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Trainer Spotting is the Instagram account collecting never seen before images of sneakers and celebs

A surprising and extensive archive retracing the history of sneakers and pop culture

Trainer Spotting is the Instagram account collecting never seen before images of sneakers and celebs A surprising and extensive archive retracing the history of sneakers and pop culture

Robin Williams with a pair of Nike Son of Lava Dome. Giorgio Armani on holiday wearing total white Nike Air Max 1s. Susan Sarandon in 1978 on the balcony of a hotel in Cannes with a pair of New Balance 320 portrayed in a legendary shot. Along with the best-known personalities of international pop culture stand out their sneakers, meticulously catalogued. 

Trainer Spotting, an Instagram page with almost 20k followers, is a surprising and extensive archive collecting never seen before images of great stars wearing historic sneakers, true icons that over the years have become grails or that have met an unprecedented wave of popularity thanks to new reiterations. Diving into Trainer Spotting's posts is like making a trip through the history of pop and sneaker culture, studded with personalities who have shaped the industries of music, cinema, television, and art since the '90s. It feels nostalgic and romantic seeing Jennifer Lopez with a pair of Nike Air Max TN/Plus back in 1999, Joey from Friends with the OG Nike Air Huarache six years before, or Richard Gere posing with a pair of New Balance 991: iconic and glamorous kicks that did not lose an inch of their coolness. What's even more striking is the accuracy and the meticulousness of the work of Sergey Velsin, the brains behind this project, who's able to identify an impressive quantity of sneakers. 

Completely fascinated and captured by this Instagram page, nss magazine has reached out to Velsin himself to find out more about this project and what was the most surprising image he's ever come across. 

#1 Can you tell us a little bit more about this project and how did it come about? 

Trainer Spotting started a year ago as a little personal side project to my main work in content production/consulting. Over the years working with sneaker/streetwear clients I managed to collect a vast archive of sneaker-related historical pictures. At some point, I realized there’s a lot of never-seen-before stuff worth sharing with the world. I love sneakers, but I’m not into collecting. I’m more interested in sneakers as a part of industrial design and pop culture history. 

#2 How do you manage to recognize such a great number of different sneakers? And how long does it take? 

I’d like to brag that I recognize them all without a book, but that’s not true of course. I think it’s 10% of knowledge, 10% of luck, and 80% of furious digging through the eBay, vintage ads, books and catalogues. So it takes from 5 seconds to infinity

#3 Is there a particular sneaker you’re still struggling to identify? 

Tons of them! Recently I stuck with this 1981 photos of some Nike model which I believe belongs to the Leisure line. It has the same midsole and leather treatment as Nike Le Village but different upper. Nike did not make a lot of leisure shoes back then - and it makes it more interesting. 

#4 What’s your favourite sneaker of all time and why? 

I can name dozens of my favourite sneakers, there were and still are a lot of brilliant designers in the industry. But if we speak from the point of design history - I believe Nike Zvezdochka was an outstanding concept. I even made a little in-depth feature in my Stories dedicated to Zvezdochka’s 15th anniversary.

#5 Most of the celebs and silhouettes you usually publish belong to past decades, especially to the ‘90s. Do you believe that that was the golden era of the sneaker world? 

Well as I said before my interest is mostly historical, I want to track and illustrate how sneakers evolved from athletic gear to everyday shoe and conquered the world. Plus it’s cool to see some of the rare, deadstock models on foot of people who actually wore them. The nineties was a special time of course - it was defining for both retro models and avant-garde technologic silhouettes, it was a time sneakers broke into fashion media, I believe a big part of today's sneaker market and culture was shaped in the 90s. 

#6 What was the most unexpected celeb wearing a hyped kick you’ve come across?

Iggy Pop wearing Nike Air Max 1s is my all-time favourite. But there was plenty of surprising and funny stuff: David Hasselhoff promoting his album in adidas ZX5000, Leonard Cohen visiting Buddhist monastery in Nike Air 180, Warren Beatty rocking New Balance 997 with a pinstripe suit, etc...

#7 What are your plans for the future? This Instagram page could be easily turned into a zine or a book…

I will keep sorting out my archive and produce more fun stuff, like in-depth features or even some merch. Book is something I keep in mind from the very beginning, but for the project like this, you need support from a publisher. I hope it will happen one day. 


Follow Trainer Spotting on Instagram