Prior to the opening of the 2023 Calgary Sneaker Swap at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, there was already a lineup to get in.
Outside, dozens of Calgarians were walking through the downtown core towards Chinatown, carrying bags with boxes filled with some of the most desirable, fashionable, and rare sneakers available.
No longer a niche among aficionados, collecting sneakers has become entirely mainstream—and Saturday’s swap was an opportunity to gain a few bragging rights over having a righteously rare pair, and possibly trading it for another.
“I started collecting sneakers about 20 years ago, not to date myself, but I worked at a sneaker store. That’s when I started getting into sneakers in high school and college, and those days when the sneakerheads would come in for a release,” said Sneaker Swap 2023 organizer and founder of YYC SOLEdiers, Adam Keresztes.
“As things have grown and things have moved away from that and into the internet, we don’t have those spaces for coming out and meeting people. So we started this as a way to grow the community… meet people face to face, make connections, and build this community into something bigger.”
Keresztes said that over the past decade what was niche has become mainstream, and had exploded in popularity over the pandemic.
The swap, he said, was expecting to have more than a thousand people interested in sneakers attending.
“We don’t get all the sneaker releases, we’re a pretty small fish when it comes to sneaker communities so we don’t get a lot of the stuff. But people do in the city, they acquire them through whatever means, and then at the show is where you’re able to be able to see those pairs,” he said.
“Somebody might have them for sale, they might just be showing them off, they might just be showing their collection, but you’re able to see some really unique pairs and special affairs that you might not see anywhere else.”
YYC SOLDiers was co-founded by Andrew Phung from Kim’s Convenience
Keresztes said that before Phung became the household Canadian name he is today, he was one of the founders of the YYC SOLDiers sneaker collectors group and the Calgary Sneaker Swap.
“He’s always been a sneakerhead. Always been into it.”
“He’s on to bigger and better things, lives in Toronto now, runs his own show… but he does stop by when he’s in town.”
Keresztes said that passion continues, and Phung has supported the swap from afar.
“He’s just the greatest supporter of these types of community events. He’s a huge sneakerhead, like he has an insane collection. Probably one of the best collections,” he said.
Although not many of the attendees at the show could say that can compete with Phung in the size of their collection, some of those people had impressively dialed in collections of their own, focusing on a particular part of the sneaker market.
Thando Mkhabela, owner of Thando’s Techies, had her collection of women’s sneakers on display, which had some rare sneakers owing to the fact that not as many limited edition kicks are made just for women. Her collection includes a number of A Ma Manieres, Sneaker Candy, and Skate Like a Girl Nike SBs.
“I’ve been a sneakerhead for a long time since I was a kid, and I don’t really know any other female who really collects like I do in the city,” she said.
“I just wanted to showcase my collection and just represent the ladies in the city.”
She said that she has between 75 to 80 pairs, which all started with some Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
“South African culture and All Stars:There’s a huge culture there, it’s part of our traditional ceremonies.”
She said that her dream pair right now was a pair of A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 12—currently eBaying for between $230 and $720 depending on size and color.