If you love your sneakers, beat them up. Sneakers have become our most protected garment with an endless amount of cleaning supplies being made to protect them from the very ground they were made to walk on. Sneakerheads are obsessed with the condition of their shoes; they want them to look factory new and just like every other pair. However, in order to make your shoes your own, you need to wear them out, beat them up, and get them dirty to create your own one of a kind pair.

But it is understandable why people chose to cherish their sneakers. Today most releases from major companies are in extremely limited quantities and only sold in specific stores. To get them, you’d have to camp out in front of the store, get a raffle ticket for a chance to buy the shoe, and get your number drawn in the raffle. Only then can you buy the shoe. If that process doesn’t sound appealing, there are always online stores and resellers. However, this option can be just as annoying because online releases have been known to sell out in seconds and resellers will mark up the prices a stupid amount over the retail price.

You could always get a pair of Stan Smiths, but part of the appeal comes from having a pair that nobody else has. It becomes your own and it feels like it was tailor made to fit your wardrobe. But that exclusivity comes at a price with sneakers selling in the hundreds—or even in the thousands.

To combat the high prices, many sneakerheads trade their old sneakers through Facebook groups and consignment shops for newer releases. While this is a good idea, it can lead to people obsessively cleaning their sneakers so they are worth more. People will use methods like sole protectors, waterproofing sprays, and elaborate cleaning products just to make sure nothing is damaged. Some even take it a step further and change the way they walk to prevent creasing, or they’ll take their sneakers off before driving so the heel stays clean. Or they might inconvenience themselves in many other ways just to make sure their sneakers stay fresh.

Sneakers are supposed to be a staple of your wardrobe. If you’re constantly worried about keeping them clean so you can swap them out down the line, then they are never truly yours, they’re just a loan. You might flex in them on social media, but once the pic is taken you’ll put them back in the box because you can't afford one scuff on them. The shoe becomes a status symbol rather than a part of your fashion identity.

Wearing your sneakers and beating them up is the only way to make them your own. When you break in your shoe, it will perfectly fit your foot; the creases will reflect the way you walk, and the scuffs and dirt are mementos of all the places you have visited in those shoes.

Across all the major brands, the exact same shoe is probably produced en mass in China. The only way to make your pair unique is to wear them. Each day new shoes are released, so there is bound to be one that fits your look. You don’t have to keep obsessing over rare old releases. When the time comes that your favorite pair is so worn it’s falling apart, it will be okay because you can take a new, standard factory shoe and wear it out until it’s uniquely yours.

Text by Daniel Kam

Photography by Vishwang Gowariker