Marcus will buzz you in. From there you are free to explore a world of sneakers that will have your head spinning in no time. If you’re a “sneaker head”, then you will be in heaven, and even though you might not walk out with a $5000 sneaker, there are still plenty of affordable styles, as well as matching key chains, phone cases (that match the soles), socks and even sneaker cleaner to keep your kicks looking sharp.
Featured exclusive/luxury sneakers in this post (out of the 1000 pair that they rotate in stock):
Red October: Yeezy 2 – Kanye West $5500
Doernbecher Jordan 8 – $650
Nike Supreme: Foamposite – Versace inspired ($600)
New Balance: Central Park inspired – $300 with a map on the insoles
BRO Holiday Gift #9 | Upcycled Wine Rack
BRO Holiday Gift #8 | bronze buffalo ring
BRO Holiday Gift #7 | diy photo wall art
BRO Holiday Gift #6 | hu’s sunglasses
BRO Holiday Gift #5 | max meets the mayor
BRO Holiday Gift #4 | buffalo beer book
BRO Holiday Gift #3 | custom mural
BRO Holiday Gift #2 | vagabond bow ties
BRO Holiday Gift #1 | “the knife” print