Matt Norwood doesn’t know the exact number. He “lost count” after 200 of how many sneakers he owns.
Norwood, host of the Outcha League Sports Podcast and a sneaker enthusiast since childhood, noted that his love for collecting sneakers started at an early age. The North Philadelphia native joined Inquirer Live on Tuesday to discuss the city’s sneaker culture, some of the biggest shoe brands, and the Sixers’ sneaker presence.
“When I was young I was a huge basketball fan, and that’s really where it came from,” said Norwood, 39. “From there it just took off. I was [wearing] a little bit of everything back then.”
» READ MORE: Inquirer LIVE: Philly Sneaker Culture
When discussing Philly’s sneaker culture, the conversation has to include Allen Iverson, and not just for what he’s done here. Iverson is arguably one of the most culturally impactful players in NBA history. His cornrows, flashy jewelry, and pregame clothing are all things more accepted today than in his NBA time.
Iverson’s authenticity is part of what made him so marketable and one of the faces of the Reebok brand. Today, Iverson’s Reebok Question Mids are still big sellers in Philly.
“The Question Mids to me are one of the holy grails of sneakers,” Norwood said. “He crossed [Michael Jordan] in those Iversons.”
Philly is also home to the only center in the NBA with a signature shoe. Joel Embiid and Under Armour debuted his Embiid One in the fall of 2020.
Under Armour has rebranded itself by becoming a bigger fixture in the basketball community, led by Stephen Curry and now Embiid.
“When I saw [the shoe], I say, ‘OK. It’s not bad,’” Norwood said. “I think it’s a nice-looking shoe. I haven’t tried it on yet. But if I see a Sixers colorway, I might have to cop.”
The Sixers have other stylish players. In one study, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris both ranked in the top 10 among NBA players in streetwear clothing.
Simmons has appeared headed for a sneaker deal and a signature shoe, but Norwood thinks another young Sixer may have a better chance – rookie guard Tyrese Maxey.
“I thought eventually [Nike] would bring a shoe out for Ben Simmons,” Norwood said. “I think Maxey, if they increase his playing time and people really start to see him, he might be somebody that might be next.”
Jordan, Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Reebok, Puma, and Converse are some of the biggest brands. Anta, based in China, also has a huge following.
Jordan, Nike, and Adidas have each had long runs. Puma is the new kid on the block, reeling in young stars such as Michael Porter Jr., Deandre Ayton, and LaMelo Ball. There’s also the renaissance of Converse, the premier basketball sneaker in the 1980s.
Norwood said that Jordans are his favorite brand, grading the retro Jordan 11s as his favorite shoe.
The sneaker industry is constantly evolving, and shoes are harder to get than ever.
Raffles have replaced the long lines for the hottest weekend drops. Employees at sneaker stores such as Finish Line and City Gear said that hyped new releases are usually gone by early afternoon.
To get your hands on personal favorites, you have to be creative. A lot of the online options turn into bidding wars, during which shoes are sometimes sold for more than twice the retail price.
“When the pandemic hit, I started using eBay,” Norwood said. “I never used StockX or any of those because they were just a little bit too pricey for me. I try not to go overboard with my stuff.”