This article previously appeared on News@Northeastern. It was written by Ian Thomsen.
Yuhong Su was attending high school in New Hampshire as an international student from Dongguan, China. He was far away from everyone and everything he knew.
Then he found a hobby—sneakers—that introduced him to American culture five years ago.
“It helped me through my loneliest times away from my family,” says Su, a fourth-year Northeastern student in Business Administration and Design who also goes by the first name of Henry.
On Friday at 6 p.m. EDT, an organization that Su is launching—Huskicks’ Sneakers Club—will host Sneaker Summit 1, a hybrid event that can be attended via Zoom link or in-person at Snell Library Room 003 (limited to the first 25 people to arrive).
The summit will feature three leaders in the sneaker community: Jarick Walker, who was a brand marketing specialist with Nike before moving to the NFL in 2019 as an influencer and talent marketing manager; Dr. T, who offers sneaker reviews and other YouTube content; and Javon Martin, an associate product line manager at Converse.
“There are a lot of sneakerheads at Northeastern and we should have had a sneaker club a long time ago,” says Martin, a Northeastern graduate in marketing and entrepreneurship. “The industry may be the highest it has ever been with resellers and the amount of money consumers are willing to spend on sneakers. Brands are capitalizing on exclusive product and revenues are soaring.”
The global sneaker industry, valued at $79 billion last year, is expected to reach $120 billion by 2026. In a sign of its growing prominence, the Design Museum of London is hosting an exhibition that explores how sneakers have “challenged performance design, inspired subcultures and shaken the world of fashion.”
Su’s passion for sneakers helped steer him to study business administration and design at Northeastern.
“It’s no longer just a hobby,” he says. “It’s a responsibility and a lifestyle.”
Su acquired his first treasured sneakers in 2009—a pair of Zoom Kobe 5 “Lakers Away,” a Nike shoe designed for his favorite player, Kobe Bryant. He was heartbroken when Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash that killed eight people in January 2020.
“I was playing a lot of basketball when my father bought me those sneakers, and I thought, ‘I can win all the time when I have them on,’” says Su, who recalls them retailing for $200. “I wish I still had them.”
The shoes are currently valued at $882 on the resale market.
Su’s sneaker collection is approaching 100 pairs. He keeps half of them at his off-campus apartment in Boston; the other half are at home in Dongguan. He’s only dipping his toe in the market in comparison to P.J. Tucker, an NBA player who has collected close to 5,000 pairs of sneakers.
“He’s the shoe god of the NBA today,” Su says of Tucker. “When I had 30 to 50 pairs, that was when my parents were saying, ‘You’re simply buying too many shoes.’ But then they realized that I have a careful selectivity for shoes.”
Su explores new lines of sneakers as though they were stocks entering the market. Before investing, he must have confidence that the sneakers will at least maintain their value—if not appreciate—in the years to come.
Unlike some collectors, Su insists on wearing the sneakers in his collection. At night he stores them in their original box.
When Su realized there was no sneaker club at Northeastern, he formed Huskicks with the hope of creating a community.
“This is like a dream come true,” he says of the upcoming sneaker summit. “The intention of the club is to do this for people who have the same special interest as me.”
He hopes it will lead to a greater achievement.
“My long-term goal is to create a sneaker museum back in my hometown,” Su says.