For many, setting the alarm for 6am and queuing outside a store before opening time is dedication enough when it comes to bagging must-have sneakers. But clocking up almost 1000 miles, camping out for two nights in sub-zero Scottish temperatures and risking pneumonia? Those are the levels of dedication achieved by Tom Ray, one of three UK trainer collectors showcasing their hardest-to-find pairs from the last ten years at HYPEBEAST’s very own HYPEBEAST Kicks exhibition at London’s Harvey Nichols.
A portion of 28-year-old Tom’s collection, which numbers well over 400 pairs in its entirety, will be at our very first European exhibition at Harvey Nichols’ new Project 109 pop-up space, located in their brand-new Menswear department. As well as eyeing up a selection of rare sneakers, visitors can take part in HYPEBEAST Printing Live, where we’ll be teaming up with brands each Saturday during our residency to produce one-off printed t-shirts made on site and only available nowhere else.
We caught up with Tom to talk about the sneakers he’s excited to bring to HYPEBEAST Kicks, and what pair was so important to him that he risked frostbite in the bleak Scottish winter.
When did you cross the line between consumer and collector?
I’ve never really seen myself as a ‘collector.’ I think the word implies it’s possible to complete a collection, when actually it’s the opposite. That said, I guess the real eye-opener was in 2011 when I discovered Facebook groups and forums. They completely changed my outlook on the sneaker scene.
What was the last pair you really fanboyed out on?
For the past three years there were rumors about the release of the Ronnie Fieg x Asics GEL-Lyte III Super Green, but they never materialized. Then, this month they’re finally dropping with only 700 coming out. I have every other pair featured in last year’s ASICS 25th Anniversary release, and that pair would be the final piece of my ‘Homage’ set.
Can you name one pair in your collection that you had to work really hard at to cop?
Last November, some close friends and I drove up to Aberdeen for the Hanon x Asics GEL-Lyte III Solstice release. We travelled almost 900 miles and camped at night. We’re talking Scotland in the middle of winter, so it was absolutely freezing. It was nice that we managed to be one of the first people there and got handed some great extras, but then there was the drive back, which was the last thing we wanted to think about after two rough nights of barely sleeping and being rained on.
Was it worth it?
Despite everything, I still have to say yes. The pair bangs!
Where’s the most bizarre place you’ve found a pair?
I hunted down Worm Tokyo while on holiday in Japan with my other half. I knew roughly where it was, but still ended up wandering the streets for ages because it was tucked away down some side alley with no obvious sign to highlight its location. The store itself was just a garage crammed with shoeboxes. Nobody spoke a word of English, but I already knew what I was after – What the Dunks – and just had to find an image of them on my phone. After passing a calculator back and forth, we settled on a price. I just wish I knew the language because I’d have loved a proper look through the boxes.
Who’s your favorite sneaker designer of all time?
If I don’t say Tinker, there’s something clearly wrong with me! Having said that, my favourite model is the Asics GEL-Lyte III. The split tongue just looks incredible, and the comfort is on point. So for me, Shigeyuki Mitsui takes the crown.
Who’s the most important person in sneaker culture right now?
It’s Kanye. You don’t have to like the guy, but you must admit he’s such a massive influence in so many things right now, including sneakers. The hype Yeezys bring when they drop is unreal. I have friends who know nothing about sneakers asking me to help them out, but mate, I can’t even get myself a pair!
What’s the one pair you’re bringing to the HYPEBEAST Kicks exhibition that you know people are going to drool over?
Either the Jordan 5 Tokyos, or my Air Max 1 Lemonades. You don’t see the Tokyos that often in Europe, so I hope folks will enjoy seeing them in the flesh. The Lemonades are possibly my all-time favorites. I could look at that pair every day!
What are your three favorite Instagram trainer accounts to follow?
The images produced by Nick (@Glackster) blow my mind. It’s not only his skills with a camera, it’s the concepts behind his ideas that I find so impressive. I’ve not come across anyone else that does it like he does. Next up is @Rago___. Adam is a local lad to me, and someone I bounce ideas off, whether in photography or just in general. I have a lot of time for him. Then I’ve got to mention Nathan (@_nate_w.) He started out wearing a different pair of SBs every day for a year, and has now reached his 500th day! You will struggle to find a better SB collection, especially within the UK.
What’s your grail shoe?
To me, a grail is a shoe that’s impossible to find. Mine would probably be something like an OG pair of Air Max 120 in the white/orange colorway. Three years ago I thought I’d finally located a pair in my size, but not long after paying for them I received a message from the seller telling me the soles had just crumbled in his hand when he picked them up for inspection. I got a refund, and I was able to grab a retro release in the US sales. For some reason, they’ve still not released it in the UK, but if they do, I’ll no doubt be picking up a fair few pairs, even though they will never be quite as good as the OG itself.
Finally, you can’t call yourself a sneaker collector unless you own a pair of…
Yeezys, haha! Nah, it has to be an Air Max 1. It doesn’t matter which one, and even if you don’t currently own a pair in your collection, so long as you’ve had them at least once in your life you’re good.
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