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The sneaker collector: Mohamed Al Safar

Words by Rob Chilton

The 29-year-old Bahrain sneaker addict won't sleep in order to outbid celebrities for rare shoes to add to his collections in LA and Dubai

We chat to one of the biggest sneakerheads on the planet about skipping sleep, outrageously expensive kicks and much more.

How excited do you get when a big sneaker drops?

It’s a huge day for me when a new sneaker is released. I look forward to every release whatever the brand. I feel it’s an achievement to get something from such a limited quantity to add to my collection. If I have to wait in line to get them, I do.

What’s the longest you’ve waited to buy a pair?

I’ve waited in line a little over 24 hours once, staying overnight outside the Undefeated store in Los Angeles. We have snacks, camping chairs, you know. We get to meet people, it’s an experience.

What was the shoe you were waiting for?

It was an Adidas sneaker and only 30 pairs were released. Nothing beats that feeling of getting a pair like that.

Do you store them very carefully?

I’m one of those guys who likes to double up: I get one pair to rock and one to stock. I keep them in their boxes and stack them up. I live six months in Los Angeles and six months here in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and I have a collection in both places. Some pairs I have in both countries.

Al Safar has sneakers stored in Dubai and Los Angeles

How does the Dubai sneaker scene compare to the one in Los Angeles?

The quality of the product is the same. The difference is that the demand is higher in LA because there are more sneaker collectors over there and therefore there’s a bigger quantity of sneakers going out to LA. Dubai is getting crazier though, things are selling out here quickly now. But here you can’t wait in line outside the store like you do in LA – malls don’t let people do that.

Do you have favourite brands that you collect?

I collect them all - Nike, Adidas, Balenciaga, Louboutin, Gucci - the lot.

So not just sports brands?

I actually started collecting designer sneakers first and then moved into streetwear when I noticed Jordans and Adidas had a higher value than my designer sneakers. That got me thinking, maybe I should switch and buy more sportswear brands.

Exclusivity is key when searching for rare sneakers

What do you look for in a pair of sneakers?

I like exclusivity. I go after sneakers that are limited, which not everyone can rock. They’re tough to get. In the resale market they go up in price like crazy, say from $200 dollars to $1,000 or £2,000.

Is there an elusive pair of sneakers you’re currently hunting?

Eminem released a sneaker in 2007 called the Encore. They only made 25 pairs and they weren’t available to the public – Eminem only gave them to friends and family. They go for about $25,000 and are really hard to find. I know someone who knows Eminem so I think my chances of getting a pair are good but probably not in my exact size. I always try to get a size 10.5 US but for that sneaker, I would not get my size just so I can have them.

How did your love affair with sneakers begin?

I’ve been into sneakers ever since I was a kid at school. We had to wear a very strict uniform but we were allowed to wear whatever shoe we wanted so I used to go crazy with sneakers. From there I built up a passion. I was known as the guy with the crazy sneakers. I’m still known as that guy today.

Al Safar once paid $30,000 for a pair of sneakers

What’s the most expensive pair in your collection?

I paid around $30,000 for a pair of sneakers once. I had to outbid a rapper to get them. They’re one of the first collaborations Jordan did with Undefeated. The Jordan brand never did a collaboration before and then in 2005 they released 75 pairs that sold out instantly.

How did you find them?

I got lucky and found a reseller who had a pair, so I told him I’d pay him the money and also buy him a plane ticket to Dubai so he could hand-deliver them. I didn’t want to trust Fed Ex with them in case they got lost.

Do you still love them?

Oh yeah, I keep them in my living room and I look at them every day.

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