For Anthony Gilbert, sneakers are his life. The West Philadelphia native has always been into them, a love that grew out of his days spent on the basketball court as a youth.
“It was basketball shoes that really
drew me in,” Gilbert said. Now, a self-made sneaker connoisseur and celebrity, Gilbert has turned his passion for kicks into a lucrative career.
The Temple graduate is a senior writer for “Sole Collector,” a glossy, bi-monthly magazine founded in 2003 that serves as the watchdog for sneaker culture.
“It gives people something outside the shoe to really belong to, and to share and to brag,” Gilbert said of the magazine. “It’s also kind of like an ESPN for the sneaker culture.”
Not only does Gilbert get paid to write about what he loves, the gig also affords meet-and-greets with star athletes like Kobe Bryant and Temple’s own Dawn Staley. Gilbert’s passion for kicks ignited
in 1989 with the release of Air Jordan IV, which would later be the first pair he bought with his own money.
“It was something about that shoe and the way Michael played in that shoe that drew me into this whole culture that I am immersed in now,” Gilbert said.
Growing up, shoes were like forbidden fruit for Gilbert – highly -coveted but financially out-of-reach. Now, with a collection of 400 pairs, Gilbert has a shoe wall on both sides of his closet and dropping money on kicks is no longer an issue.
“It’s a nostalgic appreciation because a lot of the shoes I go crazy over came out in time when I didn’t have them,” Gilbert said. “Now in the wonderful world of retro sneakers, I am able to go back.”
His writing has also made him an authority on sneaker culture. Last month, Australian magazine “Sneaker Freaker” spoke with him for its Air Force One tribute issue, gracing him with a glossy six-page spread.
“My friend called me the other day, like, ‘Yo, Ant. I just saw your face up on the big screens at Niketown,'” Gilbert said with a chuckle. Nike featured him in their documentary “One Love,” commemorating the 25th anniversary of Air Force Ones. As managing editor of his own multi-media
sports marketing Web site, AXG.com, Gilbert
stirs up excitement around kicks, sports and pop culture, starring in video clips as host of his online show AXG TV.
“I really appreciate shoes as an aesthetic,” he said. “I have just as much joy looking at them on the Internet as I am right now, as I do wearing them,” he added.
For the sneaker whiz, the hardest part of his day is figuring out what he is going to put on his feet after he gets dressed.
Fortunately, he has plenty of options to choose from (and much more to come).
Malaika T. Carpenter can be reached at email@example.com