size? collections – A conversation with Michael Ford

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With so many shoes out there in the world, there’s so much scope for everyone to be into a different things and begin to amass collections that will vary from person to person, and in turn sort of sum up their own personality.

Collecting and working within the industry for the past 10 years or so, Michael Ford’s (@imposter00) stash sits on the more obscure side of things. His day to day job allows him to travel the world meeting a mix of different people with their own connections, and in turn, pick up all sorts of amazing shoes with their own backstories.

Michael had a chat to out footwear buyer Luke Matthews about his varied taste and some of the remarkable stories that have allowed him to cross shoes off his bucket list.

Keep on scrolling and check it out below!

Luke: Me and you go way back. You’re a good friend and you also work at Nike. But you’re on here today more in the capacity of being a collector as opposed to as an employee.

Mike: Yeah we go way back, and we’ve known each other for close to 10 years now. I think some of what I’m going to pull out is probably going back to when we first met. We’re going to have a look through at what I’ve currently got hold of, and obviously, in the current situation, I can’t get hold of a lot of my shoes that I wanted to get out. It’s probably helped me in narrowing down what to bring on here and have a chat about! I’d say it’s a mixture of my current rotation, things I’ve got out at the moment, a few other bits I have in the house, and a couple of things that I picked up more recently.

L:  So many people we’re trying to speak to at the minute have their shoes in storage, so it’s almost like a ‘collections by default’! I guess in some way it’s more of an ‘essentials’.

M: It’s almost weird to talk about shoes when I’ve been wearing these real tree camo slippers for the last 2 weeks!

Around collecting shoes, there are certain things that I’ve been after for a long time and generally, the way in which I approach getting after stuff that I’ve been into is kind of like a waiting game.

I think sometimes shoes come up and the price points are maybe not right, or the sizing’s not right, so I’ve always had in mind certain things that I’ve wanted, but I’ve played the long game with it. I think that chase is also something I enjoy about it as well though, picking it up for the right price or accessing it through an interesting story. 

L: How do you go about sourcing them?  Do you have certain places or certain vintage stores you’ll go after or is it a bit of a mix?

M: Everywhere really, from being a kid it was even car-boot sales were a big thing. I used to work in TK Maxx, and if anyone remembers back in the day you could get some crazy scoops in there.

L: I remember getting Nike Air Max 1 ‘Maxim’ in the OG colour for like £20.

M: So there was that job, and then I worked in retail for a long time. I was also getting things online through eBay, auctions from Japan if you could afford the import sometimes!

I think the main thing has been through my work, I get to meet a lot of people. Even my boss, he’s worked for 30 years in Nike product creation, so he’s had a few gems, and it’s just knowing the right people as well.
There have definitely been a few interesting come-ups from interesting places, I’ll talk about one of them as well.

L: The Hunt definitely makes it a part of the story and adds to the context of a shoe which makes it special. You could just buy an Air Force 1, but the story of finding it and wearing it adds to it.

M: That’s a big thing for me more than anything, that journey of trying to find something.

Nike Air Terra Goatek B – 2001

Nike Air Terra Goatek B - 2001

M: This is actually good timing as these arrived yesterday! A few people might have seen these, it’s called the Nike Air Terra Goatek from 2001.

For me, the model is definitely something I’ve always been into, but just this colourway specifically. There’s a reverse of this colour as well which is pink/blue, almost like a flip of this one which is amazing as well.

One of the things in a lot of product that I like is the inspiration behind the design a lot of the time. Nature plays a big part in shoe design, and with this one specifically, they looked at mountain goats which I find a really interesting animal to draw to for inspiration! On the bottom of the shoe, the shape mimics a goats hoof, and I never knew until I looked into it, but the way that goats hooves work is that there’s a really hard outer, and the inner is really soft, and that’s what helps them grip to the sides of mountains. That in itself is a great story where I can nerd out on a shoe like this.

It came with all of the swing tags on and everything, and it actually calls out the conditions it should be worn on. It says rocks, dirt, gravel, snow, ice, and at the end, it just says ‘stuff’! I love anything that has a sense of humour to it like that as well. It was one of those shoes that’s been on the list for a long time, I think Goatek originally came out around 99 but this is like a later iteration.

Nike Rufus – 1999

Nike Rufus II - 1999

M: This one as well as another one that I’ve had on my list for a long time, the Nike Rufus. This one, in particular, is from ’99, just a really crazy, comfy ACG shoe.

I think one of the things I like about a lot of my shoes is that they’re super simple, quite lazy shoes? I think that also goes a bit towards who I am, anyone that knows me knows I’m quite a laid back person.

L: That Rufus has had a bit of a recent resurgence online, I’ve seen it doing the rounds on a lot of these IG accounts.

M: I think anybody that see’s it or that I’ve shown it to that’s not seen it before has been like ‘ I need one of them!’

It’s always been on the list to get but never really popped up, and then, I don’t want to disclose too much information on this, but I was travelling ‘somewhere’ with ‘someone’, and they told me about a warehouse of an old sports shop that was full of EVERYTHING, starting from like the early ’80s to present day.

This shop had never gone into the sale and had been operating for maybe 30 years. Whenever they got new stock in, they would just put all the old stock back in the warehouse. I got taken to this place maybe a year and a half ago, and it’s one of those places that you don’t think exists anymore. It’s the size of three football pitches just full of product, and there’s an adidas room, Nike room, Reebok room etc.

It’s insane, and the stuff that’s in there was mind-blowing. There were things in there that most collectors would call ‘grails’. The only problem was maybe the condition they were kept in, stuff had started crumbling. I managed to get these out of there, I was chatting to the guy that owned it and was talking to him about this shoe, and he said: “Well if you want them, then you can have them!” That was a pretty surreal experience to see some of the crazy stuff in there, so this is like a souvenir from that.

L: I’ve seen across the board in general Mule’s are on the up.

M: Yeah I see the same thing, and Nike’s got such a good archive if you dig back into some of that stuff, like Basketball and Team Supreme, you’ve got multiple different shoes on this tooling. I think everyone just needs a shoe like this in their rotation. I’ve got a few more here that actually fit that kind of vibe.

Nike Considered Boot – 2005

Nike Considered Boot - 2005

M: This is the another more recent acquisition, the Nike Considered Boot. I actually picked this up in two colourways last year as well. This was an eBay scoop for a bargain.

The guy was based in Portland, some young kid that just goes to thrift shops and buys stuff to sell on. There’s a big thrift community in Portland especially with the Nike headquarters being there, adidas have one there too, most major sports brands and outdoor brands are also based there, so there’s a lot to be found in the thrift stores.

He put two pairs of these on for a good price, and I was actually going out to Portland with work so collected them. Shout out to the guy for holding onto them for 3 months for me until I came out! We met up and he passed them on, and these were actually sales samples, so it’s always dope to have something you know, a little bit more unique, like a one-off.

The Nike Considered story is always something I’ve been interested in, and over however long I’ve been into sneakers I’ve been trying to pick some up if I’ve seen them for a good price.

I don’t know how many people are that familiar with the Considered Story, but around 2005/06 Nike put out a range with a concept where all of the components of the shoe should come from within a 200-mile radius of the factory, so everything was locally sourced, vegetable-dyed, really minimal with no adhesives. So very ahead of its time in terms of the current conversations that are happening around sustainability within footwear. Miles ahead.

L: I think aesthetically with Considered it was also working ahead, you can see when a lot of brands now are trying to develop new shoes or high-end Japanese brands are creating, they’re all channelling that aesthetic, and this was 15 years ago.

M: It’s crazy when you think how long ago that was now! 

Nike Considered Spudnik – 2005

M: This is another Considered shoe, and I think the interesting thing with this Considered stuff is the limitations that you’re working within, because you’re trying to create something to meet a sustainability standard, it forces a new aesthetic. When you look at these they don’t look like your conventional sneaker you know?

I’ve always been into the more obscurely designed things, especially when it been designed with a purpose or reason. So these are part of the Portland story as well. So I picked those two pairs of Considered Boots up, and I was wearing a pair on the Nike Campus. A friend who works there hit me up and said he saw me wearing them, he’d just been digging in his garage, and did I want these? At the time I’d never seen these before.

Those people that know me know I’m super into the Air Moc, I’ve got a ridiculous amount, more than anybody probably should have! So it was nice to see this, being in that similar zone to a Moc. and it still fits in that Considered aesthetic and the 200-mile radius design limit.

I was chatting to a guy called Tanner who runs a spot called @theCulturePDX in Portland, we were talking about the shoe, and he sent me over a photo of this in a catalogue, and it’s funny because in the catalogue it has a breakdown of the upper and midsole etc, and in the section for midsole, it was actually blank! Which again was another one of those little funny things they’ve added in.

It’s got laser etching on the inside of a dragon wrapped around the ACG logo which is wild as well. put me onto the name of this, it’s the Spudnik. In the catalogue, it just called it Considered. I’ve got a lot more of the other shoes in the Considered range tucked away as well.

So getting more into the familiar, and out of the weird zone…

Fragment x Nike Tennis Classic ‘Panda’ – Charity Auction Release – 2008

Fragment x Nike Tennis Classic 'Panda' - Charity Auction Release - 2008

M: This one’s got an interesting story to it as well, it’s the Nike x Fragment Tennis Classic from 2008. This was actually a Hiroshi Fujiwara design for the Earthquake that hit southern China, and they wanted to put some pairs out into auction to raise funds for the area.

This was one of those shoes that I’d only ever seen on the internet, sort of like a mythical unicorn! I was at Sneakerness maybe 3/4 years ago in Amsterdam, and I saw this pair which had the Air Force 1 tooling, with this upper on it. It looked super weird, and I’d never seen it before and was speaking to the guy on the stall about it to try and get a bit more of a background whether it was real, or what the story was behind it.

So I messaged a friend who was working with someone who was a good friend of Hiroshi Fujiwara (Fragment Design founder) and then that was a back and forth conversation for a while. Apparently that pair wasn’t real. Oddly enough Hiroshi’s friend who we were talking to said: “I’ve just been cleaning out my house and found a pair of these, do you want them?” So again another one of them which was just, one of those weird sideline things to happen from different conversations!

L: Did they just come in a samples box or something then?

M: Just a sample bag, even better! There are some really nice details, really premium materials, one of those shoes that are very low-key but it has a lot of meaning with the story behind what it was made for, and also the story of how I obtained it.

atmos x Nike Air Footscape Woven – 2012

atmos x Nike Air Footscape Woven - 2012

M: I think when I started heavily getting into sneakers Footscape was a really big thing for me, and also Footscape Wovens as well. This again was one of those ones that was a bit mythical.

It’s an Atmos collaboration, I don’t know exactly but I think there were around 1000 pairs that were available throughout Japan. Another one of those ones where I saw it on the internet but knew that I had no access to get it at the time. About a year later one popped up on eBay, and I was just watching it to see how high it was going to go.

The job I was working in at the time was in retail, and the ending time for the bidding was when I was going to be on the shop floor, so I was trying to make up all these crazy excuses and thinking in my head like “How do I get off the shop floor!”

I didn’t have a phone at the time that has access to the internet, so I had to think about how I could get to a computer! It was a complete stress but I got the winning bid in and it actually ended up being on retail price as well. Which was crazy when you consider the prices of some Footscape Wovens at the time with the Ponyhair Hideout’s, Bodega’s etc.

L: That was a similar sort of time when the Rainbows came out wasn’t it? 

M: Yeah Footscape Wovens were having a bit of a moment and they were going for some crazy prices.

So this a pretty loud, crazy shoe, whenever you’ve got this on you definitely notice people looking at your feet thinking, “what the hell?!”, as if the model itself isn’t weird enough as it is having all over star print added, and it actually has glowing in the dark outsole components as well which I’ve never really seen much.

L: The Hideout’s are still on my list to get, I saw them at Sneakerness a while back and they were crazy money.

M: Yeah it’s mad how they manage to retain their value over the years.

Medicom Be@rbrick x Nike Mayfly – 2005

Medicom Be@rbrick x Nike Mayfly - 2005

M: This was an interesting little pick up a while back for a number of different reasons, the Nike x Bearbrick Mayfly. The design and the story again with the Mayfly is one that I was always super interested in, drawing from the natural world and almost designing a shoe not to last long, it seems like such a weird concept but again that had me fascinated.

A couple of things I really like about the Mayfly was the box design, it’s a nightmare obviously if you need to stack stuff…

L: Unless you get two!

M: Even just that notion of how the design ethos has come into the design of the box in reducing size and weight. I think sometimes the box can be overlooked.

With the original Mayfly, they used to have a card in the box so you could ship them back to Nike once they were worn out so they could go in the re-use a shoe program. And again with that, we’re talking like 2003 so it was very ahead of its time in terms of circularity and getting shoes back to retailers to be ground down and re-used again, so that’s pretty amazing. So this version with little Be@rbrick details were something cool and a little nerdy!

Nike ‘What The’ Dunk Low CO.JP – Japan Exclusive – 2017

Nike 'What The' Dunk Low CO.JP - Japan Exclusive - 2017

M: Onto my last two, I think something that comes under more current conversations about Dunks. So these CO.JP’s are from 2017, I was working on a couple of Dunk projects at the time, and the global team said they were doing this pack, and that already had me going hearing those words! But then to see this which mashes up all the classic ‘Be True’ colourways…

Actually, both feet are totally different in terms of panelling and colours. It’s channelling a bit of that ‘What the Dunk’ vibe but with the original ‘Be True’ colours. The materials and the leather on these are amazing, and surprisingly these are an easy wear even though they’re so colourful.

L: With Dunk as well, adding the element makes it become more iconic regardless of the execution. It just comes with the gravitas of this  amazing archive that they’ve had over the years.

M: Yeah with Air Forces and Dunks they just take colours and material plays really well.

L: Arguably it’s one of the catalysts that puts us where we were now, the whole thing with storytelling and collecting sort of came out of Dunk really.

M: This was a nice little pickup, and for me with the storytelling of the OG elements of the Dunk, but then with the CO.JP element. I scrambled for these! This was a lot of communications trying to hit people up, shout out to whoever sorted me these, you probably know who you are!

Mastermind x Nike Dunk High – 2012

Mastermind x Nike Dunk High - 2012

M: So the last one on this whole Dunk conversation is this Nike x Mastermind. In one of my old retail jobs, we had a lot of Japanese publications, so when I had the time I’d just read through a lot of magazines there, and again seeing stuff like this pop up was like “oh my god this is amazing, but I’m never going to get hold of it!”

It’s another that’s been on the list for time, and I actually saw a pair in the office in a crazy size, and I’d been talking to a friend there about them and how much they meant to me and that I’d been after them.

This was also just a funny one in terms of Mastermind because this was when they were apparently stopping. The season after this Mastermind wasn’t going to exist anymore, so that made this shoe even more special. So from this coming out to maybe two laters later I sort of forgot about it, and I got a random message out of the blue from someone saying “I found a pair of these in your size stashed away if you want them they’re yours!”

Like I said at the start, it’s just that waiting game that I’ve played, and things have just come naturally. 

L: I’m just intrigued to see what else is on your list to get!

M: I don’t know I’m trying to think! I was thinking when you hit me up I wasn’t sure how would I choose them. Do I choose stuff based around how I got it, or more like a rarity. I’m a big ACG fan, so I could’ve just done something on ACG.

L: For me, regardless of rarity, I think it’s the story everytime because some stuff could be literally super rare and it is what it is. But some of the stuff you’ve got there like the Goatek, its the narrative and story that makes it special. Or the fact that someone reached out to you and got them, and that relationship itself makes that pair special.

M: Yeah totally, I think that’s a lucky thing in being quite close to working with the brand, I know a lot of people that have worked on these shoes, and that in itself, like having a connection to some of this stuff.

The Goatek’s a good example, I messaged my boss and told him I’d picked these up as I knew he’d been looking for them, and he said’ Oh yeah, I worked on them!” This is like 20 years earlier which was quite funny! It’s just stories and connections like that which make it a little bit deeper.

L: I think as well, some of the shoes you’ve shown, you can also sort of see the timeline and what’s gone on to influence what, the design language from certain things that’s gone onto inform others.

M: That was one of those things that they called out on Considered. As a range, it got dissolved, and they actually said we’re just taking all the best practices from it into the rest of our product and footwear design, which again is pretty cool because it was a symbol of a moment in time, a radical change in design which has then gone on to influence a lot of other things that are potentially not as obvious, but it’s in there.

L: I think people will be struggling to follow up in terms of how far and wide you’ve been sourcing them from! That’s what makes it special, someone else could say they’ve got a different story about the same shoe which makes it special to them. That’s the beauty of a collection.

M: I think it’s just those random come-ups as well, going to somewhere unexpected and finding something. Another even more recent example, I was at a County Fair near my house with my family, you know the type with dogs jumping through hoops and sheep there and stuff, the last place you’re going to pick up crops!

There was a table of someone just selling household items, in this huge fair just this one table, and I noticed a Nike SB box on there, opened it up and there was a pair of Roller Derby Dunk’s, and it had £20 on them. So I went to give him the £20 and he was like, “I’ll do you them for £15!” The places where you don’t expect to find anything are what makes these stories even better. The different places you go and pick things up, extensions of memories on trips.

L: The way I see it with trips, especially a shoe, is almost like a Polaroid of that moment. I can remember sometimes where I was when I bought it, who I was with, what I did, and that becomes the moment in the scrapbook. I remember sorting you out a pair of Air Max 90 Hyperfuse ‘Infrared’ on your dinner break years back, so whenever I get mine on you think about stuff like that.

M: It’s also especially good if you don’t have a good memory!

Keep checking back on the size blog for more fantastic footwear collections!

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