Who Needs Clogs When Your Heart Belongs to Sneakers?

Chef Michael Armstrong's collection is 200 strong.

July 31, 2017 ● 2 min read

As told to Priya Krishna by Michael Armstrong (Dream Downtown Hotel) | College ChefsFeed

I am a child of the late 80s and early 90s, when the Nike craze — I’m talking Air Max and Air Jordans — really hit.  

I played basketball, so being into sneakers came pretty naturally. I loved my Air Jordan 3s. As I grew up, I got out of the hobby a little bit — but then I moved to New York, this fashion capital, where streetwear and street culture was really gaining ground. I started collecting again, hunting for the limited edition stuff; the kinds of sneakers that came out when I was little. Companies were really starting to understand the nostalgia effect of sneakers for people my age who had all these pairs growing up and either lost them, got rid of them, or [that] didn’t hold up over time.  

The best part about collecting is the hunt. I spent years searching for the Jordan Black and Blue Royals — they came out around 2001. There were also the Nike SB’s inspired by the characters in Star Wars. I looked for them for two years. It can be tough, but rewarding when it works out. Once you start collecting, you want to keep building, [and] I was so drawn to the way that sneakers brought back all these memories for me.  

Sneakers have now become my accessory of choice. A lot of chefs wear clogs in the kitchen, and I used to as well; but then I realized, when you are running around all over a big restaurant (I used to work at Tao, which is 40,000 square feet), you don’t want bulky, heavy clogs. I started wearing Nike Roshes in the kitchen. They don’t slip, they are comfortable, they are lightweight, they have support, and they’re stylish.  

The sneaker industry is so huge now; the more I got into sneaker culture, the more good friends and connections I started making in that industry. I hosted a dinner for the Air Jordan brand. I curated a menu for a release party for the new Steph Curry Under Armour shoe. But I’ve realized that I just can’t have them all — especially living in New York with such limited storage. I have 200 pairs, but for the people I know who collect, that’s not even that many! I know people who have 600 pairs or more.  

These days, I’m trying to be a bit more selective, but I do want to continue to make connections with people through sneakers, and hopefully, pass my collection onto my kids one day. You only have two feet: you can’t wear them all.  

And I’m still waiting for Nike to make me a chef shoe. [Editor’s note: Hint, hint.]

They're not Air Jordans, but here's a chef who makes old-school leather shoes WITH HIS OWN HANDS. And speaking of boots and shoes and such, go behind-the-scenes of Oakland's Boot & Shoe Service and its sibling restaurants.