Corey Herscu has a thing for shoes. His “shoe room,” a converted live-in nanny quarters in the basement of his Toronto home, is stacked with thousands of dollars’ worth of kicks. It’s not an obsession. At least, that’s not what he calls it, though some of his friends and family may beg to differ.
“Everybody has their thing,” says Herscu, who is the president of a public relations firm in Toronto. “Some people collect watches. Some people really like motorcycles. I like shoes.”
What began as a childhood desire to have what his family could not afford, evolved when Herscu, then a stylish young lifestyle journalist in the big city, landed on Nike’s influencer list. The athletic brand’s shoe fairy began delivering the latest sneakers to Herscu’s doorstep in exchange for his endorsement. He began collecting then. At its height, Herscu’s assortment was over 200 pairs strong. Today, it sits at a healthy 150 or so, and contains a plethora of sports shoes from Air Jordans to Adidas, several pairs of Yeezys, Canali dress shoes, Common Projects slip-ons, and even some TOMs.
And while his collection may be impressive, Herscu is by no means alone. Shoes have become as good as currency for people from all walks of life. From women filling entire walk-in closets to the brim with enough heels and boots to dress a stylish army, to men with a strong affinity for bespoke leather loafers, to sneakerheads like Herscu, there’s never been a better time to be into footwear.
But first, in the name of context, let’s rewind. The history of the shoe dates back to 7,000 BC when rock sandals were all the craze. It wasn’t until 3,500 BC that we started using leather to cover and protect our feet. In ancient Egypt, things took a turn from one function to another, with the type and colour of sandal denoting social status. It’s not hard to imagine that all of those peoples’ shoes were held dear. And in that respect, not much has changed.
Today, there’s a subculture for every type of footwear, with entire communities of collectors and fans of footwear coming together both in person and online. Have a mild obsession with cowboy boots? Join the club. Sucker for sneakers? There are frequent global conventions, or head online to Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet, and subscribe to the “Sneakers Unite!” subsection with its over 86,000 members. And if you’re hungry for heels, a browse through celebrity favourite Stuart Weitzman’s fall 2016 collection will satiate
When it comes to women’s fascination with pretty pumps, you needn’t look further than pop culture, past and present, for evidence of their power. For Dorothy, her ruby red slippers (now one of the most treasured pieces of film memorabilia) represented the safety and comfort of home and the love of family. Cinderella’s lone glass slipper (totally impractical, on a side note) was her ticket to royalty and true love. And then there’s Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, iconized by Sarah Jessica Parker, and her film-famous love for Manolo Blahnik, which helped to heighten the profile of the Spanish designer in real life.
If the silver screen doesn’t present a convincing enough argument, take the 2012 case of a Wall Street mogul Daniel Shak, who sued his ex-wife for 35 per cent of the $1-million collection she amassed during their marriage. Though Shak would later drop the suit, the mere act to take legal action is a testament to the power (and cost) of the soles we strap to our feet.
Still, there are worse things to be addicted to. And in today’s fashion-forward world, a healthy selection of footwear is all but essential—luckily, it’s also more attainable than ever.