Collectors Are Made, Not Born

All things goldenrod pencils, Reebok Freestyles, and BIC Cristals.

I don’t know what came first — my obsession with goldenrod pencils or sneakers. Flip through my parent’s photo albums and you’ll find photos of me, pencil in hand.

A year after our move to the States. From left to right, sister, mom’s friend, brother, mother, and me rockin’ a goldenrod pencil and a sheet of paper.

My pencil collection started off heavy on the pink, with a healthy mix of holiday and themed pencils, AND an impressive selection of pencils with toppers. Now my collection is heavy on the goldenrod, with a healthy mix of pencils from around the world.

I don’t remember my first pencil but I remember my first pair of sneakers. Nikes. The Waffle Trainer. Red with white swoosh. It was the summer before 1st grade and I was super excited about hitting up the Aurora Village Nordstrom. I don’t remember the clothes I picked out, but I totally remember the sneakers. I ran up the grand staircase with my brother and sister — I was racing my brother. He ran up the stairs on the right and I hit the left. It never really was a race. I started to sprint but stopped two or three steps in. I loved the thick brass railing, the plush maroon carpet. And I knew once I climbed to the top, I’d swing a right and head straight back to the Children’s Shoe department.

My heart raced as soon as I glimpsed the wall of shoes. I scanned the wall looking for the Nike Waffle Trainers. My sister chose quickly. She picked the turquoise pair with yellow swoosh. But I couldn’t make up my mind. What colorway deserved to be my very first pair? I finally decided that I wanted the same pair as my sister. But my father had grown impatient and chose for me. I knew from an early age that my father had no sense of fashion. He’s attracted to all things bright and most definitely pattern challenged. He chose the red with white swoosh. I was devastated.

On the first day of school, I broke out the Nikes. I kept looking at my feet thinking… OMG — my feet are HUGE. Why are they so big? Why are they so red? Later that year when winter came, I wore the red jacket my father had personally picked out to match my Nikes. I was a midget dwarfed in red.

To this day, I refuse to wear the color red, and my sneaker collection has grown beyond that first pair of Nikes. Before RAD AND HUNGRY, my sneakers were heavy on Reeboks but also included Kangaroos, Adidas, Onitsuka Tigers, an occasional Nike. I didn’t consider them a collection, and I wasn’t loyal to one company. But it all changed Summer 2008. Reebok released the Freestyle Hi Disco and Pro Legacy Mid Leopard. I snatched a pair of Gold Discos and Leopards in the black and gold colorway. The duo marked the beginning of the end. Within the year, I was in a full-on commited relationship with only one style — Freestyles.

My Freestyle collection may seem extravagant, a frivolous obsession. But it’s not. It’s practical (mostly). No RAD AND HUNGRY sourcing trip is complete without a pair. The nonstop hunt for lo-fi goods means my feet clock in a lot of miles by the end of each day — sometimes at a slow, meandering pace, other times at a full on sprint dashing through an airport tryin’ to make a connection. Reebok Freestyles are the only shoes I’ve found that meet my requirements — super comfy and totally stylie. I pick a pair to match a source country like how I coordinate a pencil to a notebook. I won’t disclose how many pairs I own but if you’re following us on Instagram, you’ll have a good sense of my Freestyle collection.

Rockin’ the Reebok Freestyle Discos in Helsinki, Finland.
Chilin’ in the park & drinkin’ beers with a new friend. Rockin’ the Reebok Freestyle Intl in Kiev, Ukraine.

What I didn’t realize was happening during our World Tour? Our hunt for goods planted and nurtured another obsession of mine — the BIC Cristal pen.

One of many tins filled with BIC pens.

What makes the BIC Cristal so special? They embody lo-fi at it’s best. Basic and functional and possessing its own unassuming yet totally rad style. And seriously — how amazing is it that the BIC Cristal pen, a daily diet lo-fi office supply, is part of MOMA’s permanent collection?

I totally fell for this pen during the 1st World Tour, in a super tiny mom-and-pop shop in Mexico. We had Colombia, Germany, and France under our belt. In each country we noticed BIC pens in every office-supply shop or corner spot. I shrugged them off because BIC is found all over America. What I failed to realize? The selection of BIC pens and pencils vary from country to country! BIC has factories all over the world. Each location manufactures pens and pencils for a specific market — Mexico for North America, Brazil for South America, France for Europe, etc.

That moment, in that mom-and-pop shop? The sun was beating down on us and reflecting off a slick, shiny pen barrel. Whatever it was, all I know was I wanted some! I asked to see one and my mind was blown — an all gold BIC Cristal? I was hooked. I wanted their entire stock. But my want wasn’t limited to what I saw in the shop — I knew that I’d discovered something special. I wanted all the BIC Cristal pens of the world.

BIC Cristal 60th Anniversary limited-edition release

BIC Cristals have all the elements of collecting something fun. First, there’s variety. Several factories manufacture the classic Cristal but take a closer look. What country is stamped on the barrel? And how about the point size or the ink color?

Made in France, Brazil, and Mexico BIC Pens: from top to bottom, Cristal Fine, Cristal Soft, Cristal Fina, Cristal Fino, & Opaco

If you want to start your own BIC collection, we’ve got your starter packs over here. In the meantime, we’ll be hoofin’ around the world in our Freestyles, continuing the hunt for ALL the BIC Cristals we can get our hands on….