July 13, 2018

Sneaker collecting has been on the rise in recent years, as they play a huge part in streetwear culture, with cool kids in the know being labelled as “hypebeasts”. While the streetwear phenomenon has taken the fashion world by storm even becoming synonymous with high fashion—who can ever forget Supreme x Louis Vuitton?—sportswear giants Nike and Adidas have also been going toe-to-toe to capture the multi-billion dollar sneaker industry with constant new drops and heavyweight collaborations from Kanye West to Pharrell Williams and even Virgil Abloh.

In What’s My Obsession, we talk to Danial Mok who has been in the sneaker game long before Yeezy became a hot commodity. A prolific name in the local scene, having amassed a collection of over 300 pairs of sneakers at his peak, Danial is a true OG sneakerhead.

HNW: When did you start collecting sneakers, and do you remember the first pair that you bought?

Danial Mok: I started collecting sneakers when I was 16 years old. Back then, my dad used to buy a lot of shoes and wear nice ones to work. From there, I was inspired and started to appreciate sneakers. The very first pair of sneakers I bought with my own money was the Nike Air Spiridon, back in 1996 or 1997.

Being a veteran collector, how has the scene evolved over the years?  

The biggest difference would be how one goes about purchasing a pair of sneakers. In the past, you would have to go to retail outlets, but now everything is available online, because of the wide mass market appeal. The prices reflect that as well, with premium sneakers going for around $279 today. Ten years ago, you could get an excellent pair with good resale value. Right now, a pair of HTM Nike costs around $1000-$1500. In the past, it was only $350-$400.

There are sneaker collectors out there who are driven by their passion for basketball, so naturally, they would gravitate toward Air Force Ones. What’s your preference? 

Personally, I like to collect runners—shoes that are made for running. I am very much influenced by the European style where they collect a lot of Air Max, Air Safari and Air Spiridon models.

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Footwear plays a huge part in an outfit—do your sneakers dictate your style?

I pick out my shoes first, so I go from bottom to top. Usually, I will match my top with my shoes, and I have every colour imaginable.

What excites you about a particular sneaker? And what is the biggest selling point for you?

I don’t go for collaborations or exclusivity. I like the technology behind the shoes. Recently, I have been collecting a lot of Flyknits because I’m so impressed by how the shoe is being made, and how lightweight and comfortable it is. These factors definitely catch my attention.

Speaking of technology, where do you see the future heading?

I think with the recent advancements in technology, shoes in the future will be crazy. Adidas has Boost and Primeknit, while Nike has React and Flyknit, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us.

Do you think hype generates greater value?

In order for you to resell something, it needs to have a certain value to it. People tend to hype up certain sneakers in order to drive up the demand. Sometimes, the shoes are easily available in the US or the UK, but in Singapore, because of the hype that comes with it, you can’t get it.

What are your thoughts on collaborations such as Kanye’s Yeezy collection or Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Nike “The Ten” collection?

Personally, I don’t really like such collaborations. I would prefer to have brand collaborations, like Nike and Patta or Solebox with Asics. However, what Pharrell did with Adidas was pretty cool. As for Virgil’s Off-White collection, those are pretty crazy. I don’t really like most of them, except the Air Maxes like the Air Max 90 and Air Max 97. Some of these shoes tend to be too crazy or loud, and it’s too much for me. I prefer the subtle and classic kind of collaborations.

There are many collectors who would cop a pair of exclusive sneakers just to have bragging rights on Instagram. Do you think every pair should be worn even if it is super expensive?

I wear all of my shoes. Doesn’t matter if I bought it for $700 or $200. I make an effort to wear every single pair that I have. I do take photos on Instagram.

What are your thoughts on the reselling game?

I think it’s part and parcel of the scene. If this is how they want to make money, so be it. You have to decide for yourself if you want to get your shoes from a reseller or through other avenues. I don’t favour the reselling game. Back then we had resellers and today, we still have resellers, you can’t run away from it.

So is it fair to say that you only collect sneakers that really excite you, without looking at the resale value at all?

If you look at my collection, you will see that I have a certain style of shoes that I like, and I don’t simply buy them because of how exclusive or how trendy the shoe is. If I like how the shoe looks on me and how comfortable it is, I will try to get every single colourway. The silhouettes that I like are usually the Nike Air Max 1s, because I first started my collection with an Air Max 1. Recently I have started collecting Flyknit Racers, and I have probably around 50 pairs now.

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What are the differences in procuring a pair of sneakers in the past, compared to recent years with the advent of the Internet, where the world has become more connected than ever before?

There was no internet back in the day, so we would have to flip through Japanese shoe magazines. And we would travel to Japan to buy sneakers. Nowadays, shoes are available online and it kills the sneaker game. To me, the purpose of the sneaker game is about sneaker hunting: my friends and I would go to certain shops, and you never know what they would carry in the store. Thereafter, you would tell your friends, “Hey! I bought a pair of Air Force Ones from this shop, you should go down and take a look.”Nowadays it’s way too easy and the bots are killing the game. It’s pretty bad as people buy bots to help them get the shoes that they want.

When you were young, did you have to go to great lengths just to get your hands on a pair of sneakers?  

Yeah, I had to save every penny. When I was in school, I delivered newspapers to the neighbourhood estates. I would cycle from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. and earn about $30 per night. I had to work for 3 to 4 days before I could afford a pair of shoes, so I really treasured them. I still keep some, but not those that are worn out. 

What are your most memorable pairs?

Recently, I bought a pair of Air Max 97—it was a Japan exclusive that was only available in Japan back then. I also have a pair of Nike Air Spiridon that I bought two years back—it was the very first pair of shoes I bought with my own money in 1996/97, so when they retroed it again, I had to buy it.

How has being in the sneaker community impacted your life?

Being part of the sneaker community has allowed me to make tons of great friends and contacts overseas. Before I got married, I sold almost half of my collection to fund my wedding and I got quite a sum of money back. I had a lovely wedding, honeymoon and even used the remainder for my home renovation. 

At the peak of your collection, how many pairs of sneakers did you own?

My highest count was 350 pairs. I have never calculated the actual value of my collection because if I do, I will go crazy. Sometimes I do wonder how much I’ve actually spent on them. It’s easier to track my spendings nowadays because my wife helps me with my accounts.

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I’ve noticed that you have a lot of baby shoes in your collection. Are you grooming your child to be a sneakerhead?

Definitely! I used to buy baby shoes too whenever I travel, because the selection of toddler shoes in Singapore is quite small. So when I’m overseas, I will buy from FootLocker or NikeTown. My son has around 35 pairs of sneakers currently—some are on display, while others he frequently wears. There are a few which he can’t fit into right now.

Foot Locker and JD Sports are opening stores in Singapore—are you excited about their offerings?

In the past, I used to go to AW Lab, Foot Locker and JD Sports, so I’m stoked to see what Foot Locker will bring to Singapore.