Horace Leung has spent more than a decade and hundreds of thousands of dollars on collecting some 600 pairs of sneakers. He’s also the main man behind hk-kicks.com—an expansive resource for fellow sneakerheads that collaborates with big sports brands on events and exhibitions. He tells Stephanie Tsui how far he’d go for a pair of kicks, and which pair he’d save if his collection caught fire.
HK Magazine: When did your obsession with sneakers begin?
Horace Leung: I started buying sneakers in university because I needed them for basketball. But I couldn’t wear them all so they slowly grew into a collection. Michael Jordan was—and still is—my favorite basketball star, and I thought he was really cool, so I tried to emulate him by buying similar gear with the money I earned from tutoring. Maybe it’s a kind of psychological disorder, I don’t know. But I think men have to have some sort of distraction from their nine-to-five jobs, and if it wasn’t for my collection, I might be gambling or doing something even more costly.
HK: But shouldn’t you have more “me” time because you’re self-employed?
HL: I’m actually really busy! It may seem like my work is really flexible, but in reality I work all the time, even on weekends. On top of working, my wife has also tasked me with taking care of our six-year-old son. It all takes a lot of scheduling.
HK: Does collecting sneakers get you girls?
HL: No! Only men who own collections of money get girls. That said, my wife doesn’t interfere with my habit—as long as I’m able to provide for my family. I quit my full-time job as a salesman in 2010, the same year my son was born, to run hk-kicks.com, which my then-partners would’ve shut down if I hadn’t taken over. It was a crazy move, but I’ve been doing alright.
HK: How far would you go for a pair of sneakers?
HL: In New York in 2014 I queued for two hours in -20 ˚C conditions outside a Nike store for a pair of Air Jordan 29. I was in town for an event. When it was my turn, they told me they didn’t stock it! I ended up getting a pair at another store. Price-wise, the most expensive pair of sneakers I ever bought cost around US$2,000. They were a pair of Air Jordan 1 from 1985. But I’m careful about my finances and never spend more than I can afford, which is why I constantly motivate myself to work harder. It’s not about buying the most expensive pair or investing in them—sneakers disintegrate with time. Leave them alone for a few years and they’re already unwearable. If I wanted to invest, my money would be better spent on collecting stamps.
HK: Are you picky about your everyday kicks?
HL: I don’t pursue trends, but I do own at least a pair of sneakers from every brand so I can wear them to business meetings with these brands. My everyday sneakers have to be comfortable and clean: I toss them out once they get dirty. I hate the worn-in look. The only pair of shoes I wash are my son’s. He doesn’t care for sneakers: He likes shoes with Iron Man and Star Wars characters on them. My wife doesn’t care for sneakers either, but I get it. It’s like me and lipstick— all shades look the same to me.
HK: If your collection caught fire and you could only save one pair of sneakers, which pair would you save?
HL: I’d probably just give up my whole collection. It’s pointless to save just one pair.
HK: What do you love most about your job and hobby?
HL: I’m lucky to be one of the few people in the world who can do what they love and earn an income from it, in addition to getting the opportunity to meet people and basketball stars, and to visit the headquarters of big sports brands; and getting paid to set up an exhibition where people show appreciation for your work… These are things money can’t buy.