Gone are the days when function trumped form and people bought the most comfortable kicks they could find.

You wake before the sun has risen and dress as quickly as you can. By the time you reach the store, hundreds of people are already in line, and you spend hours waiting for a raffle ticket. If you’re lucky, and you draw one of the winning lots, you’ll be able to actually buy the pair of shoes you’ve been pining for. If not, you can always wait for someone to flip them on eBay for twice their original price.

If you’re one of thousands of sneakerheads living in the city, the above scenario isn’t a Kafkaesque nightmare. It’s just another day in your shoe-obsessed life.

According to Sabrina Mabbett, the store manager of Sneex, sneaker fandom has exploded in Milwaukee in recent years.

“You’ve got two different types of sneakerheads,” she says. “People who want to wear the shoes, and people who want to sell them. I’d rather see the first kind come into the store – I’d love to be able to give a 13-year-old kid who’s just gotten into sneakers his first pair of Yeezys. But then again, there’s no way to know that the kid isn’t going to sell the shoes on eBay either.”

Mabbett isn’t too put off by the resellers, though. When demand for a new shoe is especially high, the thrill of scoring a pair through a raffle or contest or at a store is even higher. And sneakerheads bond over both their successes and their failures. “There’s a real culture here,” she says.

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Where to Buy Sneakers in Milwaukee

 

Sneex

180 N. Broadway

This bright, white-walled boutique in the Third Ward (founded by the creative team behind Clicks) looks more like an art gallery than a traditional sneaker store. And the shoes are, fittingly, displayed like rare and expensive sculptures on minimalist white shelves.

Sneex; photo by Lucia Balistreri

Trusted Kicks

532 N. Water St.

If you’ve got a vintage pair of Air Jordans you want to trade in for the latest Yeezy release, this is the place to go. The store buys and sells rare sneakers, many of which retail for several hundred dollars. So maybe wait until your next paycheck comes in to visit.

Trusted Kicks; photo by Lucia Balistreri

MODA3

320 E. Buffalo St.

For 15 years this men’s lifestyle boutique has been a fixture of the Third Ward. It stocks a wide selection of sneakers and apparel, much of it skater-centric. Vans, Nike and Adidas are all well-represented, along with lesser-known but highly regarded brands like Saucony and Supra. It boasts a robust website to boot.

MODA3; photo by Lucia Balistreri

Clicks

1916 E. Capitol Dr., Shorewood

When he was still just a teenager, lifelong Milwaukeean Eric James met and befriended the members of Run DMC – a hip-hop group known for their hit “My Adidas” – while they were in town for a concert. Many years later, he and band member Darryl “DMC” McDaniels opened Clicks, a sneaker boutique devoted exclusively to Adidas apparel and shoes.

Clicks; photo by Lucia Balistreri


“Sneak Attack” appears in the May 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning April 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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