Sneaker Confessionals: I’m a Jordan Addict

Ed Quinn is only a mild-mannered office employee by day, but in his free time he has more than 21,000 sneaker-enthusiast Instagram followers.

Quinn’s Instagram posts–artfully done photos of sneakers from Quinn’s personal collection that range from selfie-style to professional quality–inspire equal parts envy (“Hate myself for selling these”) and motivation (“I need these in my life”) from his followers, plus a lot of nostalgia (“I remember when these came out! My all-time faves!”).

Quinn has also been a victim of Catfishing, with people using images of his sneakers on his feet on their social media pages as if it were their sneakers on their feet. It is this generation’s ultimate form of flattery.

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Yet almost all of those 21,000-plus followers know next to nothing about the man who goes by @eqkicks online. Nothing beyond what his feet and ankles look like when modeling a nice pair of basketball shoes. (Which works both ways, Quinn points out: “Sometimes I think, ‘I don’t know what this person looks like. I don’t even know their real name.’”)

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Meanwhile, most of the family and friends who actually do know Ed Quinn are unaware that he’s developed a following on social media.

“Not many people who know me really know about my sneaker collection,” Quinn says. “No one knows that this dude that wears the same pair of shoes to work every day goes home to a room full of shoes. If I go to a family (gathering), there’s a better chance someone will make fun of my shoes rather than someone saying, ‘Those are cool.’ If I were to go into work tomorrow wearing some crazy Jordans, nobody would care.”

Anonymity does have its privileges, though.

Think of somebody in your life who is known for being fashion-forward or extremely stylish. Think of how you expect them to look on-point every time you see them. Now think of the pressure that may come with that.

Quinn is known online for his footwear, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never catch him in public in some less-than-impressive shoes. He has that freedom.

“I have a decent following online, but locally, I don’t think anybody really knows or really cares,” he says.

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Here is what you should know: Ed Quinn is 28 years old and lives in Troy, N.Y., where he works in quality assurance for a nonprofit organization. He is a former high school point guard who modeled his game after Mike Bibby while playing alongside ex-UMass and Binghamton star Emanuel “Tiki” Mayben.

Quinn also collects sneakers. He currently owns more than 250 pair, he estimates–at least 200 of them are Jordans–and they take up two rooms of the home that he shares with his wife.

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Here is what you might not expect: Ed Quinn totally understands if you think his hobby isn’t worthy of praise. Sometimes he’ll sell a pair of his shoes, but he doesn’t have much interest in building a business as a reseller, nor does he desire to put his shoes on display as a mini-museum.

Even his social media following was basically built by accident.

“There was no real plan for it to happen,” Quinn says. “I didn’t get on Instagram to post shoes. At first, the only thing I did was check out other people’s shoes. Then I started posting my own shoes, just because I enjoyed it.

“It’s cool that people think (sneakers) are cool, but it’s strange to me.”

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Quinn admits he is a sneaker addict. He uses terms like “relapse” and calls the Internet a bad influence on him for enabling his habit. He has childhood stories of getting a summer job to feed his sneaker habit, then hiding his stash from his mother so she wouldn’t think he was spending his whole paycheck on shoes.

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Although he does own a T-shirt that says “Sneakers Ruined My Life” across the chest, Quinn’s addiction has never gotten him in trouble. He’s not that shopaholic who chooses fashion over food or retro Nikes over rent money.

Sometimes he talks like an addict who knows he has a problem, but it’s not truly a problem.

“Is there a downside?” Quinn repeats a question posted to him. “Well, obviously there’s the money being spent. And I don’t have time to wear all of these shoes. When am I going to wear them? I can’t wear them to work anymore. There’s no need to have any more shoes than I have now.

“I would like to stop buying shoes,” Quinn adds. “It’s a nice goal. I don’t know that it’ll happen.”

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Quinn was a lover of sneakers since he was a kid growing up in Troy, an upstate New York city that sits just as far away from Boston as it does from Brooklyn.

His initial interest was strictly competition-related; he was a young basketball player looking for shoes in which to play basketball. His taste for Jordans did not spring from hoarding catalogues and memorizing the Air Jordan lineage like other kids memorized song lyrics, but simply from his favorite player, Bibby, being signed to the Jordan Brand.

In fact, Quinn isn’t even a fan of Michael Jordan himself–which may sound strange considering he owns hundreds of MJ’s signature sneakers, and because much of sneaker-collecting culture revolves around Air Jordans.

“It’s not as odd to me as it probably is to someone else,” Quinn says. “By the time I really became a basketball fan, Jordan wasn’t really around anymore. So it’s not like, ‘I like these Jordans because I remember Michael Jordan doing this or that (in them).’ It might have his name on it, but it doesn’t have a personal connection to me.”

It was when Bibby, a point guard for the Sacramento Kings, started lacing up nightly in Air Jordan XVIIs that Quinn decided he needed to get a pair for himself in his school’s colors.

A collector was born.

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But there have been gaps along the way.

“I actually went for a few years where I really didn’t buy any shoes,” Quinn says. “I just wasn’t that motivated to buy shoes. I guess I lost interest. Most of what really got me back into buying shoes was trying to find stuff that I missed out on growing up.”

For a collector, shopping for sneakers can take on many forms.

Some buyers are grinders, built to win battles of attrition, camping outside of storefronts for hours in anticipation of a new release and elbowing their way through eager shoppers to get that prized pair. Others are as meticulous in their preparation as big-game hunters, knowing exactly what they want and exactly how they’re going to bag it before stepping into that treacherous retail jungle.

There are the Jerry Maguire-types, who cultivate relationships with sneaker stores and individual dealers, then work the phones to arrange clandestine meetings to pick up the product. And then others resemble a hip-hop head digging through the crates at a dusty used record store, enjoying the thrill of uncovering an unexpected gem.

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Quinn doesn’t really do the Maguire thing. “To tell the truth,” he says, “I don’t really know anybody who works at a shoe store.” He has done the camping-out thing and he’s done the hunting thing, but he is typically more like the fourth kind of shopper. Only his preferred crates are on the Internet. He browses sneakers for fun and just buys when the mood strikes.

“It’s up and down,” he says of his shopping routine, which isn’t really a routine. “I could buy a couple of pairs in a week, or I could go a couple of months without buying anything. It just depends on what I like and what’s available. I don’t have any plan.”

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Sneakers are trendy right now. Fans are not only into the art, but also the science of sneakers. It’s cool to be a sneakerhead, which means it’s cool (and potentially profitable) to be a sneaker collector–they’re like new-age cool tech geeks, but with style and some street cred.

It is an exciting and yet disconcerting time for Quinn, a sneaker collector who was never in it to be noticed.

“It’s kind of funny how the whole thing is now, where it’s kind of glorifying people with lots of shoes. It’s very interesting,” Quinn says. “I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s not really a skill or a talent. Anyone can do it. All it takes it money.

“I remember when I first got into shoes, my thing was I just wanted to have shoes in every color,” he says. “So if I already had a pair of black sneakers, I wasn’t gonna waste $100 on another pair of black sneakers. People will be like, ‘Why did you buy the green (Air Jordan) XIVs?’ Because they’re green. I wanted some green sneakers. It’s not as crazy as people think it is; at least not for me.”

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The thing about a hobby is that, if that hobby is not also your business, you will more than likely grow out of it someday.

At some point, Ed Quinn may own every sneaker he desires to own in order to satisfy his sartorial and nostalgic needs. And then the sneaker addiction will be simply a colorful room (or two, or three) of fond memories, a tremendous walk-in closet of options.

“I see a lot of people that’ll be like, ‘Here’s my rotation for the week’ or ‘This is what I’m gonna wear this week.’ I never really put that much thought into it,” Quinn says. “It just depends on what I’m feeling, or maybe the weather. I just try to mix it up.

“What am I gonna wear tomorrow? Good question…”

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all images via Jordan Keyser // @airjordank