Kamala Harris broke the internet when she stepped off a jet sporting a pair of Chuck Taylors (and later Timberland boots). Ed Markey wore vintage Nikes during his Senate primary. But campaign watchers haven’t seen anything yet.
Cameron Webb is a true sneakerhead, and this is his shoe story.
Webb, a 37-year-old candidate for Virginia’s 5th District, began his love affair with kicks as a teenager, when he could buy his own. Growing up as one of six children in his household, a sneaker habit wasn’t something his parents would indulge.
“My parents were those parents who [said] you get the $39.99 shoes,” says Webb. When he turned 16, he got a job at the athletic shoe store Finish Line, so “I could stay fresh,” he says.
As a player on his high school basketball team, he wanted to emulate the pros he saw on the court. “The very first pair of shoes that I splurged on were Gary Payton’s ‘The Glove,’” named after the star point guard for the Seattle SuperSonics. From there, it was on to the “foamposites” that “D.C. kids loved,” according to Webb, who grew up in Spotsylvania, Virginia.
One Holy Grail for sneaker collectors eluded him until college: the Air Jordans.
When it comes to the athletic shoe world, Jordans are king. The iconic brand made its debut in 1985, helping their namesake Michael Jordan become a billionaire. Today some of the classic editions sell out in mere seconds when released online.
For Webb, they’ve been crucial in both his professional and personal lives.
“The joy of virtual campaigning is that I get to wear Jordans in the office,” he says of his bid for Congress as the coronavirus pandemic continues. He even has a pair of Jordan 1 slippers he scoots around in.
As for the personal stuff, “I met my wife over some shoes,” he says. It was his first year as an undergrad at the University of Virginia, and he wanted to approach a young woman from his chemistry class. “What am I going to say?” he thought, before noticing she happened to be wearing the same pair of Jordan 16s he was.
“I was like, ‘Hi, nice shoes,’” says Webb. That “corny” line didn’t earn him a date, and may even have put him in the self-described “friend zone” for a couple years. But it started the conversation. (These days Webb is back at U.Va. as director of health policy and equity at the medical school, and his wife, Leigh-Ann Webb, is a doctor too.)
The sneakers are more than just fancy footwear or an obsession. When Webb’s apartment burned down in medical school, he realized how much his collection meant. “I lost every pair of shoes I’d ever had,” he says. “It was heartbreaking.” When he eventually started buying again, he made sure to get another pair of Nike Air Max 97s, which hold a special meaning because of his fraternity. Decked out in gold and black, they bear the colors of Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest Black fraternity in America.
Now that Webb is campaigning for Congress, he finds inspiration in his wide range of Jordans. His Airness was known for his clutch play in the fourth quarter. That’s a mentality Webb wants to emulate as he enters the October home stretch of his own race, trying to pull off a win for Democrats in a sprawling district that supported President Donald Trump by double digits in 2016.
“I don’t just buy any shoe or any colorway,” says Webb. “All the Jordans that I buy are because of something about an iconic Jordan moment.”
Take his “Georgetown” edition Jordan 11s, which represent the final minute of the 1982 NCAA championship. Or the Jordan Bred 4, which MJ wore in the 1989 NBA playoffs when he hit a game-winner simply known as “the shot.”
“I’ve always prided myself on my ability to outwork people,” says Webb, crediting his family and faith for the ability to stay energetic and grounded. It’s that “mamba mentality. I like to believe that I bring some skill and ability and talent, but that’s nothing without the hard work. So that’s what I keep focused on. I use the same perspective that I had for sports and bring it into this.”