In our constant pursuit to uncover the uncanny lives of trainer collectors, sneakerheads, and sole addicts worldwide, we’ve stumbled across an outstanding collection with a variety of rich stories behind it. Liverpool-based family man, Bobby Mac, steps forward to shine some light on the large and lovely stash he’s amassed over the years.
Bobby, man, it’s exciting to have you here for a chat. Tell us, would you describe yourself as a collector?
Hi there. I’d say that I’m a collector, yes, and some collectors don’t like this term, but what else can someone be that has loads and loads of a certain thing?
Good point. A common belief that some people hold defines a collector as someone who doesn’t wear their trainers. Are you like this?
I wear most of my trainers but some will remain unworn and on display within my collection. Imagine wearing a box-fresh pair of thirty five year old grails just to stand in dog toffee!
We certainly understand that worry! Other than being a collector how would you describe yourself?
Work for me has always been a bit adventurous, I worked most weekends as a kid from about the age of ten onwards, doing various things. This was my choice, as there were things I wanted that I had to work for or I’d have gone without, and this was my way of getting trainers – albeit not that good or what I wanted at the time – jeans, tracky tops, and LP’s. I didn’t have parents that gave a fuck, to be honest, so I funded myself from an early age. This put me in a good frame of mind for years to come; if I wanted something then I’d work hard to get it, simple. I left school and joined the merchant navy and this enabled me to earn good money and buy the things I’d previously struggled to buy, and all of a sudden I felt like a king. I later left the merch at twenty two. The things I missed out on as a kid I’m more than making up for with my two young boys; sometimes I put their toys down and actually let them have a go for a change!
What about your family growing up? And your family now in your adult years? How has your life changed?
My family growing up? You don’t want to know. My family now are the most precious thing ever. My wife and our two sons are the reason I breathe. Ask any man that has a woman and kids, and he will tell you the same, although my deadstock T-Master are a close second!
That’s really great to hear Bobby, and funny too. And how has your family understood and experienced your love of trainers? Do they accept it or fight it?
I’m lucky in that respect, as my wife and I are both collective by nature, so she has her obsessions too, and as long as I’m happy she’s not too bothered, as doing this shuts me up for a bit. It has rubbed off onto my three year old son too: I recently found him on the bathroom floor with his little adidas Dragon and a packet of baby wipes cleaning them.
Mad precious! Speaking of a child’s early trainer moments: when do you think you first fell in love with trainers? Was it love at first sight, or a growing affection?
My first love with trainers was about thirty years ago, I was born in ’73 but until about ’81 or ’82 kids by ours just wore anything as long as they were trainers. There were adidas Kick and others about (like there was everywhere) but there were plenty of adidas wish-they-were and types of PUMA with an upside-down motif on ‘em. We climbed trees and church roofs and played on the docks and our bikes had trainers for brakes. Then it changed all of a sudden, BANG! A mate of mine knocked at ours, I looked down, and he had Trimm Trab on, colourful trainers like I hadn’t seen before. The lad opposite had Lendl within weeks, and one of the older lads a few streets away soon had a pair of Diadora Borg Elite. Something had changed. The slightly older lads all looked different and as bad as their muzzies and hair was their clothes were fucking amazing. We used to get the bus to town just to look at trainers. Not one to be able to even ask for a pair of trainers I had to bide my time, be patient and wait. And I did.
So can you recall your first pair?
I had saved my money from my weekend work and after a few weeks had £18 left out of it. I went to a shop called Howard Sports which is long gone, and got myself a pair of all white cricket trainers called adidas Brisbane. They were the only pair I had enough for but I felt the bollocks; I had bought them myself. I was looking through a vintage catalogue recently and found a picture of them which is now my screen-saver!
That’s amazing you remember! Now that you’re further along in your relationship with shoes, how would you say your tastes have changed? Do you look back and wonder ‘what was I thinking’?
I don’t think my tastes have really changed that much to be honest. Yes, I’ve worn stuff that I wouldn’t wear now – everyone has – but no real howlers. Like I’d tell you anyway!
I did have a pair of high leg, fake-fur-lined Fila boots. I remember standing in the queue outside the Quadrant Park nightclub in them, no Troop, Travel Fox, or British Knights by ours.
Hilarious! Wish we could see a picture of that. And your current collection: how would you describe it?
I would describe my collection as casual and eclectic. I have some that I love yet I wouldn’t be seen dead in the kop with them on! I try to collect trainers in my size, which makes sense as I wear most of them, though I do have some that are a little too big because I just had to have them at the time or I would never have owned that model. Like the Azzurro2 – which might not even be Azzurro2, not sure there was even an official model name – they’re a UK 12, but the rarest pair I own, so it was a quick decision. I buy my boys deadstock kids trainers for when they’re a little older. They have Diadora Seb Co and adidas Kansas. Sizing can be a bit all over the place: I have 9′s that fit me and 11′s that fit me…
Right, we know how that goes; sometimes size is the sneakerhead’s assassin and other times it’s a life-saver! Let’s talk about some specific pairs you own… what can you tell us about those vintage Arizona’s?
The vintage Arizona are early 80s, made in Taiwan, unworn in the original box, size UK 11. I bought them off a builder that had taken a false wall down in a sports shop in South Wales and there they were. I’m not sure what else he found other than these and another pair, but what a find, eh?
Yes, seriously, that’s crazy! We’re now imagining vintage trainers hidden behind plaster and sheetrock in old buildings throughout the world’s factory cities. The best dream to drive a trainerhead mad! What about your white and blue vintage Barrington Supers?
These are very well made! There was another pair called Barrington Smash and the middle stripe was red. I heard they were called Smash because this was the way the man himself used his racquet. My Supers are made in France, early 80′s, unworn, and have the fantastic cangoran or kangaroo print all over the inside. They’ve also a toe guard which is similar to the adidas Fencing.
Staying in the B’s, what are your thoughts on your vintage Boston?
I’ve seen many adidas Boston over the years but these are the only colourway and style that I’ve liked, and I was lucky enough to buy them off a forum. Their shape is really nice, as are the materials and comfort. They’re Taiwan-made, 1982, and a UK 10.5. The maroon and grey they feature has always been a great combination for me. As for the Boston Super silhouette, I’ve never liked them and have never owned a pair.
Understandable. It’s unfortunate but true: upgrades and retros hardly ever hit the nail on the head. What about the vintage Cord?
The leather ones came from a lad in Rotherham, and they’ve the softest leather that I’ve ever felt. Really well made but unfortunately there’s nothing to go on at all with regards to what year they were made or where they were made, but still, very well made and things of beauty all the same! The suede ones were on my most wanted list for some time, and I was offered a pair of 8′s about ten years ago, but being far too small I couldn’t part with that kind of coin for something that I couldn’t even get on my feet. These Austrian-made ones are a UK 10.5 and I got them off someone in Copenhagen. Perfect for this crisp, cold, sunny weather lately.
That’s a struggle for a lot of us: whether or not to buy a pair that doesn’t even fit. And your De Castella Web Tech? What can you tell us about those?
They’re runners from 1987, and they have Web Tech on the tongue and loads of other nice details. They’re my size, unworn and boxed, and again, this classic maroon and grey combo. They were 140 Deutsche Marks when released which I think was about 60 quid, so not a cheap shoe in ’87.
Seriously! And not so often to be seen. The Formel 1 also isn’t such a common model, especially with that shape and design. What about these do you like? How do they fit in with the rest of your collection, considering how different they look?
Marmite shoes, eh?
I love the shape of these, though sadly I haven’t got an original pair, but the re-issues are fantastic. Great shape and clashing colourways. A winner for me. I like the idea that the shoe was designed for the Formula 1 pit crew, hence the bright colours and ‘wing’ on the back. I’m not sure if they were actually used for this but adidas really have designed shoes for every angle of sport over the years. They’re similar to the 2005 adidas Running PT (Prototype) 1976; similar heels and bright colours, and again, another unique design with excellent colourways.
Agreed, they’re truly a unique pair. Away from artifacts and onto treasures: your blue vintage Gazelle’s are insanely lush. Please Bobby, there’s gotta be story to tell us about sourcing those, right?
There’s not really a story behind these other than that I bought them off a lad who was selling his collection to fund a holiday with his mate, and I bought other vintage trainers off him and this was one pair of the lot. They’re Yugoslavian-made and very soft. I have modern Gazelle for knocking about in, but these are in a different class.
No doubt. As well, with the vintage Spezials, what can you say about those?
Spezials are a stunning shoe in my opinion; suede and gum are a winner and a classic combination. I have loads of colourways in these and if I’m ever unsure what trainers to put on, on go the Spezials! Out of the many, many colourways over the years my favourite are the simple blue suede with white on a gum sole. The West German made Handball Spezial goalkeeper are a particular favourite, the way the arch-shaped, white suede heel goes underneath and into the sole is, well, special!
You mentioned a Handball Spezial, but what can you tell us about your vintage Handball Team?
Those are made in Taiwan, in 1989, and in their original box. A really comfy lightweight summer trainer, very similar to a few other models that I have.
Right, actually, you seem to have two in this style, another with a blue heel layer. Any words on these?
These are called Handball Top, and I have these in three styles: a low and two high versions. One of the high pairs has two Velcro straps at the top. Also interesting to note that the Handball Top, the two high versions, the Handball Team, and the Liga all share the same sole.
Overall, your Handball, Tobacco, and City Series pairs are outstanding! How would you compare these different groups or series?
Thank you! Well, the Handball Spezial is more of a purpose built sports shoe with its flex channel on the sole, while each Island Series and City Series pair was designed more as a leisure shoe than a sports shoe. The latter are mainly low profile and usually on a gum sole. I always found the colourways on the Islands a little bland compared to the Cities, yet useful if you need a pair of trainers to tone things down a bit.
You seem to also have a side-love for runners, with some nice vintage runners in the mix too. How do you find these differ from the rest of your collection?
I don’t love runners any less than other types of trainers, and actually in the early ’90s I wore a lot of runners, ZX 8000 and 9000 to name a few. Again, I love colourful colourways and runners have always provided this. One of the best is the West German made Marathon 84. Amazing shoe.
Regarding more recent releases, your Consortium pickups are all quite nice. I’m curious how you feel about Consortium as a whole. Any opinions there? What about the AZX series? Are those pairs, in your eyes, a lot of hype or a lot of heat?
I like Consortiums. I like the exclusivity of them. The ‘casuals’ series was fantastic. I did try and get them all but some slipped the net. The way adidas designed them to show the clothing of that era along with the terrace trainers of that same time was very clever. Jeans with argyle knit and Sambas made from cords. Genius!
Yeah, seems that every once in a while the big brands learn from their past. What about you: what have you learned from your years of collecting?
One valuable lesson: don’t hesitate or drag your feet if you find a rare pair. Grab them with both hands and keep a tight hold. I missed out on three pairs within the last few weeks whilst umming and arring, and then I missed out on all three! Made in Mexico adidas Grand Prix, OG Micropacers, and a pair of adidas San Diego navy blue leisure shoes. So a valuable lesson learned… again.
Damn, we’ve all certainly felt that pain before. It appears as though all your vintage have OG boxes… is this an illusion?
Loads of my vintage ones do have boxes but there are some without. The ones that don’t have their original boxes are stored in plastic containers, well looked after!
What sort of sourcing techniques do you implement or which hunting grounds to do you visit to find your shoes?
You want me to tell you where I get my rare three stripes from?
Of course, of course! Always worth a shot though. So if you had to summarize this whole affection, addiction, affliction what would you say it means to you?
I’ve learned a lot over the years, yet still feel I know very little compared to some people. It’s been around twenty seven to twenty eight years ago now when my mate knocked at ours with his new Trimm Trab, and I still get that same feeling when I land a pair of three stripes even to this day. They don’t have to be mine for me to love them; I just prefer it that way!
Alright Bobby, let’s close it up with the most important question: why adidas?
Why adidas? Because I couldn’t find any British Knights or Troop in my size!
[all laugh again]
Only kidding… adidas are the bollocks and always have been.
What more can we say? It’s been a pleasure to feast our eyes upon your prize pairs Bobby, thank you so much for spending some quality time with the eatmoreshoes crew to educate, entertain, and enthusiastically inspire us to never give up the hunt!
written by Dylan Cromwell
photos contributed by Bobby Mac