Young Ben Cain, an adidas trainer collector and self-proclaimed ‘grail hunter’, joins us from the UK to share a bit about his past, his current lifestyle, and, of course, his trainers.
While Ben’s not a celebrity he’s quite active online, sourcing shoes, shooting his own stock, and sharing the results across a variety of Internet forums, chat threads, and hobbyist groups. If you’re into terrace classics – especially vintage ones – then you’ve probably run into him online.
Luckily we caught up in-person for a quick session to see his stash and here more about his passion.
Hey Ben, thanks for coming down! The typical, unoriginal way to start an interview is to ask you to introduce yourself. Here at eatmoreshoes we’d like to flip that. Can you tell us who you aren’t?
Well, sadly I’m not Bill Gates, otherwise I’d have a slightly larger collection than I do at the moment.
But still, your collection has been called ‘phenomenal’ by some. How would you describe your stash, in your own words?
I wouldn’t say it’s a phenomenal collection. In terms of my age I’d say it’s a healthy sized collection though.
Most would ask how you got into adidas, but we all know that story: seen it, want it, hunt it, wear it. For us, the important thing is: why adidas?
As you know I used to have a passion for another brand as a kid, and I wore mostly runners. At the time I began to fancy something a bit different and as I’d worn Stan Smiths and Gazelles I’d seen the range of styles adidas had to offer. So, gradually the other runners were replaced by more Gazelle and so on.
Can you tell us the story of your first pair of adidas?
I was in the hospital for a routine operation to remove my tonsils and my brother gave me a pair when I left. I can’t remember the model though, and I’ve been rattling my mind trying to remember what they are. Sadly my distant memories are all a blur…
But I do still have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys I also got from him… I was spoilt by my brothers!
Yeah, unfortunately, far too many of us share this same ‘disease’ of first-trainer-amnesia! So, what was the first pair that you can actually remember the model of… and do you still have them?
The first pair I can remember would be some Stan Smith from Inter Sport in Basingstoke around ’98 or ’99, and like most kids at the age of ten my trainers got absolutely battered and dashed in the bin.
What about these days, do you have any favorites from your collection?
All my trainers are my favorites but the West German SL80, Austrian Jeans MKII, and West German Mexicana really stand out to me due to their rarity and just the fact that no re-issue has compared to them or, in some cases, they’ve not been re-issued at all. With the SL80 the shape, the material and just the overall feel of the shoe is so superior to 02s and 10s, it’s unbelievable. The MKII Jeans, well, they’re such an iconic shoe and I was honoured to own them for the short time I did, though now a good friend, Prendy, owns them. As for the Mexicana, you just can’t beat the colour and shape!
Right, it’s a heartbreaker to see those MKII Jeans go, I’m sure. Now through the grapevine we know your Mexicana cost you about half a grand (or more precisely 475 GPB) and that’s a huge load to pay on one pair for some… but tell us honestly Ben: how many pairs do you buy per month and about how much money do you think you drop on trainers per month?
It all depends on what’s available really. Many collectors know vintage adidas are like buses: one won’t come along for hours and then ten will come at once.
Too true, that’s how hunting goes. Do you mind to tell us what sort of things you do for cash (besides regular work)?
I’m an international drug lord; I’ve been compared to Pablo Escobar on many occasions. No, seriously, I do a bit of buying and selling, and sadly I’m a bit of a gambler so it does occasionally give me some extra cash to spunk on adidas.
Whatever keeps the classics coming, right? It’s cool to see you illustrated up by Peter O’Toole. Can you tell us a bit about him?
Well, Peter’s had some amazing pairs also, very well known for a little story you may or may not have heard. He’s a top bloke. And he has a very nice collection, but if you want to know more you need to ask him.
Speaking of collections, who do you look up to in the worldwide trainer scene for inspiration?
There’s hundreds of people with a better collection than mine that inspire my hunting. Most notably it has to be Kerso’s collection and a few lads I know off some web forums. Quote’s collection is one I particularly aspire to mirror, as we’ve a very similar taste in trainers, especially liking runners and the City Series.
Even though you talk about runners a bit, we’ve heard you’re into football, and considering the history of adidas in the UK football scene, you must be aware of the ‘dress code’ terrace classic trainers imply. Do you have anything to do with the casuals scene?
I don’t have anything to do with that myself, though I have family members who were, so this partly inspired me regarding clothing when I was younger, like getting expensive clothes. I was always out getting Armani, Moschino, Evisu, and Iceberg bits from about the age of eleven. And when I could actually fit into SPW gear – around fourteen – I’d get that too.
Beyond that, is there anything else in your life that you collect or hunt after (other than birds)?
Isn’t there only one thing everybody truly hunts for? Happiness…
No doubt, Ben. Lastly, what do you want on your tombstone and who would you pass your collection onto if you died tomorrow?
Calm down Dylan, I’m only twenty-three, I’m not even thinking about that!
But if my partner at the time has anything to say about it, it will probably read “He was a sad cunt spunking all his money on adidas”. And regarding my collection I’d just get a friend to sell it all and put it in a savings account for my kids.
That’s hilarious and honorable, in that order Ben. Thanks for coming down and chatting with us a bit, it’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and take a look through your shoes. Good luck on your future grail hunting! And for anyone that is further interested in Peter’s work, please check out his Facebook and website.
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by Ben Cain
illustrations contributed by Peter O'Toole