For The Game, Not The Fame: Shoe Game Manila
It's all about shoes. The culture, the history, the fashion aspect- they are all intertwined. Regardless of hype, it's all about what the shoes mean to the wearer. From the sheer joy of opening a box and actually rocking the pair - priceless. Shoe Game Manila understands that, taking care of each and every customer, making it a memorable shoe experience. Located in Mandaluyong, they cater to varied tastes, from runners to Jordans to the new releases. Get to know Ron De Vera, the man behind the store!
Who or what influenced you in getting into sneakers?
Growing up as a fan of 90s basketball makes you wonder what shoes they’re using on court, 90s basketball introduced me to the sneaker world. It started from Kidd, Jordan, Penny, Kobe, Grant Hill sneakers. Hiphop music also influenced me into the sneaker scene, I remember watching MTV and buying dozens of hiphop magazines (XXL / The Source) and seeing kicks rocked by rappers makes me wanna have them too. Plus I went to highschool at DBTC, they allowed us to wear sneakers every day so it comes natural to me. I may not know all the models before or if it was limited that time, all that’s important was that it looked fresh.
You’re 24/7 with Shoe Game Manila, how was life before it started? Did you have an office job?
It was different, lifestyle and all. Before Shoe Game Manila (SGM) started I did car rental services, had computer shops and been a meat supplier. On Dec 2012 I started selling sneakers to friends/relatives, posting it online and sometimes I'll personally bring them to offices. I got them from outlet stores that time, no SGM yet.
Mid 2013 I had a chat with my friend Johnny (SGM partner) from LA talking about how good the sneaker scene in Manila is, I tried to convince him to start up an online store. He couldn’t believe the number of families wearing Jordan retros and women rocking Air Maxes here back home. Then after much convincing, we decided to bring in good sneakers from LA to Manila like Shaqnosis, Airway Up, Air Veer which you are not being sold locally. We didn’t have a lot of capital investment before so most of our shipments are for pre-order. We only stock Jordan retros and Nike basketball retros that time.
Since Johnny is a sneakerhead before the hype started, he’s the perfect connection for this! Feels good that we came a long way, because unlike any business it’s not certain to be profitable, it’s a big risk. I didn’t really expect to have this lifestyle now, I enjoy what I’m doing which is so important, plus I earn at the same time. It’s all worth it.
You mentioned a few insane experiences as a shop owner, like credit card scams and counterfeit money which every business has their fare share of. Would you care to share them and give some advice as well?
Counterfeit money are not unusual anymore, so sellers gotta check the bills first, besides these "buyers" legit check the pair too hehe.. About these fraud card transactions, it was a typical day at the store. A lot of buyers visit to purchase pairs, so these “clients” are buying a bunch of pairs that cost huge using their credit card, for me and my staff this is normal, so we never suspected that there would be a problem. After 1 month the bank called me that there was a fraud transaction in my store and they will debit back the amount. Investigation is still ongoing now. I really fought hard for this. It’s not our fault that the bank approved the transaction, besides we asked the client to show several IDs but how we’d know they’re all fake too.
Another experience I encountered in 2014, I had a regular client who bought shoes from me almost every week so I thought we’re cool and I treated him and his crew like a friend. They would always pay in checks, their first few transactions were all smooth but there was this one time their check bounced. When I tried to call them I couldn't reach them anymore. Just recently I discovered that they're already in jail for other fraudulent cases.
I realized now I shouldn’t be so trusting, hiccups and bumps are there for growth.
Last year’s Manila Expo was huge hit! Will you have another run for this year? If so, what can we expect?
Yeah, it was! It’s amazing, we didn’t expect there would be that much attendees. We’re already planning for Manila Sneaker Expo 4 this 2016, I can’t talk about it right now because it’s not official yet but we’re planning something, it’s a surprise. Haha.. just expect it to be bigger and more fun!
What are your holy grails when it comes to kicks? Can you give us your top 5?
Care to share background stories for them?
Shaqnosis – Nostalgic, my favourite pair from back in the day. Worn by my fave player from Ginebra, Bal David haha.. Wearing this kicks makes me feel I’m in the 90s era again. Too little quantity released locally so didn’t get a chance to cop it, but thanks to my homie Johnny from LA!
AF1 custom – Underrated! Simple, white and black swoosh, Classic, never gets out of style. Just do a lil’ customization with it, it’s so hot the swoosh melts!
Cortez Day of The Dead – I’m a fan of Nike Cortez since the presto days. LOL! So when I saw the detailed picture of these before the release date I said to myself – I’m gonna cop this. No hype Just love!
Air Max 90 Gold Trophy – My favourite Air Max 90 colorway, so unique and the colorway well-designed. Just the right amount of bling. Copped it thru a reseller, a bit high but it’s all good.
Wheat Timberland boots – Hip hop roots! Gotta keep a fresh pair. Rock em with denim jeans mix with white shirt and you’re good!
Do you have that one pair that got away? If not, what pair you are dying to cop?
Back when I was still a student, I couldn’t always afford to buy new sneakers. One weekend we had a vacation in Subic, I always made sure to check the sneaker outlet stores to make the trip complete. While browsing the racks, I saw this OG Jordan 15 UNC in my size, I thought it was my lucky day. It looked like it’s been sitting there because of the condition, slight yellowing and lil dusty but still rockable. When I tried fitting it, it was perfect. It look so good in my eyes that I wanted to take it home immediately. Haha. .
Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money that time. I really wanted the shoes so bad that my cousin offered to lend me some cash so I could buy the pair. I really wanted to take her offer but decided to wait instead, hoping it would be there when I come back. It was a very tough choice if I should accept the money or come back for it. But I decided not to accept it cause I was too shy that it might take me a while to pay her back. On our way home, I still couldn’t stop thinking about it, on how I could have made a wrong decision of letting it go. So after a few months we went back hoping it would still be there, this time I had enough money. Sadly after months of saving for it, the OG Jordan 15 wasn’t available anymore. That moment felt like something’s missing in my life, like losing a girlfriend. Hahaha..
I still can’t forget about it until now. So to the Jordan brand, I’m still waiting for that retro next year, it’s been on my radar ever since.
I am ready. Haha!
You’ve been in the shoe business for quite some time. How’s the sneaker game culture in the Philippines and where do you think its going?
It’s different now. It’s more accepted now compared to before. You can see more people rocking sneakers in the most unusual situations, like wearing Jordans on weddings or wearing Stan Smiths in business meetings. Now they incorporate their sneakers into their wardrobe without looking funny.
Sneaker culture is continuously growing locally. Not only in Manila but even in some provinces they’re in to it. So I guess it’s not slowing anytime down soon. More sneaker stores are popping up in every city whether a retailer or a reseller. So I won’t be surprise if Manila will have its own sneaker street someday, maybe soon.
More sneaker events are happening in different parts of the metro, keeping the sneaker culture alive. It’s a good way to enlighten and inspire people who don’t have an idea of what the culture is like.
What’s the current trend at the moment? The most sought after kicks in your shop?
2016 is for adidas (Stan Smith, Superstar, NMD, Ultra Boost) no doubt. But still gotta catch those retros too coz there’s still collectors of Jordans.
You’re good friends with Kickstatik and they mentioned how merchants should just get along instead of bickering. Kind of like instigating a friendly competition than slugging it out. What’s your two cents on this?
Oh yeah Jay and Michicko we hang out a lot. But justly there shouldn’t be a competition. It’s so good to live in a sneaker friendly community, we have a big market in the Philippines so we can co-exist without needing to put other people down. We don’t have time for that negative attitude. Just help each other. If you need stocks that I have let me know, if I need stocks that you have I’ll let you know. At the end of the day it’s business. We all have the same goals, more friends, more connection. Just keep it neutral.
What does it mean to be Shoephoric? Please share with us your experience so far!
Shoephoric is when you always think of what’s the next sneaker to cop.
Shoephoric is when you cop the sneakers you want and not what the sneaker community wants.
Shoephoric is when you rock your sneakers so hard, cause you know their not to be kept in the closet.
Shout outs please!
What’s up to my homie partner in LA, Johnny Des Cartes, Onids Givenchy, MSE fam, to Aram. To my Lalabs, you know what’s up! Kickstatik Fam Jay, Michiko and Statik Girls. Mike Swift of Pinoyhoops, Manila Lifestyle Bodega Benson, FSV of Kickstogo. GK and PSC fam what’s up. SRP fam Sicat brothers, Master Sniffy, Bigboy Secret fresh, My hood VM Crew, Sneakpeek, LIVINLAVco. and Gab the Release.
Lastly shout out to the community that’s been good to me since day 1! Salamat Shoephoric!
Shoe Game Manila: 463 MRP Building Barangka Drive, Mandaluyong, Philippines