Make no mistake, not every collector is in it for the chips, and especially the ones that aren’t must work towards their grail goals as though attaining trainers was a spiritual path or career-oriented ambition. The traits possessed by such, so-called ‘heads’ of the trainer scene, are simple enough to describe but seriously unique to actually attain.
Probably the most important aspect of this addiction is the ‘taste of the chase’; one absolutely must have flavor, personality, and character – or what a younger generation may typically refer to as ‘swag’ – and this expression of self must be applied to the collector’s search for shoes that tell their own, personal story. Having taste is just the beginning though, as the ‘passion to pursue’ fits in perfectly next. Beyond a simple lust for these vintage lovelies, a true collector will almost always have an undying passion, not just a phase or a fad or a trend in their lives, that allows them to continue their pursuit for many years – generally the time it takes to actually begin amassing a quality collection. And finally, while not necessarily applicable to all collectors, many will find that they must have the ‘will power not to wear’, as frequently a collection is simply that: unworn and kept deadstock, in the box, for sake of maintaining the true, original condition.
Nowadays it’s easy for just about anyone to simply use online auction sites (which honestly, probably spoil the scene more than they build it up), but it wasn’t always like this, and the most dedicated of collectors used to physically travel around a lot (and probably still do at times) to discover their newest pairs.
Robert Brooks happens to be one of these very collectors. Honorably perceived as an ‘OG head’ in the scene by many, Brooks hasn’t been one to gloat or shout or proclaim his own fame. Instead he’s pulled in an audience quietly, all of us eager to discover the purpose behind his passion, and, of course, unravel the tissue paper that clings to the crystallized treasures in his deadstock, vintage collection.
Working as a graphic designer, the Trefoil-mad man from Hackney (East London) grew up on adidas but didn’t truly start building his own collection until he became an adult. Interestingly enough, although his collection is, in majority, about vintage pairs, Robert isn’t strictly going back in time. His voice appeared in the fourth ‘visual record’ (read that as ‘edition’) of adidas’ mini-magazine-style look-book, ‘Felicity’, during a three-way interview with adidas and Kazuki Kuraishi. Robert mentions that “Kazuki’s products hit the bulls-eye for [him] personally. [He's] been collecting trainers for about 25 years, and [he] finds the ObyO KZK series really fresh”. That’s a big compliment from ‘the man’ of adidas collecting (as he’s referred to by Neal Heard), and the interview goes on to proclaim that he’s currently got a collection of 800 adidas shoes alone.
A major contributor to Neal Heard’s book, ‘Trainers’, Brooks actually provided most of the shoes featured in its pages. The interview between Heard and Brooks in this book clearly illustrates not only his passion, but his heightened level of knowledge and experience with the adidas brand, reminding us all of the influences our favorite three stripes have had on various cultural leaders over time. He even drops some tasty morsels of education, such as the fact that the adidas Gazelle is named after Wilma Rudolph, who was considered the fastest woman in the 1960s, and aptly nicknamed ‘The Black Gazelle’ by the Italians (among her other, common aliases, ‘The Black Pearl’ and ‘The Tornado’, which funnily enough, never seemed formidable for model names).
He designs and collects like a madman on a mission, but Brooks also presses us to realize and remember that this scene, at its heart, is a culture, and not an economy, though unfortunately enough it’s overly saturated with hype and can, at times, feel “like everyone wants a soundbite”. This is too true in the days of mass reselling, unjustified limited editions, and frequently shoddy or over-hyped collaborations. Adi Dassler wasn’t about this way of life so why should such tenors trickle down to the fans of the brand themselves?
The biggest question from eatmoreshoes towards every collector we come across is “why adidas?” and Brooks is no exception. Being a hardcore trefoil hunter for decades leaves us wondering what about the royal blue boxes and perforated stripes get him going. Some details mentioned in the interview with Heard include points about adidas runners that he found unique when compared to other brands: “the attention to detail, quality materials, the use of 3M reflective material, and the colour blocks in the sole unit”. Regarding the OG silver Micro Pacer, Brooks recalls that “people go on about adidas not being at the cutting edge of technology – it was 1984 and there was a computer in a trainer. The proof is in the shoe.” We couldn’t agree more with this statement, and it seems that many OG ‘heads’ think alike; adidas Originals was perfectly named, as they are, undoubtedly, original and inimitably.
Beyond his above-referenced participation in publications by and about the infamous German brand, Brooks also showed up to the Stockholm exhibition in 2002 by Helen Sweeney entitled “My First Eleven – A Tribute to the Brand with the Three Stripes”. His contribution to the exhibit was a piece entitled ‘The Next Generation’. He’s taken it further than that, also putting his passion (not trainers, but visuals) to work in the form of photographic, sculptural installations with friend and fellow collaborator Chris Turner. These art structures frequently featured footwear (of course) and appeared in a variety of adidas brand events, store openings, and releases. And speaking of events, Brooks didn’t stop with the above-mentioned happenings, instead carrying on to participate as a major member of those who shared their shoes in the 2013 Spezial Exhibition put on by adidas with the help of Gary Aspden in a cool, clean, yet rugged and rustic Shoreditch gallery space.
Shortly after the Spezial Exhibition, Robert dropped his first shoe with adidas, reviving the ZX 550 as a part of the Collector’s Pack.
While his name may not be known by all, nor has his full collection been publicly seen, it’s obvious that Brooks has earned his status in the trainer scene. Unarguably his knowledge has pushed him to the position of a human encyclopedia in regards to adidas, and his passion is deeply rooted and definitely undying. For these reasons alone, completely disconnected from any hype or PR purposes, we’re beyond honored to have had the chance to sift through and shoot his shoes ourselves, presented here in the photo gallery to the right. Please enjoy these gems of the past and allow his endless pursuit to inspire your own shoe hunt to follow in his footsteps or pave your own, unique path. Thanks for your time and effort Robert, we appreciate your energy and zeal and find in you an invaluable addition to the worldwide trainer scene.
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by errol