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South Tampa collector amasses nearly 300 pairs of sneakers

As of Wednesday, Theo Severson owned 292 pairs of sneakers.

It started when he was a kid. Growing up in Temple Terrace, Severson watched his mom match her shoes to her outfit. He wasn't into cars or playing guitar like the other boys, so Severson would kill time at the mall. He always knew when the latest Nike Air Jordans were coming out, so he'd save his allowance and mow lawns to afford them. As a teen, Severson worked at two University Mall shoe stores. Before he knew it, he had amassed nearly 300 pairs.

Severson stores his size 10s in a walk-in closet of his South Tampa home, arranged by brand and style. He keeps all the boxes. There's Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, Puma, Asics ... And those are just the ones he's worn.

In a separate closet, Severson stashes the 35 pairs of "top-shelf" sneakers that have yet to touch asphalt, including Nike Dunk Low skateboarding shoes in Tiffany blue and black, which he bought on Aug. 22, 2005. (He saves the receipts, too.) Severson's just waiting for the right occasion.

"I always joke that this shoe is either going to be the married or buried," said Severson, 32.

He paid $50 to $100 for most of his shoes. Recently, an online shopper offered Severson $800 for his Tiffany sneakers. Severson turned him down.

"Once you start checking online, you start to think, 'Maybe if I need the money,' " he said. "I don't want to think about that. I just want to wear 'em."

And wear them he does. Every day to his data-entry job. Wednesdays when he DJs at Czar in Ybor City. Navy Chuck Taylor hightops to his friend's wedding. Brown and yellow Paul Smith Reeboks to a job interview at a law office. (He got the job.)

"I want to go as far as I can without wearing dress shoes — adult shoes," Severson said. His only non-sneakers are a pair of beige Clarks Wallabees.

To a certain extent, Severson's life revolves around sneakers. Every morning, he sits on a footstool in his closet and spends 20 minutes deciding which shoes to wear. He's formed friendships over conversations that started with, "Cool shoes."

Severson hangs out with other shoe fiends, including his brother and his roommate, and they all make twice-monthly pilgrimages to the outlets in Ellenton and Orlando. To make room for more sneakers, Severson donates a dozen pairs to charity two or three times a year.

When Severson travels, he packs an empty bag to bring home all the shoes he'll buy — which is one of the perks of visiting his best friend, Katie Murphy, in New York City.

"He has a route of stores when he comes up," said Murphy, 29, of Brooklyn. "I think he's insane. He has more shoes than most girls that I know."

But Murphy understands that for Severson, shoes are more than just footwear. "Some people collect postcards, some people put together scrapbooks," she said. "I think that Teddy's shoes are his scrapbook. ... They mark the places that he goes and the periods in his life."

Twenty-first birthday: Black Converse All-Stars. Thirtieth birthday: Nike Air Max 90 Infrareds. Thirty-first birthday: Navy Vans Authentics. Thirty-second birthday: Beige Wallabees.

Severson now has his eye on Nike Air Jordan IX Olives and Jordan 3 Cements, which will be reissued soon.

At this rate, by the time Severson hits middle age, he'll need a bigger house to store all his sneakers.

Let's just hope there's still room for his pet turtle, Shoebacca.

Looking for hard-to-find sneakers?

Severson recommends these websites: flightclubny.com, pickyourshoes.com, nicekicks.com and eBay.

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Looking for hard-to-find sneakers?

Severson recommends these Web sites: flightclubny.com, pickyourshoes.com, nicekicks.com and eBay.

South Tampa collector amasses nearly 300 pairs of sneakers 04/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 4:19pm]

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