Kyle Kikuchi, zipping up his tent in front of Niketown last night, was among dozens of sneaker fans camped out for last night's debut of two different styles of rare, exclusive shoes. Collectors have come from around the world for the event.

Sole survivors camping
at Niketown

"Sneakerheads" wait in line all week
for a shot at owning a super-exclusive
pair of shoes

They've withstood afternoon sun, chilly rains and inquiring stares from passing motorists on Kalakaua Avenue. Some haven't taken a shower since Monday, when they first took their place in line on the pavement.

But the more than 50 men who have camped -- with tents, sleeping bags and coolers -- outside Niketown in Waikiki for nearly a week say they won't be deterred.

They're in it for the shoes.

At 11:59 tonight, Niketown will sell -- first-come, first-served -- an undisclosed number of exclusive sneakers of which there are only 48 copies in the world. The design is top secret.

They'll do the same with a second type of shoe, of which about 150 copies were made. Officials describe it as a red, "retro" style of 1980s design.

The shoes were designed just for the event, and collectors have come in from around the world to get their hands on a pair.

"Truly, they are sneakerheads," said Nike Hawaii retail marketing and events manager Keala Peters, using the preferred term for the ultra-shoe collectors lined up outside her store.

She said each person in line -- before supplies run out -- will be able to buy only one pair of rare shoes, which will run about $100. Peters expects the line to grow into the hundreds by this morning, even though Nike has done no advertising for the release.

Kristi Metzler sat between tents in front of Niketown in Waikiki last night, one of many hardy fans waiting for last night's debut of a new athletic shoe.

The event is the fifth of its kind at Niketowns in the United States, with similar shoe releases -- drawing similarly dedicated crowds -- held in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"If you're a shoe fanatic, you have to be here for this," said 20-year-old Dominique Thomas yesterday, who flew in from Denver to get to the head of the Waikiki line Monday morning.

The crowds at shoe release parties nationwide -- drawn mostly by word-of-mouth -- speak to the growing popularity of sneaker collecting, which most say started in the 1980s with the release of Nike's first sneakers dedicated to basketball player Michael Jordan.

Today, there's a magazine called Sole Collector aimed at "sneakerheads." The publication, with about 40,000 readers, is helping to sponsor the Niketown shoe releases.

The Waikiki shoe release will be one aspect of a sneaker collector's dream party at Niketown from midnight to 2 a.m. The event will feature a Nike shoe collection competition with the grand prize of a one-of-kind sneaker featuring designs by a Hawaii artist.

An auction of six Nike shoes is expected to rake in thousands for charity. Some pairs have gone for as much as $2,000 at past auctions.

Sitting under the shade of a tree in front of the Nike store yesterday, Thomas pointed to his bed for the last five days -- a beat-up green loveseat that Nike employees provided because he didn't bring a tent.

Thomas, who has about 70 Nike sneakers in his collection, said he has been at all four Niketown sneaker release parties -- at the front of every line to boot.

What's so good about being first?

"They give door prizes," he said with a smile.

For most in line, like Thomas, sneakers are a passion.

But for others, sneaker collecting is a quick way to make a big buck: The shoes they'll buy tonight at the release could sell for more than $1,000 on the Internet tomorrow.

Jason Wolf, of Waikiki, who sat at the back of the line yesterday, admits he's a little of both. He's into sneaker collecting, he said, but for tonight's event, "I'm just trying to make money."

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