tiffany ujiiyeBy TIFFANY UJIIYE

“Can I have these?” I asked my dad, pointing to the Nike Jordan 1 sneakers on the table.

I was there amazed to see a pair of original Jordan 1’s sitting in front of me, thinking to myself how infinitely cooler my dad became. This pair was pretty rare to come by and in the past I’ve only seen them behind a glass case or on a computer screen.

He looked over his shoulder at me. “No,” he responded.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little sad to hear him say no, but I respected his answer. After all, if I were him, I’d keep them forever.

But these sneakers weren’t something I’ve always wanted. In fact, I only owned sneakers because I had to and they were required for gym class. The value of Jordans didn’t strike me until only a year ago when a friend sat down next to me during class and showed me an image on his laptop.

“So what do you think?” he pointed to a pair of Nike shoes. “Pretty awesome, huh?”

Honestly, I thought they were hideous. What would compel anyone to buy that piece of ugliness?

He then went on to tell me he collected them.

“Wait, you collect sneakers?” I asked. The thought sounded ridiculous in my head.

sneakerHe showed me his library bookshelf containing his shoes and how he kept the boxes even after wearing them. It seemed strange to think that someone would actually dedicate a bookshelf to sneakers instead of books. Isn’t that what a shoe rack is for?

Things like baseball cards, stamps, anything on that show “Pawn Stars” and paintings come to mind when I think of collecting. But these collections can also be entirely miscellaneous. For example, items such as seashells picked up from a beach during vacation or kept family heirlooms.

Collections allow people to revisit memories, display objects that they identify with and pursue lifelong passions. And for the most part these items are not for sale because they hold emotional value, which is of course priceless.

Now I’m not going to assume or try to deconstruct what that particular pair of Nike shoes meant to my friend. But what I can say is that they simply meant something to him in the context of his entire collection. Maybe they reminded him of his first pair of Nikes or maybe he felt that this shoe reflected his taste and style. Only he knows the answers to that.

But I started to think about my dad’s Jordans. I was aware that others appreciated this shoe differently than I did. It was arguably an iconic piece of ’80s American pop culture. Even after retiring in 2003 Michael Jordan was still relevant and so were his sneakers. Just ask the guy who bought his shoes for $104k at auction last year. But this shoe didn’t mean any of that to me.

I looked down at the shoes on the table, knowing they were important.

It wasn’t the value that drew my attention or the cool factor I would instantly gain by posting a picture of them on Facebook.

No. I emotionally wanted my dad’s Jordans.

I wanted to know that 30 years from now I would have the same pair my dad did. It wasn’t Michael Jordan who taught me how to fly. My dad did. What was sitting on that table was not a reflection of some inner sneaker culture identity in myself, or anything like that. The shoes on the table stood for a memory and later a story. A story about the time he decided to buy the shoes even when everyone else thought that they were ugly. It was the kind of story that my friend might tell his kids years later.

Thirty years from now I wanted to look back and identify my dad with his Jordans. This was how I was going to remember him. He would be the cool guy who rocked bad-ass kicks. Of course, he was many things and is many things to me, but that day I laced my dad to those shoes.

It was the day when I asked if I could have his Jordans and he said no.

Tiffany Ujiiye is a peanut butter lover and freelance writer based in Orange County. She recently graduated from UC Irvine and can be reached at The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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