To say that sneaker culture has reached fever pitch will probably prove false when next year, the latest Yeezy Boost sells for $10,000 on eBay. If that number seems ridiculous to you, consider this: sneakerheads are a particularly insatiable collector group whose drug of choice just so happens to be on regular supply. (That and a pair actually sold for that much last year.)
Toronto is staking its claim on the sneaker circuit with Nike’s celebration of Air Max Month, during which it honours the 30th anniversary of the Air Max 1 (one of its most iconic styles and the first model to expose its cushioning), which has just been re-released in its original form. A Nike Air Max bus was scheduled to hit Toronto’s sneaker hubs all month long, and features an exhibit of the most iconic kicks in the Air Max vault. The tour will culminate on March 26, when the latest model, the Nike Air VaporMax is released.
From March 30 to April 2, Vans will host its second annual House of Vans popup with a four-day event at 99 Sudbury featuring a community market, an art exhibition, a temporary skate park and live performances by Mac DeMarco, Bambii and Ralph.
Sneaker culture has been steadily rising since the mid ‘80s and the birth of the iconic Air Jordan, but the Toronto market has seen its fair share of ups and downs.
In 2010, a slew of the city’s high-end sneaker stores shuttered, prompting the city’s biggest fans to go online. But with the rebranding and subsequent popularity of Raptors merch in 2015, sneaks were on the up-and-up. That year, Nike released a Toronto-centric version of the Air Max 1, dubbed “The 6” and marketed as Toronto’s official shoe.
“There was a lot of hype around that and it felt pretty damn cool to have a shoe release reppin' the city you were born and raised,” says Kamal Bandukwala, a writer for CP24 and self-professed sneaker addict. Bandukwala, who owns close to 70 pairs, cites Drake’s OVO x Jordan 10 series as another big moment for the city.
In 2013, the Bata Shoe Museum initiated Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture, an exhibit which is currently on tour in the US, featured early Chuck Taylors, the first Air Jordans and several high-profile celebrity athlete collaborations.
Today, there seem to be a bevvy of choices, and we’ve included a list of the four best stores citywide to get your fix:
This subterranean boutique is as known for its colourful displays as it is for rare and deadstock sneaks by brands such as Adidas by Palace, The Hundreds, and Billionaire Boys Club.
116 Spadina Avenue (Unit G1), 416-360-5483, deadstock.ca.
This sneaker-specific offshoot (its sister store is just down the block on Bellair) features a pretty extensive collection for its small size. Expect everything from Saucony’s colourful Belgian Waffle to the slick New Balance x Mita collab.
69 Yorkville Avenue (Unit 104), 647-748-1169, capsuletoronto.com.
This high-end menswear boutique carries a tightly curated range of designer sneaker brands such as Commes des Garçons as well as exclusive sneaker releases like the Nike Air Max 1 Atmos.
145 Berkeley Street, 647-344-4745, havenshop.com.
The sneaker selects at Nomad are hip, just like its menswear. The boutique’s footwear ranges from Adidas by Raf Simons to styles from the Vans Vault.
819 Queen Street West, 416-202-8777, nomadshop.net.