What is the Holy Grail in the Sneaker Game?
If you ask anybody that is a collector what their “holy grail” is, you will almost always get an excited answer. In the case of sneakers, I often hear arguments over what qualifies as a grail. Everyone from longtime collectors to fresh faces has an opinion. I think that it is important to note that these opinions are still valid, regardless of what others might say. Part of what makes sneaker collecting great is how it varies from person to person. If you ask my opinion, a grail comes down to a mix of rarity and personal importance.
The first thing that most people think about a grail piece is that it has to be expensive. However, price is only part of the rarity equation. Let’s take an example from a shoe I have been looking for my personal collection: The Vans x Rollicking Slip On. Released in 2017 as an Asia exclusive means finding my personal size 10 is quite the challenge. I am fortunate enough to own a pair from their 2018 collection that a friend picked up for me in China. This pair cost me around $250, which is almost as much as some new general release Jordan after tax. It took me almost 2 years to find a pair in my size, but the price doesn’t necessarily reflect that. This is a common theme among older shoes as well as non-Nike/Jordan releases.
The second half of the equation in determining a grail is personal importance of the shoe. This obviously varies from person to person and can include many factors. This can range from something you couldn’t have as a child to a collaboration with your favorite artist. In my opinion, a shoe with only personal importance is not a grail. That’s not to say that it isn’t important or deserving. Part of what makes a new addition to any collection worth it is the thrill of the chase. You can absolutely buy an expensive shoe the day it comes out and call it a grail. In this scenario, the chase is mainly represented as monetary cost. The importance factor here comes in the history of the shoe. A personal example from my collection would be the recent Nike Dunk What The Paul. I have always admired the original what the dunks as well as the Dunk High release by Thomas Campbell in 2017. This pair shows the legacy of Paul Rodriguez as a skater and sneaker icon. While the shoe may be pretty new, the history and importance of the design started long before. I was fortunate enough to score my pair for retail from Premier, but I was fully ready to pay market price.
The tricky part of calling something a grail is that it’s largely subjective. There is no hard and fast list of rules for what a grail is. There is not a committee saying a shoe has to be out for a certain time, cost a certain amount, or be extremely limited. Prices and opinions on sneakers change over time which complicates things even further. I think that it’s also important to establish the difference between a shoe not being for you and not being “grail worthy”. Take something like the Travis Scott Air Max 270. While not for me, some fans of Travis consider the shoe a grail. It meets my given criteria of having a sense of rarity and personal importance to those people. Who am I to say that it isn’t important enough to me to be considered a grail?
The most important part of this conversation I want to stress is that it truly does not matter what other people think. I am guilty of rolling my eyes at someone explaining what is a grail. In a time of increasingly available sneakers through online markets, shoes are becoming easier to purchase second hand. Plenty of pairs still elude the light of day, but those online are still often coveted. I got a great deal on a pair of OG Shattered Backboards at a show in Atlanta recently. I could have bought a pair off Goat from my couch, but that doesn’t diminish how special those shoes are to me. Finding them in person just put the cherry on top. I was so excited to finally have them that I put them on instantly. The problem was that I had on shorter socks that day. From the second I put them on, my shins instantly started to chafe. Yet I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I went around the convention showing some friends. At the end of the day, that is what matters most.
By Justin DiRe
Nerdthusiast Content Writer