When we first met comedian Dan Levy six years ago, we introduced him to our audience as a rare celebrity sneakerhead who wasn’t a member of the XXL Freshman Class. In that time, he’s toured the country, married an actress/model and banked Hollywood paychecks working on network sitcoms. So, while he’s not an XXL Freshman, he’s basically Ice Cube.
Straight out of Connecticut, the stand up comic is old enough to have seen Space Jam when it first came out and cool enough to have copped the themed 11s when they first dropped in 2000. Yup, Dan has been in the sneaker game for almost three decades and as it’s grown so has he. On the premiere of his new comedy special, Lion, we caught up with Dan to discuss how his taste in sneakers has evolved, how becoming a father has shaped his collection and what it’s like to have those “Maroon” 6s that he’s been begging for to retro all these years.
Nice Kicks: So the running request from you since we first met was that Jordan Brand retro the “Maroon” 6s. Now that they came back was it worth the wait?
Dan Levy: It was definitely worth the wait and I felt like there was a while where I was so frustrated with the over saturation that I was mostly boycotting sneakers until certain shoes came out. When the “Maroon” 6s finally came out it was great. I will say that I love them, but when I was younger and I had them was like 9 or 10 — they were the first pair of really nice sneakers my parents ever got me. You forget that then your shoes are little. Now that I’m a man and I wear an 11.5, those “Maroon” 6s look big and they are very, very white! For some reason in my mind I always pictured them as off-white, probably because they were so dirty when I was a kid. But for me sneakers are all about nostalgia. Those shoes when I put them on and put my fingers through the tongue, that’s what it’s all about. What’s cool about those is that there was so much dropping with Jordans, Yeezys, and Ultra Boosts at that time that I thought they were going to be very hard to get. I was putting in calls to Portland and was entering every raffle. Then I just walked into a Footlocker and got a pair. [Laughs] I was so paranoid that I might not ever have a pair again that I ended up getting two pairs.
Nice Kicks: From the start, Sportie LA was the main place that laced you. Is that still your go-to spot or has buying sneakers become more of an online thing?
Dan Levy: It’s really more of an online thing now. I used to wake up at 6 AM and wait outside of Niketown Boston to get a pair. Now there’s raffles and everything else. I still love walking around a sneaker store and smelling sneakers, but waking up early in the morning and lining up? That’s sort of a thing of the past now and you have that same sort of excitement when you have a box at the door. I hold that up like Mustafa holds up Simba in The Lion King.
Nice Kicks: How has fatherhood influenced your wearing and consumption habits?
Dan Levy: I’ve sort of transitioned from buying myself sneakers to buying them sneakers. My kids have all these Jordans and LeBrons. One thing I would tell younger sneakerheads who are about to become fathers is that laces are a b*tch! It looks a lot better on the box than on the baby, so I’m pretty much just doing velcro. When it comes to the family matching, I’ve given up on my wife. When we first started dating she was all about it but I think she was pretending. I’ve gone through so many shoes for her over the years that I’ve just given up, whereas me and my son have matching Air Jordan 5s and 6s and Vans Slip Ons.
Nice Kicks: Back in 2010 you were at 200 pairs, has that number gone up or down?
Dan Levy: That number has gone down a lot. I’ve turned my garage into a full sneaker closet. Years ago when we first met, I wasn’t even married so basically anytime I did something I would reward myself with sneakers and it didn’t even matter. Like when they started retroing the Jordan 7s, I went to Niketown and I bought every single pair. I had so many shoes like Spizikes and Dub Zeros. No one’s wearing Spizikes anymore! That was definitely a bad investment. [Laughs] I’ve sold a lot on eBay and I’ve sold a lot to Flight Club. My collection is now becoming very specific. And with some of the shoes like Ultra Boosts and the style changing, bulky sneakers don’t really work like they did in ’08 or ’09.
Nice Kicks: With that said, do you still hold on to shoes with sentimental value?
Dan Levy: Yes. The “Black” Spizikes were the pair I wore in my first Comedy Central special. I’ll never sell those and I’ll never sell the ’06 “Grape” Air Jordan 5s because I got those when I was in line in Englewood with guys that had guns. [Laughs] Most of my shoes mean a lot, but I feel like there was a period in 2010 when I was getting anything and everything and I had to unload some to make space for some of the new shoes.
Nice Kicks: Around that same time you were pretty against re-retros, has that changed with the remastered retro initiative?
Dan Levy: I’m more so against the rapid saturation of sneakers, but I love the remastered Jordans. Like the “Banned” and “Shattered Backboard” 1s are great. The leather is great and they’re super comfortable. I’m more so against putting random colors on an Air Jordan 1 and releasing it to every store in the city. I feel like that’s just not necessary. Like remember when they released the Air Tech Challenge before they re-signed Agassi and it just had the sh*tty logo on the back? If they were going to re-sign Agassi they should’ve waited because I bought like all the colorways and it was a waste of money.
Nice Kicks: Growing up on the East Coast you were obviously a Nike guy. Has there been a shift in recent years with the growing popularity of adidas?
Dan Levy: Yeah. Obviously I really like the Yeezy shoes, but I would say that the Ultra Boosts are the most comfortable shoe. They’ve won me over completely for look and comfort. There’s not a more comfortable shoe right now.
Nice Kicks: As of late, sneaker culture has become very mainstream. Do people still talk to you about kicks or is it not even a thing anymore?
Dan Levy: People still do, but people talk to me about kicks that I’ve known for a decade had never talked to me about it before. Especially in comedy. Besides Kevin Hart, I was the only comedian in this generation wearing sneakers or making jokes about them. Now all the younger comedians are all about sneakers. It’s great, but I just find it hilarious. It’s like hip-hop — it started off smaller and now it’s fully mainstream. The only annoying thing is I’ve been talking to people about sneakers for years and for people now to be like, “Dude, did you get the red and black Jordans?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I got those in 2009.” That’s the only thing that’s funny/frustrating. I guess I’ve got to find a new hobby.
Nice Kicks: What’s in your rotation these days?
Dan Levy: I’m wearing the Ultra Boost a lot, the “Banned” 1s always and the “Lance Mountain” 1s. When I work out I wear the Flyknit Lunar 3, I put on the “Pirate Black” Yeezys, and the “Maroon” 6s are definitely in the rotation as are the all-black leather Vans Slip Ons.
Nice Kicks: The big tie between your career and sneakers is your celeb run ins. Any notable ones in recent time?
Dan Levy: I saw Kevin Hart at an event and I told him he’d always been successful in my eyes because he had on the “Cool Grey” 11s when we first met. He responded, “You know I’ve always been a sneakerhead!” Yeah he’s always been a sneakerhead, but now he has his own shoe! It’s incredible — and I bought them. To be that funny that you get sneakers is pretty impressive.
Nice Kicks: Lastly, tell us about your comedy special.
Dan Levy: It comes out today and is streaming at Seeso. It’s super funny. It’s me talking about being a new dad, getting mugged outside of a Lululemon trying to return some teal shorts and almost dying during a Spartan Race. It’s called Dan Levy: Lion because the whole idea is that now that I’ve got a kid I’m trying to be a Lion. When I first met my personal trainer, he said I was a Zebra and needed to be a Lion. Hopefully at the end of this special everyone looks at me as a Lion, but probably not.
Watch Dan Levy: Lion now on Seeso.
Photography by Victor Viega