By Emily Mills
Dr. Hatley Miltchin, a podiatrist, collects shoes like other people collect autographs. It all started with Michael Jordan’s black sneakers.
“I lived in Chicago for many years and I was a big fan of the Bulls at the time. I was especially a fan of Michael Jordan and I really wanted a pair of his shoes,” says Miltchin, founder of Accent on Feet, a foot care clinic he opened two decades ago in North York.
Miltchin bought the Nike Air Jordan XIs in 1996 at a Chicago Bulls charity auction. The sneakers came with silver signatures from the entire team, including Jordan and the Bulls’ coach. He won’t say how much he paid.
Jordan’s shoe is currently part of the eclectic exhibit, Starstruck! A Celebrity Shoe Soiree at the Bata Shoe Museum. The exhibit features footwear worn by Hollywood athletes, actors and musicians. Miltchin’s collection of about 30 shoes from his ever-growing collection are on display and it’s enticed a lot of feet to make their way to see them.
It wasn’t his athletic prowess, but his determination that helped Miltchin score an autographed skate used by his hero, Wayne Gretzky, before he became an NHL legend.
According to Milton’s 17-year-old son, Harlan, getting a rare item from “The Great One” took a lot of persistence.
“Dad liked them, but it took him two years to get it signed. He had somebody going to all [Gretzky’s] showings. Dad finally got him through his rep at a bar and I think he had to pay him to sign it,” Harlan said.
Collecting shoes might be a lot of hard work, but Miltchin says it’s a great experience since collecting footwear isn’t common, especially among pop culture’s elite. The uniqueness of his memorabilia is what makes his once private hobby such a public spectacle.
“I think people have a fascination with celebrities and the shoe collection is a little off beat. It’s rare to collect shoes. People generally don’t want them. They prefer sweaters, balls and sticks,” he says.
Other shoes exhibited at Starstruck! Include silver strapped sandals worn by Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley’s cowboy boots and classic Oxfords belonging to James bond movie star Pierce Brosnan. There is also a nearby glass case displaying the sneakers of rap megastar, Eminem.
“The Eminem shoes are interesting because he really doesn’t sign autographs, he was very opposed to it,” Miltchin recalls.
“He turned over two pairs of Nikes to his management to give to charity. He signed the shoes with his moniker ‘Slim Shady’ and his stipulation was that [buyers] got two rights or two lefts.”
Miltchin says footwear reveals intimate details beyond shoe size and personal taste.
“I want my shoes really used because with some shoes, I’m able to tell if the person who wore them had a particular foot problem,” he says.
The exhibit was originally supposed to close this February, but the engagement has been extended because of its popularity.
For those who visit the exhibit, located on the second floor of the museum complex at Bloor St. W. and St. George St., don’t expect grey walls and dusty displays. The main corridor to Starstruck! Is decorated with golden stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a red carpet. Inside the one-room soiree, walls are lined with encased shoes from Marilyn Monroe’s red pumps to Madonna’s red platforms.
While Miltchin’s collection shines the spotlight on big names from the world of sports and entertainment, in the future he hopes to raise money for underprivileged kids across the globe.
What essential items will he buy with the exhibit’s proceeds? Shoes of course.
Visit Starstruck! A celebrity shoe soiree at the Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor St. W.).