West NYC on the Upper West Side is one of the few sneaker spots that still makes you feel at home. There’s rap music, sports memorabilia, and dope-ass, limited edition kicks. On top off all that, the staff is cool as fuck. So ladies and gentleman, meet my friend Sincere Baron.
MA: Who are you? What do you do? How long have you been collecting sneakers?
SB: Well I go by Sincere Baron and I’ve been collecting sneakers since about 2004. I work at West NYC, which doesn’t really help my addiction at all.
MA: How did you get involved with West? What is your role at the store? What does a boutique like that mean to you and New York sneaker culture?
SB: One day in June in 2008, I was walking by West and decided to stop in and shop. Ironically, I had my resume with me at the time and I overheard the manager say he was looking to hire someone, mostly for weekends. I handed him my resume and was hired 15 minutes later after a brief interview. My role has definitely grown throughout the years I’ve been at West and I can honestly say the majority of the neighborhood recognizes me because of my job. Random teenagers always ask me what sneakers are coming out or what’s new at West when I pass them by in the street.
MA: How would you describe the vibe of the store? How does your relationship with the rest of the staff translate into the environment of the store?
SB: Lester Wasserman, the owner, definitely has down a great job creating an environment for all types of sneakerheads to shop and feel comfortable. The vibe at West is so relaxed that the customers don’t feel pressured to purchase anything. We have a pretty small staff, so we are more like a family. Everyone gets along fine and we barely have any arguments or drama for the most part. Everyone is pretty laid back and chill, which helps create that vibe for the store and the customers.
MA: With the store located on the Upper West Side, how would you describe your demographic? How far do people usually travel to visit your store?
SB: Everyone shops at West. Tourists come to view The Dakota Bar on 72 street. They always stop by to view what Adidas or Nike Pegasus we have in store. There are also about six high schools in the neighborhood, so we always have teenagers around and they tend to visit even when they go away to college.
MA: When did you realize that collecting was more than just shoes, but also a culture as well? How do you explain that to people who don’t understand?
SB: Well I first realized it was a culture when I was about 14 years old and I witnessed someone in my neighborhood rob someone else, just for a pair of Laney 5s. I never heard of people getting robbed for sneakers since the ’80s, but at that point I knew sneakers were definitely becoming a hot commodity. A lot of people walk into West and always say, “hey, I saw a line out here from Friday afternoon till Saturday morning, was it really for sneakers?” I try to explain to those customers that some people decide to wait in line for concert tickets, others choose to wait in line for sneakers.
MA: What size do you wear? Is it hard to find sneakers in that size?
SB: I’m a 10.5, which seems to be everyone else’s size in America. If I didn’t work at West, I probably wouldn’t own half of the sneakers I do now.
MA: How would you describe your taste level as a sneaker head?
SB: My taste doesn’t exist in a sense. There are sneakers out there that I would never purchase (i.e. team Jordan’s or Fila Pradas) but for the most part I’m open to new designs. I buy all brands from Jordan’s, Nike, Saucony (for comfort), Adidas (shell toes are classic) and even Puma (something about the Clyde). My favorite shoe this month, so far, is probably the Saucony 5000 Tequila.
MA: How did that collaboration between West and Saucony come about? What was the process like design wise?
SB: After our collaboration with New Balance last year for the Alphine Guide Edition M580, we decided to keep the ball rolling with another brand than not many young adults wear on a day-to-day basis. Now, more and more of the youth are able to appreciate New Balance shoes and Saucony shoes for their comfort and design. The Tequila Saucony 5000 is one of two color ways we decided to go with. We chose this color because it got the timing perfectly. Tequila…sunset…early September, it just made perfect sense. Designing took a couple of weeks for Al and Lester to finish.
MA: How did your parents feel about your time and investment into sneakers? Did they ever understand the culture behind it? If so, how did it make you feel?
SB: My mother will never understand. She didn’t understand in 1999 and she definitely doesn’t understand it now. I tell her everyday she’s the reason for my addiction. When I was younger, she refused to buy me $100 Jordan’s (not that I can blame her now that I’m a grown man), but at soon as I received my first paycheck from working, I bought my first pair of Jordan 12 Taxi’s and that’s where it began for me. For the most part, I enjoy the growth of the sneaker culture and the new generations entering should be welcomed. However, the only downfall about being a sneaker collector in this day and age is that on any given day multiple people can be seen wearing the same sneakers you have on your feet. Besides the fact that rarity of the items have decreased, it also is a little sad to see certain people sell sneakers at outrageous prices over and over again. That to me, degrades the market more than anything else.
MA: Which sneakers do you own the most pairs of and why? Worst purchase? Worst sneaker experience? Most money you spent on a sneaker?
SB: I probably own more Jordan 1s than anything else. For some reason that sneaker is my all time favorite and will forever be in my closet until the day I die. I also have numerous Roshe Runs and Nike Flyknits so that I can be comfortable for standing or walking all day. The worst sneaker I purchased is definitely these high top silver Pradas I wore to to my prom afterparty in high school. The most amount of money I’ve allowed myself to spend on one pair of sneakers is $450 for Black Yeezy 2s.
MA: Most sentimental sneaker moment?
SB: Probably around my 18th birthday. That’s the first time my mother hurt her wallet to buy me a pair of Jordan’s. I believe they were the Olympic 6s.
MA: The longest amount of time you kept a pair of kicks on ice?
SB: I still haven’t worn my Concords, or my DMP pack, so I’d say about two years and counting. Gotta wait for the right occasion.
MA: Random relationships you made through sneakers?
SB: Through collecting sneakers, I’ve met almost every type of collector their is. I’ve met the business man who collects sneakers and hides them from his wife, I’ve met teenagers who just live off of selling sneakers everyday on social networks, and I’ve even meet senior citizens who collect just for the fun of it.
MA: Do you ever plan to stop collecting?
SB: I’ll never stop collecting sneakers. It’s an addiction that will never go away and I blame my mother.
Photos by Gregston Hurdle
Fun Fact: Baffuor “BA” Gyamfi owns a pair of Saucony x Bodega Elite Shadow 6000 Red, which was purchased from West NYC. Follow me on twitter @BrokenBatteries