By Brittany Leitner
Not many people have their life-defining moment in the second grade, but for Operator Emz, that’s when his passion for sneakers took on a life of its own. Born and bred in New York City, Emz recalls showing up to school one day and getting teased for his generic kicks. He went home and asked his parents for new shoes, picking out a pair of red on white Nike Oceana trainers and burgundy lo-top 69ers by Pro Keds the very next day. “That was the start of my obsession,” he says.
Today, Emz is an avid sneakerhead and DJ–he is the marquis act of Mobile Mondays at Bowery Electric and performs a live weekly radio show broadcasting from uber-cool music and soul food joint Miss Lily’s. Emz, who only spins vinyl, takes his style seriously on and off the turntables. But the debate on what defines a true sneakerhead remains a hot topic among collectors. “I didn’t even know what a sneakerhead was,” says Emz calling back to his days in the ’90s when he’d snap up five pairs at a time. “To me, a sneakerhead is someone who goes out of their way to find shoes no one has; that’s what I do,” he confirms. “A new sneakerhead buys shoes worth the most money. A true sneakerhead is one that has style. It’s not just about the sneaker, it’s about your whole look.”
Emz’s sneaker obsession may have begun with a pair of Nikes, but he names Adidas as the best sneaker brand of all time. “My favorites are the Adidas Campus and the Adidas Stan Smith,” he says. “Those are two I can’t live without. I’ve never not had a pair of those since 1984.”
Emz estimates that he currently has more than 200 pairs of sneakers, and his collection is about to grow by one with his very own Pro Model Adidas shoe he helped design as part of the Adidas Consortium Collector’s Project. The line, which will be released early October in very limited quantities will feature five shoes designed by five renowned sneaker collectors from London, Berlin, Scandinavia, Tokyo and Emz’s New York. Each shoe will only be available at one retailer in each of the cities.
The five fanatics flew to Germany to design the shoes and film a promo documentary about the making of the collection. Emz’s will represent his take on the 1983 Pro Model he says he aspired to won when he was a kid and showcase a maroon on white colorway.