Right off the bat, you can tell John Gotty is an OG in the sneaker game.
“39 and still kicking,” he says.
Gotty grew up in a small Tennessee town roughly an hour from Nashville. With not too much going on in that area, he depended on magazines, TV, cousins from out of town, and older kids in school to give him cues on what was cool. For Gotty, it was his cousin Anthony who served as his sneaker guide.
“It was around fourth grade and my cousin Anthony got shipped from Ohio to live with his grandma, my great aunt, during his 11th grade year,” he says. “He taught me about how to clean and take care of my shoes and that left a big impression on me. I started paying attention to what shoes were being worn on the court and, later, in videos.”
Gotty says he doesn’t know how many kicks he has at this exact moment but tries to keep it at 100. So it may go down to 80 or shoot up to 150 pretty quickly.
“Unlike a lot of people, I try to keep the number at least halfway reasonable or at a point where I have storage space for them inside the crib,” he says. “No storage units or sticking them in the garage to die a slow death. No cramming them in nooks and crannies. If I have to do all that, I have too many.”
While the Nashville community is not a trendsetting place in terms of shoes, Gotty says that the city is the same as everywhere else when it comes to what is popular in the streets: Jordans and shoes like the Yeezy Boost
“Most cats tend to follow what they see everyone else doing,” he says. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it because everybody wants to fit in. I just don’t find it to be all that fun or unique. Retro models will always get a slice of my budget but I’m a big fan of trying different models and new tech.”
By looking at his social feeds you can definitely tell the Nike Air Trainer is a sneaker that’s special to him. Just like every teen growing up in an era where sports stars like Bo Jackson seemed like super heroes, Gotty’s love for the sneaker is pure nostalgic.
“In the land before time, athletes and marketing were what really sold shoes and not influencers and hype,” he says. “For me, it was Bo Jackson and the clever campaigns they had going with him. The guy was a beast of an athlete whose career was cut short but what he accomplished on the field and as a pitchman still stands. Same thing with Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, etc. They were all tremendous athletes and Nike helped magnify that to turn them into stars. And when it comes to Trainers they look like something from that time period. They’re distinctive when you’re talking the use of straps and the colors. I guess it’s like how car collectors are drawn to vehicles from a certain time period for whatever reasons, be it the body style, the engine, whatever. Same or at least a similar concept.”
He is a fan of the Chino/Rust Fragment x Air Trainer and gives props to the Swoosh for giving his favorite pair of sneakers some excellent treatment.
Gotty is not only a Trainer 1 loyalist but believes the resurgence of Huaraches was also one of his favorite moments in the past year.
“I was in 10th grade when they first came out and to see them pop back on the scene and be accepted speaks to how timeless the design is,” he says. “And we’re not just talking the OG Huarache Runner. We got the Trainers, the Huarache Light, the basketball joints, etc.”
For 2015, Gotty wants the sneaker community and brands to keep pushing change and quality.
“The rise in popularity for Boost models is dope, too,” he says. “I haven’t been as impressed by any new tech like that in a while. They really did a great job with the Ultra Boost because when you pair Boost cushioning and the fit and feel of the Primeknit upper is just heavenly. I’d highly recommend trying a pair to anyone who hasn’t yet. I have a little homie who’s 21-22 and I tell him that they’re buying our classics with not that many of their own being created. In order for this thing to last, we need more than just retros creating excitement. I’d love to see designers keep pushing the envelope.”
Follow Jarrel on Twitter at @_JarrelHarris
images via @jgotty