I did something a little nuts over the holidays: I booked myself a five-day trip to Florence. I had no itinerary, no friends to visit and no Italian vocabulary other than words like “antipasto” and “grazie” — neither of which proved helpful during a visit to the doctor three days into the trip with an ear infection… but I digress. As soon as I realized I was about to spend several days strolling the Arno, I decided it was time to pick up in earnest a hunt I’d started months earlier: to find a hot pair of kicks.
Maybe it’s my deep-seated infatuation with hip-hop, or perhaps it’s my desire to restore balance to the universe by purchasing a pair of non-athletic sneakers to sit next to the depressingly vanilla New Balance running shoes I lug to the gym. Whatever the reason, I’m gazing wistfully at rainbow-colored Reeboks in shop windows, reading about the long-awaited release of some Japanese import on nicekicks.com and drooling over a $400 pair of 1980s black Nikes I found online. But when push comes to shove, finding a pair of stylish dunks that fits me is not unlike shopping for surf gear two years ago. For the record, boys’ sneakers are cooler than girls’ sneakers. Why does all girls’ athletic or street gear come with hot pink hearts, sparkling laces, sleek-cut Harajuku nonsense? I wanted to play with the big boys, but unfortunately size is a problem. The general rule is that women are one to two sizes smaller in a men’s shoe, i.e. I am a size 7½ women’s, and thusly about a 6 men’s. Which is a joke. Brands like Nike, however, usually produce a few styles in smaller sizes (dudes, obviously, won’t face my problem, and I’ll just have to live in envy of the special-edition high-tops you can wear), so I finally scored myself a pair of two-toned Nike Court Force dunks with snakeskin — which, I would like to report, looked badass squeaking across the floors of the Ufizzi. Here are the best shops I found on my pilgrimage.
Classic Kicks, 298 Elizabeth St.
A really great first stop, these guys have a good selection of Nike, Puma and Vans, as well as a decent array of women’s sizes and junior sizes, if you feel like experimenting.
Fight Club New York, 235 Greene St.
A straight-up blockbuster in terms of inventory (if you’ve got money to burn), from a $300 kickshawaii to a $1,900 “futura 50th birthday f2t-50.”
Reed Space, 151 Orchard St.
While this place feels more like a tribute to the “sneaker lifestyle” than a plain old sneaker store, it usually stocks less than 50 percent of its inventory in-house, so if you don’t see what you want, ask for it.
Nort/Recon, 359 Lafayette St.
Arguably the best destination for Nikes in the city, as well as Japanese imports, Nort’s epic Noho space is a serious upgrade from their tiny LES digs on Eldridge.