Everyone who is into sneakers—and I mean clean-your-soles-with-a-toothbrush into sneakers—has a pair that flipped the switch for them. For me, the first ones I owned that I appreciated purely for aesthetic reasons were a pair of original red-and-black Air Jordan 1s. I was in seventh grade and wore an unfortunate haircut over Soviet-era eyeglasses. But those shoes made me feel like I was made of chrome and gunpowder. From then on, my style—such as it is—was always built from the ground up.
For 31-year-old Rafael Tamayo, that moment came in the third grade, when his parents—even though they were always strapped for cash—got him a pair of Adidas Gazelles and a pair of Puma Clydes. “I felt like the coolest kid in school when I had those,” says Tamayo, who manages the Oak Cliff Cultural Center.
That was it. He was hooked.
Almost two decades later, Tamayo took his amateur obsession pro, turning his love for nice kicks into a business. He and a couple of like-minded friends—they call themselves the DeadStock Crew—decided to put together a sneaker expo, a chance for people to show off their collections, meet fellow sneakerheads, buy and trade for new pairs. They named it Kixpo.
The first edition was at the now-defunct Tomcats in Deep Ellum, in 2007. They were hoping 300 people would show but figured they would be okay with their sponsors if they at least got 200 to turn up. Tamayo doesn’t actually know how many people attended. “Oh, gosh, we stopped counting at about 650,” he says.
Since then, it has turned into the largest sneaker event in the country. By the time they held Kixpo at AT&T Stadium in 2011 and 2012—a connection in the pro shop got them a meeting—almost 5,000 people came out. They were still somewhat nervous about attendance, since it was the first year they charged admission. But the ticket came with a tour of the stadium, which was its own draw.
“When you say you’re doing it at Jerry World,” Tamayo says, “the vendors fly in from all over.” Some Cowboys, too. A few players came with shoes they were trying to get rid of.
This year, Kixpo returns to its Deep Ellum roots, taking over the new Bomb Factory on Canton Street. In addition to shoe collectors and sneaker customizers (the big names—JBF, Mache, Dank—will be there) and streetwear vendors, there will be a heavier emphasis on live music. And maybe, if he’s lucky, Tamayo will finally come across a pair of his “grail” shoes: OG Air Jordan 13s.
“The black and red,” he says. “I want a pair of the originals, even if they look a little old. I remember being in middle school when they came out, and thinking, ‘Man, that’d be a nice pair to have.’ The memory of wanting that shoe never left, and it was only amplified once I was able to actually afford my own shoes. But I’ve never been able to find my own size. It’s more of an emotional thing.”