by Dillon Johnson
On many days, I may be the only teenager with the slight wonder that I might die en route to Champs. Or more specifically, I wonder if someone will stab or rob me waiting in front of the Times Square store with a shoebox in my hands. So far, the strangers always have arrived without a weapon, but with money. After inspecting the shoes, the stranger pays and we both walk off satisfied. I buy the shoes online or from a store on release days, and sell them for a profit a few months or more later. I later learned that the explanation for my success was rooted in the laws of Supply and Demand when I took one of my favorite classes, Economics.
I am an entrepreneur, fencer, car builder, aspiring engineer, and stock market aficionado who placed in the top 5 in a simulated schoolwide stock market competition. I am also a foreign language enthusiast who has completed immersion programs in Barcelona and various parts of China and a student of global cultures. Fencing, like Physics, cultivates a passion for angles, precision and force. The stock market competition draws on the interplay of math, technology and business. The foreign language immersion programs broadened my cultural exposure and appreciation of the new global economy. Yet, it is my life as a sneaker collector that merges and reflects so many of my interests: math, engineering, computer science, business, my sense of entrepreneurship and adventure.
If I were a sneaker, I would probably be a Nike SB Ebay Dunk. There are only two pairs of them ever made and yet there is nothing extravagant about their design. I identify with the sneaker’s modesty and profitability. The sneaker’s colors are basic: white, red, green, blue and yellow, and the first pair made auctioned for over $100,000. That pair was then cut into various pieces and discarded. Another pair was created for the auction winner in his shoe size. Now, only one pair of these sneakers exists on earth, which is also like me: there is only one Dillon Johnson in the world.
At 14, I first saw the entrepreneurial possibilities in sneakers when I purchased the Nike SB Batman. I paid $80 and realized that they were worth twice that much three months later. I decided not to sell the pair, because I loved the simple black and grey theme. Instead, I purchased and sold another pair of sneakers for a $100 profit. I began searching for the best deals, and using eBay and other websites to market my wares.
The road to becoming a sneaker entrepreneur is one guided by years of studying engineering and design. My first exposure to engineering was at age 13 and was automotive in nature, albeit with much smaller cars. These automobiles were scale models, and some can be quite large and powerful, using gas or high voltage batteries to exceed 40 miles per hour. Constructing and maintaining a RC car is very scientific, but there is also a very artistic aspect to it in the details of each person’s model. I carry that sense of detail into the world of sneakers.
My passion for engineering has grown from the mechanical into the virtual. This year, I decided to take an AP computer science course based on the programming language Java. I wrote a complex code for a game and spent hours writing, rewriting, and refining each aspect of the control system and in-game features. Similar to collecting sneakers, writing this JAVA code drew on my individualized sense of detail. Like a sneaker collection, each programmer’s code is never exactly the same.
The synthesis of my engineering and design interests bolsters my drive for collecting and selling sneakers. I love vintage sneakers for their intricate details and color combinations: purple, green, gold, quilted, striped, glow in the dark. They are everywhere I turn at my favorite store–Flight Club New York, where sneakers glisten like a sea of stars in the night sky. Style becomes art and a science when various geometric figures are filled with color and are strategically combined on something that runs and walks the earth. My mind walks around the stationary sneakers as colors appear on their shapes and stitched patterns emerge, ultimately leading to a commulative design construction. To me, a sneaker is not just something to wear on your feet, but a nexus of math, design, and business.
Dillon Johnson, a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University, is a graduate of Hunter College High School.