DJ Clark Kent is convinced that any outfit starts with the shoes.
That might explain why the hip-hop producer owns more than 2,000 sneakers — a tally he and his wife, Kesha, can’t agree on.
“My wife would say I have 3,000,” says the Brooklyn disc jockey, born Rodolfo Franklin.
Regardless of the exact count, Kent says there is no denying the role sneakers play in the fashion industry and in hip-hop culture. That’s why he started The Ultimate Sneaker Expo a few years ago, creating a space for sneaker enthusiasts to buy and trade favored footwear.
The expo returns to Long Island Saturday, Sept. 17, at a new and larger location than its previous home in Syosset: The Sports Arena in St. James, where 200-plus vendors and more than 2,500 attendees are expected.
“Our show brings everything out, from Air Jordans to Yeezys to Pumas to New Balances,” Kent says. “If it’s a brand that’s doing something, they will be represented.”
This year, the event partnered with Heeling Soles, a Long Island-based charity that provides new and gently used sneakers to those in need. Attendees who donate a pair of sneakers at the event will not have to wait in line to enter.
Some of the biggest “sneakerheads,” a term used to describe people who collect, trade or simply admire sneakers, are celebrities — including at the expo. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, former Knicks guard Timothy Hardaway Jr. and Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex have attended previous events. This year’s headliners are Kent and Hot 97’s DJ Camilo.
Kent says that now more than ever the industry is witnessing the rise of the celebrity sneaker with the likes of rapper Kanye West — whose adidas Yeezy Boost sneakers are among the most sought-after designs — landing deals with major labels.
Still, for most longtime sneaker fans, Michael Jordan’s Nike Airs have had the deepest cultural impact and are the most in demand at expos. Last year, Jordan qualified for Forbes’ annual billionaires list for the first time with a net worth of $1 billion, thanks, in part, to his deals with Nike, which provide the bulk of his annual earnings.
“Right now, if you look at the landscape, it looks like the artists have more cache,” Kent says. “But if you look at numbers, there are more kids buying basketball shoes than Rihanna’s Pumas or Kanye’s Yeezy Boosts.”
Also on the rise, he says, is the female interest in sneaker culture. Where male attendees would make up about 90 percent of early shows, Kent says his sneaker expo last year had about a 75-25 ratio of men to women.
AND MUSIC, TOO
Unlike other large-scale sneaker shows, The Ultimate Sneaker Expo highlights DJs.
“It’s very different than your average sneaker show because the element of the DJ that we give,” Kent says. “It’s almost like the DJs are giving a concert. They’re high energy, but it doesn’t take away from the show.”
Ultimate Sneaker Expo
WHEN | WHERE Noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at The Sports Arena, 620 Middle Country Rd., St. James
ADMISSION $20 (parents free with a child younger than 12 but require a printed ticket).