If the trainer fits, simply buy it

Collecting vintage or special-edition sports shoes is a burgeoning new market, reports Gwyn Jones
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A pair of Adidas trainers has just sold on the internet auction site eBay for more than £4,000 - and they didn't even belong to anybody famous. You might be aware that there's a market in vintage fashion, but who would believe that a pair of trainers could raise such a sum?

A pair of Adidas trainers has just sold on the internet auction site eBay for more than £4,000 - and they didn't even belong to anybody famous. You might be aware that there's a market in vintage fashion, but who would believe that a pair of trainers could raise such a sum?

If you went through a brief period of trying to get fit in the Eighties before consigning your sneakers to the back of a cupboard, now is the time to dig them out again.

However, Russell Williamson of the Crooked Tongue website, the world's first online sneaker resource, says the trainers' condition is paramount. "The idea of people collecting smelly trainers is not true," he says. "Generally, most collectable shoes will have been well looked after and not worn much. You would only buy a well-worn pair if they were particularly rare."

He adds: "Some of our second-hand shoes, such as the Nike Air Jordan I, are priced at £600, but a pristine-condition pair might be worth £1,500."

Air Jordan I trainers are among the most sought-after shoes. Others, such as the Nike Dynasty, also released in 1985, are popular too. You'd pay £600 to £900 for what's called a "dead stock" pair. That means a brand-new in-box pair, although Williamson says these are now rare.

"It's getting harder to find good examples," he says. "Prices of original shoes have certainly gone up and you see people paying daft money. I've heard rumours of some shoes selling for $25,000 [£14,000]."

The other big collectable name is Adidas. Two of the company's most popular shoes are the Adicolor, released in 1985, and the Micropacer, from 1984. The former can cost as much as £500 in good condition, while the latter will raise £1,000 or more.

Why collect old trainers? "If you've got a rare pair of sneakers on and you walk out into the street, you know you're going to get heads turning," says Williamson. "Although there are some old shoes that you just can't wear because a lot of the compounds the brands used in the Eighties don't last."

Rob Flowers at Beyond Retro, a vintage fashion retailer in London, says: "The market for vintage trainers is heavily fuelled by people who want something nobody else has. We get Converse Chuck Taylors, the little canvas baseball boots that have been going since the 1920s; pairs from the early Nineties regularly go for £70 used, which compares to a new pair at £25."

Trainers are a fashion statement for younger buyers, but older collectors find that the attraction is buying a pair they remember as a teenager. "People collect trainers as art," Flowers says. "Collectors treat them as display pieces, because as soon as they're worn they lose their value."

Limited-edition trainers are a recent development. The £4,000 pair of Adidas trainers sold on eBay were released this year in a limited edition of just 300 pairs worldwide to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Adidas Superstars.

While these trainers had to be won in various competitions around the globe, the likes of Nike and Adidas have cottoned on to the commercial aspects of the collectors' market. "The phenomenon of limited releases is new," Flowers says, "but Adidas and Nike have seen that there are people out there who collect trainers and have started to re-issue classics and to create special editions."

For the past few years, the Nike Dunk shoes have been one of the most popular trainers, so Nike has commissioned artists and stars to create their own designs, which are released in limited editions.

The Rapper Jay-Z had some special-edition Nike Air Force I shoes created, with his signature and in a special colourway, to coincide with the release of one of his albums. These now cost up to £6,000 - if you can find them.

Where to find them and how to date them

All Nike sneakers have a serial number stamped into them - the first two digits are the year in which they were made.

The pinwheel logo was used by Nike for a time in the late 1970s and is quite rare. The Nike orange swoosh or tick came in during the late 1970s but was fatter before the mid -eighties and then the colour was changed to red. Pre-red swoosh trainers are the ones to look for.

Adidas started in 1920 but the current leaf or trefoil logo has only been used since 1971. Before that, there was a series of different logos so anything pre-trefoil is desirable.

Vintage Stockists:

Beyond Retro: 020-7613 3636, www.beyondretro.com; Crooked Tongue: www.crookedtongue.com; Ebay: www.ebay.co.uk

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