Sneakerhead's guide to NYC

The Sneaker Pimps convention rolls into town in December; prepare yourself by snagging a bitchin' pair of kicks and hanging out with other sneaker freaks.

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  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

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    Flight Club

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    Flight Club

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The culture of the sneakerhead, which melds elements from the hip-hop and skater scenes, is finally achieving mainstream status. Designer kicks are more popular than ever—see Jeremy Scott's collaboration with Adidas, or Kanye West's 2009 line for Louis Vuitton, which sold out in a snap—while blogs like HighSnobiety and Sole Collector chronicle the latest trainer trends. See what all the fuss is about on December 4, when the Sneaker Pimps USA Tour (St. John's Center Studios, 570 Washington St at Houston St; sneakerpimps.net; Dec 4 at 8pm; $20--$30) hits New York City. At this stop, you can check out more than 1,500 rare and limited-edition pairs by brands like Vans and New Balance, along with live performances by hip-hop legends Redman and Ghostface Killah. But before you head to the show, augment your shoe collection at these spots around the city.

You can bet that your fellow fanatics will be sporting some impressive kicks, so start scouring the selection at Flight Club (812 Broadway between 11th and 12th Sts; 212-505-2330, flightclubny.com; daily noon--8pm) to find an enviable pair of rare sneaks. This particular outpost sells gently used shoes as well as dead-stock pairs. Recent finds include the Dunk High Pharrell ($608) and the Air Jordan 4 Retro Undefeated ($6,500). Even if you can't afford to buy, you can gawk at the colorful high-tops lining the shop's walls.

If you prefer to craft your own collectors' items, head to the Nike iD Studio (6 E 57th St between Fifth and Madison Aves; 212-891-6453, nikeid.nike.com; by appointment only), where you can customize the color and fabric of different shoes (including Sweet Classic high-tops). Or start completely from scratch at the brand's bespoke studio (21 Mercer St between Canal and Grand Sts; 212-226-5433; by appointment only), where you can build a pair of the classic Air Force 1 style from scratch, using a selection of 82 premium materials (like hand-burnished metallic gold leather).

Now that your shoes are set, outfit yourself in duds from some of the city's coolest streetwear shops. Begin at Supreme (274 Lafayette St between E Houston and Prince Sts; 212-966-7799, supremenewyork.com; Mon--Sat 11:30am--7pm, Sun noon--6pm), a staple of NYC's skater scene since 1994. The small shop features everything the grown-up skate rat needs, from stylish V.S.O.P. five-panel baseball caps ($36) to a rich lambskin coat ($598) from the shop's own Supreme line.

Meanwhile, The Reed Space (151 Orchard St between Rivington and Stanton Sts; 212-253-0588, thereedspace.com. Mon--Fri 1--7pm; Sat, Sun noon--7pm) functions as a shop-cum-gallery, with T-shirts and sneaks sharing space with works from different artists. This season, the store plays host to a pop-up shop for Double Goose (through November 24), which was a staple of NYC's hip-hop scene in the '80s.

Complete your look at KCDC Skateshop (90 North 11th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-387-9006, kcdcskateshop.com; daily noon--8pm), which peddles men's and women's clothing along with skate decks, including ones from Anti-Hero and Hopps. But best of all, the shop boasts an indoor miniramp that's perfect for novices to try out fancy tricks (without judgement).

Break in your new board at the Flushing Meadows--Corona Park Skate Park (Flushing Meadows--Corona Park, enter at Passarelle Pedestrian Overpass near the Mets--Willets Point subway station; 718-760-6565, nyc.gov/parks; daily dawn to dusk), outfitted with details cribbed from the city's best skate spots—including the much-missed Brooklyn Banks—and built on what used to be the Astral Fountain, a relic from the 1964 World's Fair.

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