The Instagram Sneakerhead MVPs of 2014

  • Victor Cruz

    @teamvic

    Victor Cruz

    @TeamVic

    An inspiring underdog story and one of the truly good guys in sports, Giants receiver Victor Cruz often sends out pictures from his collection, along with shots of his football games and charity events. He also does his part to contribute to sneaker culture with the #Kickstagram #CruzdayTuesday program, which rewards fellow collectors with $100 gift cards.

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  • Tinker Hatfield, Shane Victorino

    @ShaneVictorino

    Shane Victorino

    @ShaneVictorino

    The Flyin’ Hawaiian has a genuine love for sneaker culture; don’t be surprised to find the Red Sox outfielder in the comment section of one of your pictures if you post something he likes. A particular fan of customs, Victorino made ripples in October with his pair of snow-white Yeezy 2’s. (Though horror aficionados might be more drawn to his pair of Jaws Foamposites.)

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  • Air Jordan 4

    @13thWitness

    13th Witness

    @13thWitness

    The son of legendary graffiti artist Futura 2000, 13th Witness has carved out his own niche as a truly gifted photographer, and he has expanded his unique perspective to changing the way we look at sneakers. The innovator of the aerial Air Jordan shot, 13th Witness has challenged everyone to raise their game to entirely new heights.

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  • @DeadstockNYC

    DeadstockNYC

    @DeadstockNYC

    One of the most connected and well-liked people in the sneaker community, DeadstockNYC has extensive knowledge, passion, and most importantly, perspective. Having recently become a father, his feed shows his daughter’s collection already rivals anyone else’s — and serves as a reminder that there’s way, way more to life than sneakers.

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  • @Nunez

    Danny Nunez

    @Nunez

    A digital rep for the Jordan Brand, Nunez has long practiced what he preaches, posting a constant stream of coveted sneakers. His move to Portland has been beneficial in more ways than one; his feed also frequently features well-orchestrated landscape shots. For those aspiring to turn their hobby into a career, Nunez is a shining example that hard work and motivation can make it happen.

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  • LeBron James

    @KingJames

    LeBron James

    @KingJames

    LeBron has embraced the power of social media over the years, offering his eight million-plus followers (!) fascinating glimpses into the life and times of America’s most significant athlete, plus a refreshing dose of social commentary. The scion to Michael Jordan’s sneaker throne also serves as perhaps the world’s most effective viral influencer; whatever your opinion of the latest Nike LeBron release, it always seems a lot better after you see them on his feet. (And his PEs are, well, like nothing else you’ve seen.)

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  • Spencer Paysinger

    @SpittyP

    Spencer Paysinger

    @SpittyP

    At the risk of making this list too Giants-centric, linebacker Spencer Paysinger has a dazzling selection of custom cleats and other heat, making good use of his University of Oregon alumni status. More than just kicks and football, Spencer’s intelligence and gift of perspective make him someone to keep an eye on in the years to come.

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  • Air Jordan 1

    @kidfuture_

    Kid Future

    @kidfuture_

    In general, Nike brand marketer Cory Fauver is an outstanding photographer with a remarkable eye for composition. But where he excels for our purposes is his #MUGSHOTKICKS collection, framed in a truly unique way on his feed. Check out his profile on your phone for the full effect.

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  • @nickengvall

    Nick Engvall

    @nickengvall

    Though you most likely know him from his time at Complex, Nick has been all over the map, and you’d be hard pressed to find somebody with his knowledge and passion. A beacon of positivity in the sneaker community, his feed is a tribute to his integrity and individuality — witness his collection of Reebok Questions, unmatched by everyone short of Allen Iverson — and of course, his affinity for the San Francisco Giants.

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  • Air Jordan 3

    @ChampagnePapi

    Drake

    @ChampagnePapi

    I know, I know. But though Drake isn’t perfect — even I have some history with him — there’s no doubt he’s a rising star in the footwear industry thanks to his partnership with the Jordan Brand. Every time he posts an OVO PE, people endlessly speculate about release dates that never seem to come. So as long as we don’t let him wear those kicks anywhere near a basketball court, this might work out just fine.

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  • @Wex1200

    Jon Wexler

    @Wex1200

    This year, adidas has made some serious noise with an array of fashion-forward trainers and intriguing endorsement deals, most notoriously with Kanye West. Less controversial yet ubiquitous in his own right, Wexler, the Global Director of Entertainment and Influencer Marketing, has helped adidas capitalize on their buzz. Wexler has a world of perspective from his years in the industry — make some time to watch this video — and his feed is a flawless example of brand marketing.

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  • Under Armour Anatomix Spawn

    @mache275

    Mache Custom Kicks

    @mache275

    Remember when customs used to get lumped in with fakes? We’ve come a long way from that line of thinking, and Mache is at the forefront. Long before the Iron Man-esque LeBron 11 dropped, who can forget LeBron James wearing his custom Xs? Mache’s feed pushes the boundaries of what can be done with sneakers as a canvas, and it’s become commonplace to see his creations adorn some of the finest athletes and entertainers.

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  • Michael Jordan, Roger Federer

    @RogerFederer

    Roger Federer

    @RogerFederer

    Besides being totally awesome at tennis, Federer’s Instagram reveals that he might just be the real-life most interesting man in the world. On the low, Federer is a big-time sneakerhead; the guy, after all, has been known to wear Yeezys. And whatever you think of his collaborative Zoom Vapor with Jordan – I tend to like it – the Maestro made major waves this year.

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  • Victor Cruz
  • Tinker Hatfield, Shane Victorino
  • Air Jordan 4
  • LeBron James
  • Spencer Paysinger
  • Air Jordan 1
  • Air Jordan 3
  • Under Armour Anatomix Spawn
  • Michael Jordan, Roger Federer

In an ideal world, the essence of collecting sneakers might be to simply buy what you like, the benefits being purely intrinsic.

That said, it’d be naive to suggest the approval of others doesn’t matter, or even that it shouldn’t. It’s hard to deny the visceral thrill from sharing a subtle nod with someone who shares your love of the culture, or from putting a casual observer’s head on a swivel with something he’s never seen before.

In that sense, social media has become an integral accessory for the plugged-in sneaker aficionado, who no longer even has to leave the house to show off his collection to like-minded enthusiasts. Not to mention, thanks to social media-savvy brands and well-connected insiders, the first time you glimpse most upcoming releases is probably on your Instagram feed.

Instagram is also perfect for those inclined to partake in the proverbial “sneaker porn.” I’ve always loved checking out pictures of shoes I like, and with modern technology offering the tools to stoke our creative fires, certain Instagrammers have elevated their sneaker photography to an art form.

Of course, much like sneaker culture itself, not everything about Instagram is perfect. We all know the flood of general releases that pop up on our feed on a Saturday morning, or the people who strive for coveted pairs they don’t necessarily even want just to garner the fleeting fix of some E-props. And we’ve all seen people who, frankly, try way too hard.

For the most part, though, Instagram has been invaluable for those of us who tend to fully immerse ourselves in our hobby. And there are some people — celebrities, brand reps, athletes, notable collectors — who tend to set themselves apart in one way or another.

With the disclaimer that the following list is completely subjective, here are Champs SportsInstagram Sneakerhead MVPs of 2014, a baker’s dozen presented in no particular order.

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Follow Bryan on Twitter at @sportsangle

image via Ollie Millington/Getty Images