It all started in 1985 with a pair of Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes. The Jordan 1 model was nicknamed Bred — short for black and red. Brad Hogan can’t remember if he ever even tried them on. Soon after, he bought a second pair. Then another. Then…
“I bought five and 10 and 20,” Hogan said standing in his garage, surrounded by shoes. “Then it being 50, and a hundred, and it became ‘geez I can’t fit them in my closet.”
Jump forward three decades and the Redwood City man has amassed one of the world’s largest collections of Air Jordans — 327 pairs to be exact. None has ever touched so much as a basketball court — a sidewalk — even a fiber of carpet. For a reason Hogan can’t exactly explain, he’s doggedly purchased them over the years and squirreled them away in his garage, at most opening each newly purchased box just for a glance before putting them with the others.
“Having original shoes that have never been worn,” Hogan said picking up a shoe and sniffing its new shoe smell, “just holds a sentimental value.”
There was plenty of sentimentality to go around as Hogan opened the garage in his Redwood City apartment complex — revealing a dizzying display of shoes in every hue, pattern and shape. For decades, the growing collection sat in boxes, leaving just enough room in the garage to fit the car, off-limits to the world. But after Hogan recently revealed the existence of his collection to his pal Wilson Craig, he surrendered to his buddy’s suggestion he show them to an NBC Bay Area reporter.
“I Googled Nike shoe collections and then I kind of understood that this might be one of the largest dead stock Nike collections in the country,” said Craig, who only learned of his long-time friend’s collection last month. “I was surprised — honestly I’ve never known anybody that collected anything to this degree.”
The majority of Hogan’s shoes are in his size — 9 1/2. But since he had no plans to wear the shoes, he figured it didn’t really matter what size he purchased, hence the size 18 pair of gray retro sneakers he bought because it was the only pair available. His collection also includes a few pairs small enough they would only fit a child-sized NBA star.
Hogan, a Bay Area corporate event planner, rented several tables and studio lights to lay out his shoes for a journalist visitor. It was the first time he’d ever taken them out of the box and the first time he’d even shown his collection to anyone en masse. Even Hogan himself seemed startled by the sight. He consulted his phone where he kept a spread sheet of all 327 pairs of shoes according to purchase date and color.
“These are my favorites,” he said locating a pair of black shoes with red soles and a band of leather. “These are the Jordan 11, these are famous for the patent leather.”
Hardcore shoe collectors sometimes line up outside shoe stores before dawn to snatch up new limited edition releases — Hogan has never done that — instead buying the bulk of his shoes online or through San Francisco dealers. Some of his collection includes special packs holding two pairs of shoes — the model numbers adding up to 23 — Michael Jordan’s number.
Even before Hogan was a fan of Air Jordans he was a fan of the actual Jordan — the basketball marvel immortalized by a spectacular career on the court and his namesake shoes. Hogan saw him play at Stanford once while Jordan was still playing in college.
“I mean Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time and I wanted to somehow at the time be a part of the shoe phenomenon,” Hogan said looking around at his own personal shoe-mageddon. “Little did I know 30 years later…”
As a kid, Hogan collected regular things like stamps, coins and trading cards. In addition to his current shoe collection, he admits to obsessively collecting soaps and shampoos from hotels. But whether his collecting bug has reached the therapy level is up for debate.
“My family worries about me. My wife Susan worries about me,” he said with an only half-serious grin. “I collect them because very few people can say they have a collection of this enormity of just never-been worn shoes”
Hogan said he recently stopped collecting Air Jordans after 32 years, deciding he’d finally had enough and didn’t want to go “overboard.” Since going public with his collection, he’s moved it out of his garage and into a secure, temperature-controlled facility.
While the collection may be valuable —a single pair of 1980s Jordans can fetch hundreds of dollars — Hogan never intended it as an investment. He said he has no plans to sell his shoes. Instead he’d like to eventually meet other people with the same collecting affliction, maybe even take the shoes on the road putting them on public display, in a way confronting the stigma that collectors sometimes face.
“I’m here just to show,” Hogan said, “that people do collect certain unique, ironic things in their life.”