Alright so I'm obsessed with Top 10's.
First came the Top 10 Clubs in the World, now the Top 10 Sneaker Stores in the World (as suggested by Askmen.com, published June 2009).
Here's their Top 10:
1. Undefeated / Tokyo
2. Alife Rivington Club / NYC
3. Livestock / Vancouver
4. Huf / San Francisco
5. Solebox / Berlin
6. Bodega / Boston
7. Dave's Quality Meats / NYC
8. Size? / Various UK
9. Flight Club / NYC
10. Atmos / Tokyo
Obviously I haven't been to the stores located in North America and Canada (yet - hopefully I'll be hitting the NYC stores in November). But perhaps the writer simply hasn't been to as many stores as he should have when writing a story about the 10 best sneaker stores in the world. Because there's heaps of them.
Considering the fact I've been to so many sneaker stores across the globe in the past 12 months, I think I have pretty good authority to critisise the list above. And perhaps when I get back from the US in November, I'll write my own top 10.
But it begs the question: What makes a great sneaker shop?
Personally I use certain criteria to judge sneaker stores - Range, Service, Price, Personality and Design. So from now on, every sneaker store I go to, I'm going to give a rating out of 4 for each of the following criteria:
Range is probably the most obvious of all the elements that make a a great sneaker store. Without a great range, the store is nothing.
Some stores are fantastic when it comes to service - and some are just down right rude. Money is the same colour no matter who's hand it's held in, so the service better be good no matter who you're serving.
Price can really vary depending where you are in the world and realistically, at some point, the price point will become a factor (unless you have cash to splash).
A sneaker store needs personality. Whether it's the people who work there, the art, the design, the advertising, the website - the store needs to scream loads about what's inside before you even walk through the door.
Store design, just as much as it should be part of the personality of the store, it needs to show of the shoes without detracting attention from the sneakers! Store design is an important part of the shopping experience.
Each store will then get a total out of 100 (each criteria equals 20 points, with a total of 100 for all 5 criteria). I'm going to start by back tracking all the sneaker stores I've been to everywhere (including Australia) and start ranking them in my own personal top 10.
Now back to the Askmen.com Top 10. As I said, I can't speak for the North American stores, but the Japan and European component leaves a lot to be desired. On the one hand, they've missed so many of the best shops - but on the other hand, it was written for Askmen.com. So it's probably not the best article to use to judge where to buy sneaks from. But I'm sure some people have. Undefeated as number 1? Well, that's questionable. As far as I'm concerned, the best sneaker shop in Tokyo from a range point of view is K-Skit handsdown. K-Skit might not be pretty, but the prices and service are excellent. Defeated is a nicely designed store, but the range and prices leave a lot to be desired. It's worth a visit, but it's not the best in Tokyo, let alone the world.
Which brings me to the next point - finding a concise list of the best sneaker stores is really hard. SneakerFreaker have done a stand up job with their sneaker shop guide, but it isn't definitive, and doesn't give you a real description or whether the store is worth worth visiting. I've found in my travels that some stores don't sell Nike or certain brands, which can be pretty annoying if you plan your day around visiting several stores and don't find anything you're remotely interested in.
I'm not suggesting I can create a definitive list of sneaker stores - but I'm going to try to give the best description and information I can to make the decision to go and finding the place etc much easier. It's something I wish I could have had access to before I set out to visit all these stores.