"Stamps and sneakers go together perfectly," enthuses Shane Finegan. "They do!" And while they might sound like an odd match to the outsider, his reasoning makes a lot of sense. As well as attracting collectors, they both display an appreciation for storytelling and art. "Stamps and sneakers both interest people who pursue rare and unique editions. These people also take pride in carefully preserving their collections."
This logic forms the basis of Stampsolector, Shane's new collection of artworks, prints and products, which take the iconography and story of certain sneakers and translates them into miniature images the size of, you guessed it, a postage stamp.
Shane's passion for the two hobbies emerged at different times, but the collision seemed inevitable. Having been an avid sneakerhead since he watched his father carefully polishing his school shoes as a child, Shane first encountered stamps while rummaging through a flea market.
It was a collection of stamps themed around the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, which first piqued his interest. After purchasing them with no idea what to do with them, the idea for a sneaker-related project started to take shape in 2017. "Seeing the stories and history documented by stamps made me think, what if my favourite sneakers stories were also stamps?" He explains. "I don't know where that thought came from; it just appeared."
Grabbing a brand new notebook, Shane started to note down the first 100 sneakers that came to his head. "As I rationalised the idea, I realised that combining sneaker stories and stamps made sense because stamps are one of the oldest forms of collecting and building a sneaker collection is similar to being a stamp collector in many ways," he says.
"However, I did struggle with the idea. Why would sneakerheads want stamps? I told myself no one cared about stamps, and it stayed in my sketchbook for the next two years. Ultimately, the weekend would come, and I'd open my sketchbook and continue building on my thoughts. No one cares? I care!
"I had said I wanted to contribute to the sneaker community and that I wanted to create a product unique to me; I love sneaker stories, I have all this information, and I'm drawn to the charm of stamps. The idea was in my lap. How could I say no?"
From here, Shane got to work on the first piece based on the Adidas Superstar, which depicts the story Rev Run has told many times of a performance in Madison Square Garden where fans held the shoes about their heads, earning them the first artist sneaker deal.
And from here, he refined the idea into the project it would eventually become. "Stampsolector is an appreciation for sneakers, sneaker stories and their cultural significance," he says. "Every piece of art comes with a story explaining the interpretation.
"Some are educational, highlighting the unique story behind the shoe. Some are playful interpretations, like the Nike SB x Tod Bratrud 'Skunk', which questions whether Nike sold 'skunk' through its global distribution. Others are personal stories about why a certain shoe means something to me. That's something every sneakerhead can relate to."
As the nature of the project suggests, these artworks are indeed physical stamps that people can lick and stick, along with matching postcards that have the condensed story printed on the back. "I often get asked, are they official stamps that people can use to send cards? Not yet. However, if any postal service was to add sneakers to their collections, look no further.
"I've purposely created Stampsolector to consider that art is supposed to be shared and interacted with. The idea is that someone will receive this as a card or that they will present it in their home as an oversized stamp poster.
Like an art gallery with information next to the artwork, The Gallery section on Stampsolector tells the story behind the stamp, sharing the rationale behind the interpretations and the sneaker it relates to. Although it is all on Instagram, The Gallery as a space is special. It shows the art as I wish. The more this grows, the more I can see a book in the future."
When condensing the image of a sneaker down to a stamp, Shane says that the secret is to distil the story. "I am searching for the most stand-out detail or vivid scene when conducting my research," he says. "As each stamp is a new piece of work, finding its story is always a new challenge.
"I usually get to the story by writing through the idea, sketching it, and making decisions based on how viewers perceive it. When looking at the shoe names, I also ask myself if there is a clever twist. For example, the PUMA Crack stamp is an educational stamp which tells the story of the political moment the shoe is tied to.
"At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos won Gold and Bronze, respectively, in the 200-metre dash. Smith had just broken the world record in the 200-meter dash, finishing in an astonishing 19.83 seconds, becoming the first person to break the 20-second mark. Before walking out for the medal ceremony, Smith and Carlos split a pair of black gloves, with Smith taking the right and Carlos taking the left.
"As the national anthem played and the American flag was raised, Smith and Carlos raised their fists in a Black Power salute, a powerful symbol of resistance against the discrimination and violence black people faced in America. Photographs from the ceremony show the PUMA CRACK beside them, as they took them off and wore black socks to symbolise poverty."
With so many sneakers out there, Shane has many stories he has yet to document and illustrate. "There are even stories inside my sketchbook, waiting for that stroke of genius to give me the answer," he says.
"Creating something unique to me has been a fulfilling goal, bringing immense joy as I align my interests and skills with Stampsolector. As my sneaker stamp collection grows, it's becoming increasingly engrossing and further fuels my dedication.
"What makes Stampsolector's Gallery intriguing is the individuality of each stamp. Each stamp can stand on its own and tell its own story. With a collection of 60 stamps and counting, it continues to become more interesting. I'd like to work on Stampsolector being known by the sneaker community, which will take some work, but it's a great pursuit."