Sole King: Inside NFL Pro Bowler Donald Penn’s shoe collection
It was the annual childhood trips to the Niketown store to pick out a single pair of sneakers for 3x NFL Pro Bowler Donald Penn that triggered a love, which has led to this moment: standing in the middle of his Los Angeles home, enclosed by only PART of his massive shoe collection. A far cry from the days where the Los Angeles native knew he was getting one, maybe two pairs of shoes for the entire year, we are literally standing in the middle of what determination and drive can deliver. His affinity for shoes, he got it from his daddy. Donald’s love affair with fashion began with his father, a fashionista ahead of his time.
“It stems from being young, watching mom and pops struggle to get me everything I wanted, so I always said that when I got older, I wanted to get whatever pairs of shoes that I want. It really did stem from me being younger, wearing a lot of different shoes; from the Payless shoe that would fall apart after a couple of days, to the shoes I really wanted from Niketown for Christmas each year. I grew to love and be grateful for shoes. I got one or two pairs every year and I used to wash them every time I wore them to keep them as clean as possible!”
Donald became an athlete, and as he got older he got bigger – much bigger. As his feet grew from 13, to 14, to 15, to eventually stoping at 16, long were the days of swapping shoes with friends. An avid hooper, Donald realized that the annual gift certificate had to provide versatility. The shoe he bought needed to be as fresh in class as it was effective on the court. Enter, Nike’s Air Jordans. Donald Penn sums up what every sneaker-head already knows, telling us, “if you love shoes, how can you not love Jordans?!” As Donald’s journey to the NFL continued, he admits that any extra cash was easily going towards a new pair of J’s.
Donald entered the NFL in 2006 and soon his foundation of respect for footwear, paired with resilient hard work paid off; in the most serendipitous way. Signing an endorsement deal with Nike in just his second year in the league, Donald had officially gone from Niketown to Nike deal. “Once I got that Nike deal, I really went crazy,” he tells us, as we survey his current collection. Strolling through his endless options produces almost a dizzying effect of elation and it’s easy to identify why his admiration is so strong. Naturally, bigger paychecks sparked bigger designers in within his collection, and he dove into the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin.
Donald spreads the love when it comes to his shoe collection and ALWAYS stays true to his roots. An infectious smile and chuckle gleams across his face as he exclaims, “Man if you met my dad, my dad is one of the flyest dudes ever. My dad would always dress. And since I’ve been in the league, every birthday or Christmas I would buy my dad a pair of Louis, a pair of Guccis. My pops is always fresh and he really takes great care of them. I ain’t gonna lie pops is flyer than me. He still might have the first pair of Louis I bought him!” There’s a humble pride in his voice as he recalls those values his parents instilled in him and how he’s passing it on. “I try to teach my kids my love for shoes because I never had them when I was young. I try to teach how to love, enjoy and take care of them.” Watching his kids show interest in a passion he held onto with his own parents, sparks a joy within Donald. A realization that what surrounds us, goes way beyond the leather and labels.