Collector’s Choice – Under the Radar
There are different approaches at cultivating a sneaker collection. One way is to just keep throwing money at the latest hype releases, watch random boxes pile up and collect e-kudos here and there. And another is going all the way against the grain by falling in love with a very specific silhouette that’s been flying under everybody’s radar. Nic from London went for the latter option by accumulating an impressive assortment of Reebok Workouts. A truly unique collecting habit without a doubt – so we just had to sit down with Nic to hear what fuels his fascination with this underappreciated classic trainer.
Hello Nic, can you briefly introduce yourself, please? Who, what, where and why?
Hey, I’m Nic Hayman, I’m 26, I’m from London. I’ve worked in footwear pretty much all my career, first at Footpatrol and The Drop Date, and I’m now the Editor at Looped, the sneakers division at ASOS. Why? Always been into them, so it made sense I guess!
Out of all sneakers on the market you collect the Reebok Workout – not the typical choice these days. When did you first take notice of the shoe and what memories do you have of it?
There was never one moment really, it’s just always been there. I have specific memories of seeing certain shoes for the first time, like seeing my friend’s dad with Neon 95s, or when the Air Max Plus came out, but the Reebok Workout was just on people’s feet around me for as long as I can remember. It was popular round my area – kids, adults, everyone would wear them just as an everyday trainer. It never had a big moment. I do remember my best mate getting a pair of the standard white leathers and suddenly being reaaaally into them. I was jealous man!
The Workout is a fairly simple shoe, not many layers, no fancy midsole, no crazy cushioning system and first and foremost, no running or basketball shoe. What has made you fall in love with it?
I like it because it’s kind of just a dark horse. It’s underappreciated, and it’s a shoe I have fond memories of, so I’ll always have a place for it. In terms of design though it’s true it’s not especially fancy compared to a lot of ‘collectable’ shoes around today, but it doesn’t go in and out of fashion so it’s been a good one to stock up on. Imagine you just got fully into Roshes when they came out and racked up every colourway and then you watch as your favourite shoe drops off into oblivion. Workouts have been around for long enough so that won’t happen…I hope. As a lifestyle shoe it’s the perfect design: the flat sole unit that cradles the upper, the exposed foam, the sharp shape as you look down on them, and the H-strap obviously.
Comparable Reebok models like the Club C or Classic Leather have become fairly widespread and mainstream. How would you compare them to the Workout and why does it stand out in your opinion?
I don’t even know if the Workout does stand out, I think that’s why it appeals to me. It feels to me like it’s never had a mainstream moment like the Club C, and it’s always been secondary to the Classic Leather as that ever-present iconic shoe. It has had a journey kind of in between those two – it’s always been in the line so it was never brought back from the dead like the Club C to make everyone take notice, but it has never fully been the poster child for the brand like the CL. It’s just steadily been there, semi under-the-radar but always killing it. It needs some love, so I’m happy to be providing it!
A side effect of collecting the Workout instead of Yeezys or Air Max is that you’re able to get your hands on special pairs for a lot less. Is that right? Please fill us in on the behind the scenes work of buying them.
Yeah for sure. Like I said, it has never blown up like a lot of other shoes so it dodges the server crashes and the queues most of the time. I did get scared when the Calabasas Powerphases came out that people were going to jump onto Workouts though! So new releases are usually simple enough to grab. The lack of mass popularity can make aftermarket pairs hard to come by, because a special edition Reebok Workout isn’t exactly the same investment as an Off-White Vapormax or whatever. When they do come up they’re stupid cheap though – I got the first Footpatrols for £50 the other day.
Are there many other people who look out specifically for Workouts, people with a similar appreciation of the shoe? Or is it a one-man niche?
I honestly think it might be a one-man niche, but I’m happy to be proved wrong if anyone wants to hit me up. I’ve converted a few people along the way though, you included! People tend to have a similar appreciation of the design, but maybe without the same level of sentimentality around it as me.
The 25th anniversary collaborations are a milestone for the shoe. Do you have the urge to have them all or do you just pick what you like? And in general, is this a collection or just the result of wanting to have more and more?
The 25th anniversary collabs were incredible. Gary Warnett described it best when he said the whole project happened too soon. Doing 15 different versions of the shoe and dropping them all on the same day – that’s like the adidas Consortium 2016 World Tour compressed into a single launch! It definitely missed the peak of the obsession with collaborations which hit a few years later, but I loved the whole thing. I remember there was this microsite with Highsnobiety that they’d reveal a new makeup on every few days over the course of the month before the drop. I’d be on there refreshing to see the next pair and who had made it. They had a competition running too. They wanted people to make something which defined ‘Your Workout’ and post it on Facebook and whoever got the most likes won 3 pairs from the collection. I went in so hard man. I did all these shoots with everyone I knew who wore Workouts. I was hitting up everyone on my friends list to like this poster I made. But it worked because I won the whole damn thing! I think that was the start of picking up special editions of the shoe for me, but I wouldn’t call it collecting and it’s definitely not unconditional love – there were some stinking versions of it from that project, I definitely don’t need to own them all haha!
Which ones are your favorites and why? Please name three.
Tough one! I think my absolute favorite has to be the orange GORE-TEX pair. They’re super special to me, and insanely rare. I remember we did a shoot for the release when I was at The Drop Date, and still 3 years later it was one of the most-visited pages on the whole site. I can’t believe they never made them, we just had the pre-production sample. But it was my size and I ended up with them – thanks Ry! Next I think it’s the Sneakersnstuff edition from the 25th anniversary. Simple, but insanely deluxe. Moose leather on a Reebok Workout – amazing. Then I think it’s the second Garbstore collab from 2016. Their work with Reebok has been so good, and this ‘OK’ collection thankfully included Workouts because I missed out on the first one. Super tasteful, loads of nice details, and a bit odd.
What is missing in your Workout “collection”?
What’s missing right now is my Solebox ‘Tilapia’ pair from 2012, which I can’t find! Gotta pull out the whole cupboard for them when I get home. Hopefully I haven’t lost them, they retailed at € 500 ha! I wish I had the first Garbstore ones from the ‘Inside Out’ collection – they were incredible. There were some really sick Size? hiking SMUs from way back as well. Most of all probably the original Palace ones though. They were serious.
Does it make a difference whether a shoe is really rare, a collaboration or just a general release?
I think if you like it already, it makes it a little bit more special. I love my GORE-TEX ones as I said, but the fact that they were never actually made makes them so much dearer to me. Collaboration – no. I think collabs can tend to bring out the best or the most adventurous in the design, but I’d just as happily wear my Chalk vintage leather pair as any of the wilder ones.
What do you think of the stage of the sneaker hype right now? Are people like you getting back to basics and appreciate the simple things or is the hype getting bigger and bigger?
Maybe…maybe I’m just getting older! I’ve never been one for hype to be honest. Nothing would make me queue overnight outside – it’s just shoes. I guess it makes sense that I’m into a style that doesn’t often require that. It all comes down to how well you tell a story and if the product backs it up. Any Skepta x Nike collab would cause hype, but the storytelling around that launch was incredible. It deserved the hype and that makes sense to me. I think fewer special projects with a better narrative is the way forward. I don’t understand it when shoes are themed after food or some medieval painting or some shit and people go mad for it. What relevance does that have to you? Ok you like spaghetti Bolognese doesn’t mean you should wear that on your feet. Equally if the storytelling or collaborator is great but the product is bad, I don’t get the hype.
Any last words?
Thanks be to all the people who have made and continue to make it possible for me to do shoes for a living, it really is the best. And anyone out there with an extensive selection of UK8 Workouts for sale – get at me!
This is a shortened version of our interview with Nic. The full story appears in SNEAKERS MAG #38 – Released in April 2018