If you’re like us, this little sneaker habit of yours has probably already spun out of control. If it hasn’t, it will, because sneakers are awesome. They’re really really really cool and once you get a whiff of that new pair smell the urge to cop more can be hard to resist. If you’re already 100+ pairs deep and slowly crafting a labyrinth of shoe storage in your garage you may be a bit beyond help, but for those of you still building your arsenal or sitting pretty on a few dozen heaters, it’s time you put some serious thought into how you’re storing these things.
Namely, have you been showing off enough? You’ve put all this money into a great collection, but who’s going to see it? And how? Sure, your new stuff gets plenty of love on Instagram and you can flaunt whatever pair you’re rocking on a given day, but what if your crew comes by? If you want to stunt a little bit, you’ll be stuck pulling boxes out of piles and making a mess. Kill two birds with one stone and make your sneaker storage solution work for you by doubling as a grown-up way to display your kicks. Here’s what you’ll need.
First off, don’t even consider those dinky shoe rack things you can buy at Walmart. For this project proper shelves are the way to go. Pretty much any other way will either look strange or hurt the sneakers and, in our opinion at least, that’s how sneakers are supposed to be displayed if they’re not on your foot. The type of set up you go with is entirely up to you, but some good taste will go a long way. While plenty of sneakerheads use home depot storage, rolling racks, or other ironically cheap looking alternatives, (Ludacris has a sneaker closet with, like, wire bathroom shelves in it) using some slick looking shelving will make your collection look more like a legitimate display than a fire hazard.
The idea is to go as luxe as you can while making sure not to get too gaudy with it. To that end, your ideal shelving should look like it’s purpose built to hold sneakers and nothing else. The best option is probably a glass display case, but those can be very expensive and you may end up breaking it if you try and move. Instead, a solid middle-of-the road solution is a bookshelf. Most fancy sneaker rooms use somewhat modified bookshelves anyway since they look great and do their job well. Bookcases also make a good choice since they don’t cost very much no matter what size or shape you’re going for.
Since the goal here is to showcase, your shelves should be as minimally detailed as possible. Color-wise, we’d recommend black, white, or a sophisticated looking wood grain. In terms of the shelves’ construction, the main thing to keep in mind is the spacing between shelves and the horizontal space the shelf affords. If the shelves are too far apart vertically they wont frame the shoes very nicely, and if they’re too close together your higher hi-tops like Air Force 1’s or Reebok Pumps wont fit. Horizontal space is less of a big deal, but you should ideally have just a little bit more space than what you need for however many pairs are sitting on the shelf so none of them look crammed. Finally, a major feature you should look for in your shelves is that they have a back to them. There must be a psychological reason, but a backless shelving unit (or at least one that doesn’t match the wall behind it) can make even the crispiest pair look like beaters. Something about the shadows, probably. Speaking of…
Yup, we’re gonna light this thing.
Did you think we were going to tell you how to buy a bookshelf and send you on your way? This room we’re crafting here is for you to enjoy and to show off in and that means these shoes need to look fire from across the room, from in the hall even.
The room should already be lit the way a normal room is but the
shelves are going to need something inside to keep them from casting heavy shadows. Putting lights right above your shoes also helps them look brighter and more vibrantly colored, and isn’t that why you’re keeping them clean anyway?
Strip LED lighting is your friend here. It’s cheap, uses next to no power, and is pretty easy to install yourself. Ikea sells decent four-piece rigs that can be powered by a central brick, meaning you or any of your buddies who are good with wiring can probably get a whole bookcase lit from one outlet. Fancier options are available, definitely, but you’re not opening your own store here so there’s no need to pour that much money into some kind of custom rig or a back-lit display case.
This section should only apply if this is going to be a sneaker room rather than a closet. If you’ve only got room for a nice shelf display in your main closet then at this point you should be good. Enjoy! For those of you setting up shop in a spare room or a garage though, we’re not quite done. This room is already going to look cool because of your sick new shoe display(s), but if it’s an empty room with shoes in it then it’s a closet, and who hangs out in a closet? Throwing a simple loveseat or sofa into the room makes it feel almost like a lounge, and adding a table in the middle of the room provides a natural place to congregate, keep drinks, and unwrap your latest deliveries. If you really want this to be the spot, consider throwing a TV in the room so you can watch the game while your J’s do too.
With anything you add, minimalism is key. The room has a built in focal point by way of its purpose, so any other furniture in there should match well with the shelves and do little else. The vibe to avoid here is “man-cave”. You’re a collector and an enthusiast, not a child who needs a playroom. Aim more for “the dopest walk-in closet you’ve ever seen” than anything else.
Now, just because this space should have some dignity doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Like a lot of other hobbies, sneakers lend themselves to some really cool posters, art pieces, and classic advertisements, all of which would look great framed and hung in the room. Instead of bringing back every poster from your high school bedroom, aim to have two or three pieces in the room total (depending on spacing) and make these pieces about as large as paintings so they have some gravitas to them. If you do have a favorite old poster or twelve, pick the cream of the crop and frame them so they look distinguished and don’t fall apart. Otherwise, Googling your favorite brand, model, or colorway followed by “poster” will usually turn up some cool stuff, and Etsy has a surprisingly robust collection of vintage prints and contemporary art themed around sneakers (Jordans particularly).
What goes on your wall doesn’t necessarily need to center on sneakers, they don’t even need to be about sneakers at all. Just try and keep them within the realm of hip-hop, sports, fashion, or any other field in which sneaker culture plays a part. If you rock a lot of vans, throw some old skate decks up. If you play sports or did, throw a jersey or some signed balls in the room. If you’re going for a celebrity, at least make them one who likes/wears sneakers or who comes from one of the above fields. Lastly, if you’re going more towards art than posters, you can pretty much do as you like. Just know that a Monet hanging next to your Huaraches is going to look a little weird.
So now comes the fun part: how are you gonna show off your shoes? Your three main options are facing out, facing in, or facing the side. This is an area where your individual taste and preference will help you more than we can, but there are still some pointers worth sharing. First off, the shoes should (for the most part) all be oriented the same way. It seems obvious but since plenty of sneakers (particularly limited release ones) have their greatest details on the back of the shoe, it can sometimes be hard to decide which way they should face or if uniformity matters. If you find yourself in this dilemma, consider a hybridized display where one shoe faces the wall and the other faces outward for every pair you have.
Second, shoes facing the side look awesome, but take up a ton of space. Turning your shoes to the side should therefore be used only when it creates a dramatic effect – a display within the display – or when you have an abundance of room. Turning a prized pair to the side and framing it with its other colorways displayed normally, for example, is a great way to pay homage to a personal favorite or the pair you know for sure no one else has. On that note, elevating your shoes on their boxes (if there’s the space for it) or buying the little shoe stands department stores use can have the same effect without taking up as much room.
Next, we keep saying it, but this thing has got to be organized. Your collection is probably pretty eclectic, but there’s definitely something you can do in terms of its logic. Try sorting your shoes by low vs. hi, brand, sport, colorway, model type, value, release year, material, athlete, whatever. The shelves don’t necessarily have to look perfect but if someone asks you should be able to explain the system of your shelves or at least have a way of finding specific pairs quickly. If your collection is still growing – AKA it all fits on one shelf – then congrats, that’s your organization.
Finally, if you’re one of the sneakerheads we mentioned earlier with a collection so massive that you’ve had to store them boxed up and 50-to-a-shelf in your garage until now, don’t pout. You can still display your kicks, you’ll just have to curate a collection to show off. Try picking your personal favorites, your rarest pairs, your grails throughout the years, retired models too beaten up to wear around, or whatever else you want. You can even rotate the displayed kicks month-to-month if your friends are stopping by enough. As for the rest, keep doing what you’re doing and store them practically somewhere else. If you’re at that point it shouldn’t really matter to you where the brunt of your collection is stored so long as it’s dry.
Lastly, now that you’ve got a room, use it! Even if it’s just putting the cherry on top of the day’s fit, using your new space is essential to you actually liking it. The same way that your sneaker tastes change the more you buy and wear your shoes, your sneaker room will grow and evolve the more you actually use it. Using it everyday when you pick out shoes or relaxing in it with your friends on the weekends will help define and sculpt the room into exactly what works best for you. Just make sure you’re actually wearing a few pairs.
- There’s a brand called IceBox that makes crystal clear plexiglass shoeboxes for displaying sneakers in. The boxes will fit almost anything and you can customize them with light strips to make your grails look like museum pieces. Recommended by musician and truly impressive sneakerhead DJ Skee.
- DIY favorites Ikea Hacker have a really good guide here on how to build a pretty solid sneaker rack out of IKEA furniture (the bookshelf used there is discontinued, but similar models work fine).