It’s only fitting that on Air Max Day — Nike’s annual holiday devoted to celebrating one of, if not its most iconic footwear lineages — HYPEBEAST comes correct and profiles an authentic Air Max purist for our latest Sole Mates installment. Our newest feature guest is Ryan Hawkins — an avid sneaker collector who is born and raised out of Laconia, New Hampshire.
To say that Hawkins is a die-hard fan of Air Maxes would be a huge understatement. His collection right now amounts to approximately over 200 pairs and includes everything from deadstock colorways to vintage gems to nostalgic kicks such as the baseball cleats he produced on Nike ID for his senior year of high school. Hawkins certainly indulges in the energy around the collaborations and retros that dominate today’s sneaker market, but his obsessions truly lie within the realm of vintage Nike Air Maxes. He’s extremely meticulous about what he purchases as he often gravitates towards OG shapes and classic colorways, and he finds himself engaging with various online Air Max communities who share a similar sentiment. For the east coast native, shoes are vehicles of expression, and it’s the way that each pair — whether in pristine condition or beat to the ground — possesses a story worth telling.
Just in time for the March 26 Air Max Day celebration, HYPEBEAST had a chance to catch up with Hawkins to discuss his affinity for the Air Max 1, which silhouette he wants to see the Swoosh bring back and more.
HYPEBEAST: Who or what got you into shoes?
RH: Honestly, it was Eastbay catalogs for me around 1994 or 1995. I’d get those in the mail monthly and I’d browse through pages and pages of sale items since I only had a part-time job at the time. There would be Air Maxes on sale at $19.99 USD from $100 USD because those were crazy back then.
You were born and raised near Laconia, New Hampshire, was sneaker culture prevalent there?
Nope, not at all. I just remember one guy from my high school days who would always get the Air Maxes and wear them to death. Other than that sneakers weren’t really prevalent in my area. The Foot Locker at my local mall was really the only place that I could go and buy sneakers in-store and get the new releases.
What was your intention for starting your IG page and when did you start to gain traction?
It’s funny because it was purely out of a love for sneakers and there was no intent on growing it. Even after I first signed up for Instagram, my account was dormant for a couple of years. Then one day I just kind of realized how much I love sneakers and just decided to do it. I think I gained traction through consistency and continuing to share what I love.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love a pristine pair, but I also love worn-in shoes because there’s a story to tell there. I’ve got shoes that have been worn to death, but thankfully and for some reason, the previous owner kept it around and I love that aspect of shoes..”
You have an impressive collection of over 200 pairs, where do you normally source your kicks from?
Purely online for what I want. I’m obviously a huge fan of the Air Max 1 but I’m also very big on vintage Air Maxes. When I first started to buy kicks, I was definitely heavy on pickyourshoes.com, and when they stopped carrying Nikes I was pretty devastated, as well as the Collect marketplace. Now I mainly sift through eBay, Offer Up, Mercari, Poshmark etc. and I’ll find some of the craziest things on there.
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When it comes to buying older Air Maxes do you prefer them to be deadstock or do you not mind them being a little worn in?
Don’t get me wrong, I love a pristine pair, but I also love worn-in shoes because there’s a story to tell there. I’ve got shoes that have been worn to death, but thankfully and for some reason, the previous owner kept it around and I love that aspect of shoes.
Your IG page obviously has a ton of Air Maxes on there, but there’s also plenty of sports and 90s references whether that be Kobe, Jordan, Will Smith, Mariah Carey, vintage Nike posters etc. Talk about what you loved about this era and how it’s influenced your taste.
That’s where I grew up, man. I grew up watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, listening to Mariah Carey who has pipes from heaven, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Eric Clapton, Westside Connection, all of these people. All of these references make me happy and so I just love sharing that with everyone else.
Nike always tends to retro a different silhouette every year, are you very particular about them updating the shape and materials of some models?
I really appreciate their effort, and you know everyone loves to critique the bubble size when it comes to Air Maxes. But big bubbles are my style and OG shapes are definitely preferable.
Is there a shoe or silhouette that you’re waiting on Nike to bring back or you wish would have more energy around it?
Definitely the Nike Air Max Racer from 1995. It’s such a rare shoe because they only made it for one year. I’d love to see these make a comeback, but if they do I’d love for Nike to show it love and do it right.
What’re your thoughts on how Nike has approached Air Max Day in recent years?
I think they’ve done a good job so far. I know they started back in 2016 with Air Max Con where they had it in Chicago, New York and Japan and I think that was the start of something really great, and the energy around the holiday as a whole has been great. For this year’s releases I really wish that the Nike Air Max 1 “Wabisabi” pair for Asia was dropping everywhere since I’m an earth-tone type of guy, that’s my favorite out of the pack by far. The pale blue nod on the “Blueprint” is nice. I wish they were available to everyone but I understand the process of trying to get more eyes on them.
What is it about the Nike Air Max 1 that resonates with you?
I just think it’s so smooth as a silhouette. You obviously have to call out the creation and evolution of Air. It’s also the ease of wear. When I saw the model in the mid-2000s, I thought to myself that it was going to be a model that I could really stick to. I even made my first pair of Nike IDs back in 2002 as my high school baseball cleat during my senior year.
In 2010 is when I really saw it and appreciated it and realized there was an actual community on Facebook out there that was super into it and now I’m connected with all of these big time collectors such as Stevey Ryder, Superllalla, etc. and I just really love the relationships I’ve made there.
I heard you have a story to tell about the Air Max 1 “Crepe Hemp”. Talk to me about that.
So I’m usually a size 12, but I had a size 11 pair of that shoe. It wasn’t in the best shape but the toe box was in good condition and that’s an important part of the kicks. I randomly got a message from a high-level collector one day who noticed that my pair and I was on the hunt for a [size] 12. He sent me a deadstock pair in exchange for mine which was clearly worn in. I thought it was a scam and that he was going to want something in return but that wasn’t the case. It turns out he already had another deadstock size 11, but it was just the fact that he noticed how pumped I was about getting that pair, and our relationship has been all love ever since.
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I’m assuming you’re already planning on picking up the 2022 pair?
I’ve already seen leaks of the upcoming pairs and I’m definitely planning on picking those up. I don’t know when they’re coming out exactly, and it looks like they made some adjustments to the toe boxes but they look great from what I’ve seen so far.
“I really think that each person can take what they want from it. You look at a certain silhouette and the same Air Max 1 doesn’t mean the same to you than it does to me. You can express yourself through a shoe in so many different ways by lacing it the way you want, styling it the way you want, sharing it the way you want.”
Being that your page has gained some traction, has it opened any doors for you either professionally or personally?
It’s funny because I really only post the same kind of things, but I’m still happy that people gravitate towards it and enjoy it. I enjoy engaging with people in the comments and in the DMs about shoes because I really post kicks that I like and necessarily all of the new collabs. It’s opened up the chance to work with size? on certain projects and they’ve been kind enough to gift me three of their exclusives. Deon Point from Concepts also got in touch with me recently and gave me the opportunity to buy the “Mellow” colorway from their latest collection because he admired my love for Air Maxes.
Why are sneakers and the stories they hold important to you?
I really think that each person can take what they want from it. You look at a certain silhouette and the same Air Max 1 doesn’t mean the same to you than it does to me. You can express yourself through a shoe in so many different ways by lacing it the way you want, styling it the way you want, sharing it the way you want etc. Nike is a mammoth, and it goes back to when I was playing hockey back in the day when I saw Wayne Gretzky and Sergei Fedorov rock their Nikes, that really hammered it home for me. The nostalgia factor is heavy for me.