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The Big Boy with 1,000 Sneakers

CHRISTIAN ROBERT CHENG, otherwise known as Big Boy Cheng, has 1,000 pairs of sneakers. While his own last name has some pull (his family owns the Uratex brand of mattresses), Mr. Cheng has created his own following outside of his family’s business. He currently has 265,000 followers on his YouTube channel, and 273,000 followers on his Instagram account, which show his collection of toys and sneakers (as well as his gigs as a DJ).

BusinessWorld caught up with Mr. Cheng last week at the sidelines of Glorietta’s Sneakerfest 2023, which exhibited items from Mr. Cheng’s own collection, as well as new releases from Puma, Vans, Sole Academy, World Balance, and Philippine Sneaker Exchange. The event ran from May 4 to 7.

Mr. Cheng said that he started collecting sneakers at the age of eight. “Talagang ‘di ko makalimutan (I really can’t forget it),” he said, citing pairs from Mighty Kid and Nike as his first acquisitions. “Iyong family namin is a basketball family. Mahilig kami sa sports. Iyong kapatid ko mahilig, so nahawa-hawa na kami talaga (Our family is a basketball family. We like sports. My sibling was a fan, so we all became fans as well).”

His own social media channels offer tours of his shoe closet, his unboxing of new releases, and his own shopping trips. “Dati naman kasi, hindi naman collection. Dati, ang dami ko lang talagang sapatos. Nasa sahig lang (Before, it wasn’t really a collection. I just had a lot of shoes. They were just on the floor),” he said. After posting a picture of the bulk of his sneakers on social media, his presence on the channels began to build.

His favorite pairs are his Air Force Ones, because of their versatility. “Classic. ’Di nalalaos, kumbaga (Classic. They never go out of style).”

The hardest for him to acquire were a certain pair of Staple Pigeon dunks which cost $6,000 back then and have since ballooned in value to $30,000. After waiting for several years, he had to fly to New York to get them from a reseller. That still isn’t his most expensive pair – the priciest are his Back to the Future Nike Air Mags with an auto-lace feature, which set him back $85,000.

His shoes are kept in a climate-controlled closet.

His No. 1 tip storage tip for collectors, he said, was to use a dehumidifier. Next is that the shoes can’t be exposed to the sun. “Lulutong ang sapatos, lalo na sa Pilipinas (they’ll get stiff, especially here in the Philippines),” he said. “Huwag mainit iyong lugar (the storage area cannot be hot),” was his next tip.

“Marami no? Pero kailangan talaga gawin (That’s a lot of things to consider, but it needs to be done),” he said.

Still, the point isn’t to invest in sneakers. “Kung sneaker collector, kung ano madaanan mo, makita ng mata mo, kung afford mo, go for it (If you are a sneaker collector, if you pass by it, and your eye likes it, if you can afford it, go for it),” he said.

“Perks na iyung tumataas yung presyo (the price appreciation is just a perk).” — Joseph L. Garcia

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