Richard Silva is not your typical sneaker collector. Haven gone through many different phases throughout his style and silhouette evolution, he’s well-versed in highly coveted footwear and how to run a community-driven startup that caters to sneakerheads and connoisseurs alike.
Today, Richard has not only cultivated roughly 70K followers across Instagram with many of them being longtime supporters of the content creator, but his collection has grown immensely. The Air Jordan 1, Nike Dunk Low, and Vans Authentic LX are among the many silhouettes you’ll catch him in. Fatherhood, however, has also played a major role in Silva’s life, changing his approach to sneakers and how he once navigated the world. “To be brutally honest, fatherhood changes your entire outlook on life and the universe,” he says, “You realize you aren’t just trying to win in life for yourself, but now your entire team.”
Meanwhile, Looksee Designs has changed the way collectors store and display their prized collectibles over the past several years with shoe, jersey, and collectible figure cases. Founded by four sneaker enthusiasts—including Rich—the company has collaborated with Jordan Brand’s Special Projects team, Adidas, and PUMA among others. “We are working on a ton of amazing projects this year and working to expand into retail stores across the U.S.,” Richard tells us. The acrylic sneaker cases are 100% transparent with a magnetic drop-front door for convenience in addition to being stackable.
In this installment of Kickin’ It With, we spoke with Richard Silva to chat about his upbringing in Arizona, how fatherhood shaped his outlook on sneakers, working on acrylic display brand Looksee Designs, and more. Read on for our conversation.
To begin with, what got you into sneakers?
I grew up in a small city about two hours north of Los Angeles where there was not much excitement happening so my friend group got into skateboarding around Jr. High. To be completely honest, I was horrible at it but it was a gateway into shoes from brands like Osiris, DC, Fallen, Vox, and countless other brands that I am not too sure exist anymore.
Flash forward to high school, I would see my Dad and little brother get so hyped about Jordans and Kobes that I sort of fell for the hype before even knowing what hype was. The first non-skate shoes that I had were a pair of all red Air Max and the KD 5 Sprite. My style has definitely evolved since then!
Talk to me about your relationship with Arizona, has sneaker culture always been prevalent there?
In 2013, I graduated from High School and had no idea what I wanted to do in life or be when I “grew up” haha. All my friends were working in the oil fields at the time so I decided I was going to be a welder. After going to maybe 2 or 3 training sessions, I quickly realized I never wanted to do intensive manual labor and work 60-70 hours a week. My pops recently relocated from Tennessee to Arizona so that he could be within driving distance from my siblings and I and told me about ASU.
I knew I wanted to escape my city or else I would end up with a dead-end job so I took the leap of faith and applied to the W.P Carey School of Business at ASU along with a couple of other schools and was completely shocked when I received an acceptance letter. Neither of my parents graduated from high school so I knew it was my duty to create a legacy of success for my siblings to follow after.
While I was attending university, I was buying and selling shoes as a bit of a hobby and some side cash. This is where sneakers and streetwear really started becoming a part of my daily life. I was shooting content and posting it on Instagram back when most people were still shooting on their mobile phones. Since the content was HD and blended hype sneakers with streetwear, it definitely helped me grow my platform and allow me to work with brands like Nike, Champs Sports, Shoe Palace, and a wide array of up-and-coming brands. You can say it was my first taste at the power of social media & content creation.
While doing both of those things and going to school full time, I started working at a small sneaker boutique with my friend. We were able to grow the store into being one of the most successful in the state. I have seen a 10x growth in sneaker culture in the 8 years I have been in Arizona. We only had 2 or 3 boutiques and now I would say it has tripled, along with getting an Undefeated Store, Nike store, and a handful of House of Hoops.
Through your Instagram, we get a vivid idea of your favorite silhouettes and kicks—what are some of your favorite sneakers in your collection, and what are your go-to spots to shop for both new and old drops?
That’s a super tough question and is difficult to answer every time I am asked! I would say it is constantly changing depending on my mood and the weather! I would say out of all the silhouettes I have owned, my two favorites are the Air Jordan 1 as cliche as that sounds, and the Vans Authentic LX which is part of the Vault lineup. You will catch me in both of these on a weekly basis.
Sneaker culture and the way brands and stores release things have also evolved in the past couple of years. I have done it all through from camping, in-store, and online raffles, and making connections with store employees. Obtaining sneakers for retail has become a hustle of its own. Now that I have become a dad myself, I mainly go for online releases or simply pay resellers if I really like a shoe.
Beyond that, what elements do you consider most important when purchasing a sneaker?
Not to sound like I am getting old, but I am starting to gravitate to comfort over hype. I have a bit of a simpler vibe to my aesthetics so I am always aiming for subtle colorways that I can pair with multiple outfits. I am not one to treat my shoes delicately. Everything in my collection is worn and worn hard! One other thing I have recently noticed is that I have way too many red sneakers.
Moving on to your overall aesthetic, how do you typically style your outfits depending on the kicks you wear?
Being in Arizona definitely limits how creative you can be when it comes to putting outfits together. We basically have two seasons here, a spring and a summer. Outside of being a sneaker enthusiast, I am really into denims so those two aspects are going to always be the most expensive in my outfits. My middle name is Frugal Fred believe it or not, so I rarely spend money on things I do not absolutely love. Most of my tees are under $30 or thrifted from second-hand stores.
I will typically decide on the sneaker I want to wear first and build up from there depending on the temperature. I never leave home without checking my weather app!
Shifting the conversation slightly, let’s talk about fatherhood. How has being a father shaped you, and furthermore, how has it changed your approach to sneakers if at all?
To be brutally honest, fatherhood changes your entire outlook on life and the universe. You realize you aren’t just trying to win in life for yourself, but now your entire team—family. As I was saying earlier, comfort plays a huge part these days in my approach to sneakers since my daughter keeps me more active than I have been in quite a few years.
My girlfriend Jess and I are both into sneakers and fashion so it has been something we get to be involved with together from shopping, picking out outfits, and even creating digital content. Shameless plug but your audience would really love her content as well. I would go as far as saying her sense of style and content has far surpassed what I can keep up with!
As a by-product of this, we started creating a sneaker collection for our daughter before she was born. Now we try to go after releases for all of us! This doesn’t always go our way since Ls are inevitable these days. My little one may just have a collection tougher than most adults and wakes up ready to pick out her kicks of the day!
Bringing it back to sneakers, which sneakers, whether they be past or present, do you think have defined you?
Not to sound like a complete Hypebeast but is to be AJ1s, SB Dunks, and Vans. These three have proven to withstand the tests of time and seem to continue fluctuating in hype. I can recall time periods where I have been able to get all the releases of these silhouettes with ease and other times have been nearly impossible to get for retail.
When Adidas was really hot a couple of years ago and any release with boost technology was flying off the shelves, I was going through and buying a ton of stuff that I missed out on in the past for really great prices. My advice to new collectors is to buy the stuff you like when people’s attention is on other brands and silhouettes that are hype at the moment. This will save you a lot of money and from a financial standpoint be stock in your collection that will rise in value over time. Hype and fashion always follow a cycle so what is not hype now, will one day come back to the limelight.
On that note, how do you feel about the direction that sneaker culture has gone in the past several years? What’s the biggest progression you’ve seen and what would you like to see happen next?
I haven’t really loved it the last few years and I think others would agree with me. Obtaining shoes is half the game, similar to pokemon and when you take the chase away from the game, it becomes boring. I definitely miss the time when you could go and socialize with workers, see all the local sneaker enthusiasts at events, and releases. It is a sense of being in a community that I think is slowly fading away. I think tech will continue playing a pivotal role in sneakers, fashion, and lifestyle culture. As long as you are willing and able to adapt, change is exciting and inevitable.
Elsewhere, Looksee Designs has seen major success in the footwear and display case marketplace. Can you introduce the platform to those who are unfamiliar, as well as what you hope to accomplish over there?
Sure! At Looksee Designs, we specialize in the design and distribution of premium acrylic displays for collectors and enthusiasts to store and showcase their prized possessions. We are most known for having the highest quality displays for sneakers in the World but cater to other niches like sports, home decor, and bespoke projects.
We started Looksee back in 2015 as a hobby and a solution to making accessing our collections accessible and ultimately turning them into a piece of art. Flash forward to 2021, the team decided it was time to really take it seriously so we quit our jobs to pursue the endeavor full time. Over the past couple of years, we have been able to make our mark on the industry by catering to a-list celebrities, professional athletes, and high income earning individuals as well as collaborating with Jordan Brand’s Special Projects team, Adidas for the release of their Sergio Garcia golf shoe, and Puma for the celebration of BHM and the Tommie Smith shoe release.
We are working on a ton of amazing projects this year and working to expand into retail stores across the U.S. We will also begin shipping to Central and South America as well as Canada by the end of 2022.
Lastly, why are sneakers and the stories they hold important to you?
Quite simply, they are a sense of my personal expression. I get to connect with each pair and have a different story for obtaining each of them. Whenever I periodically go through a downsizing phase, I get sad letting them go. I have been able to create some financial freedom from the buying and selling of sneakers, travel, and meet lifelong friends via sneakers and streetwear. I think it’s more about the feeling of obtaining the kicks to me than it is to actually wear them.