By Josh Chaskes
From functional to flashy, take a look at three Northeastern athletes who are never caught without a pair of shoes to rock.
For some people, a shoe is purely functional – just something to cover your feet while you go from point A to point B.
These Northeastern athletes couldn’t agree less.
“Outfits, they look nice,” said sophomore men’s basketball forward Alexander “Kachi” Nwagha, “but what makes or breaks an outfit is the shoes.”
Nwagha, like many people, loves to express himself through shoes. He has an ever-growing collection of them in his room, with stacks and lines of boxes adorning a shelf on his wall. The collection spans brands and types, from Converses to Nikes, including a pair of white and gold Kobes with spikes on them that he received through a trade with a friend.
But Nwagha said he didn’t used to spend that much on shoes at all. In fact, his collection is a burgeoning one; he started seriously building it this past year, when the pandemic started.
“I’ve always been interested in shoes, but in high school I wasn’t a fashionable guy,” Nwagha remembered. “Whatever I got from basketball games, basketball teams, I’d wear that … but then when COVID happened, I was just at home, and online shopping … and I got my first pair of Jordans.”
But it didn’t end there.
“Honestly I kept buying shoes over quarantine,” he said. “I built my collection, so now I can come out and I can be coming out different.”
His favorite pair, though? Probably not what you’d guess.
“My favorite, favorite pair of shoes? It has to be Crocs. For real, I have these fur-lined crocs that I wear… I wear them all over the place. ”
Nwagha has multiple pairs of Crocs that he loves, but the fur-lined ones continue to be his favorites, especially during the trademark New England cold weather.
“It has fur on the inside, so it’s almost like insulated Crocs. It’s comfy, I like it, and it’s just easy to wear,” Nwagha said.
It’s an unexpected but very functional pick from a collection that, by his best estimate, now contains around 30 pairs of shoes. Junior women’s basketball guard Kendall Currence has a similar number, but she’s collected hers over a period of years.
“I remember getting these in middle school,” Currence said while proudly holding up a pair of red and green Christmas-themed Nike KD 6s, “and they still fit me. My favorite. I love, love, love red shoes.”
But Currence’s love for shoes goes beyond just how good they look. They can be a way to express identity. She’s made multiple custom pairs through the NikeID customization option, including a pair of blue Kyrie 1s with some meaningful modifications. Her first and last name adorned the back of each shoe, but there was another important feature on the inside.
“Inside on the tongue, I don’t know if you can see,” she said, lifting up the tongues on each shoe, “it says Rising Feather, that’s my Native American name.”
Those aren’t the only shoes tied to Currence’s family and upbringing.
“Oh, these are a pair of shoes my dad gave me, that he used to wear,” she said while pulling out a pair of Nike Air Zoom Flight “The Glove” sneakers, a shoe with a futuristic look wrapped in a zip-up fabric covering. Currence doesn’t wear the hefty shoe in games often, but she loves that she can carry on her dad’s love of sneakers, as well as how unique the pair is.
“They’re actually too big because they’re his, but … nobody really had them when I was in high school,” she said. “Obviously it wasn’t that long ago but they’re a lot different; you see these and you’re like, ‘What are those?’”
A unique look, which “The Glove” definitely offers, tends to be the prime motivator to buy a certain shoe, often taking precedence over other concerns such as feel or ease of movement.
On the flip side, men’s soccer freshman midfielder Zach Sauer is someone who proudly prioritizes look over everything else.
“I don’t really care about comfort as long as it looks good,” Sauer said. “I usually like to know the meaning behind it as well, so if it’s a collab, or an artist that you like, or an athlete.”
One notable collab sneaker Sauer’s impressive collection boasts is the white OVO Jordan 10s, a joint project with rapper Drake’s record label and a seriously coveted item among sneaker enthusiasts. But Sauer says one particular athlete speaks to him more than anyone else, arguably the most influential man in the shoe game.
“Michael Jordan is my favorite,” he said. “That’s also why I like the OG colorways a lot more, because he actually wore those, like he wore those colors and that is an exact model of it.”
Because of his love for OG colorways, colorways that accompanied a shoe’s initial release, a gem of his collection that he takes particular pride in are the highly sought-after Air Jordan 11 Concords. This grail for many sneaker collectors originally dropped in 1995, before seeing retro releases in 2000 and 2011, a low top edition in 2014 and another retro drop in 2018. Sauer isn’t the only Northeastern athlete who’s a fan of them, either. When asked what she would get if she could have any shoe in the world for free, Currence answered without hesitation.
“Concord 11s, I’ve wanted those shoes since middle school,” she said. “It makes no sense. They’re my dream shoe but I don’t have it. I have everything else!”
Nwagha’s dream shoe is also extremely prized in the sneaker community, even more so than the Concord 11s; and like Sauer said, his wish for it is influenced by its connection to someone he looks up to.
“First and foremost would be the Yeezy Red Octobers,” Nwagha said. “That’s a holy grail right there … Kanye West is my favorite artist, that’s why I like Yeezys. And Yeezy and Nike? That’s a limited edition, so I’d get those.”
Sauer says he used to buy sneakers and resell them, which is how many kids getting into kicks finance expanding their collections, but now he’s focused more on pairs he would want to wear himself.
“Every single time you make a profit you end up just blowing it on more pairs for yourself,” he said. “It’s kind of an addiction. But now I just kind of buy to wear.”
That flies in the face of one major criticism of people who collect sneakers: the premise that at a certain point they just become expensive collectibles that sit on a shelf. Many collectors today realize the issues with building a collection this way, and strive to keep the shoes’ original purpose of being on people’s feet.
Currence echoed this sentiment. “I think the conception is that people are like, ‘Oh, you can’t wear shoes like that all the time, but shoes are meant to be worn.’”
In that spirit, these three athletes, some of their teammates and many other sneakerheads at Northeastern will wear their sneakers and grow their stash. Don’t be surprised if you see them on the field, on the court, on Instagram, or around campus rocking a fresh new pair they’ve added to their collections.