Meet James, who made scouting classic football boots a thriving business

boot-chamber-james-316f3

James Williams, 32, has seen his classic football boot business boom over the past year

In November 2019, collecting football boots was just a vague hobby for 32-year-old James Williams. He had a “few pairs here and there” and was aware of the community of collectors on Instagram, but turning it into a business was barely even a dream. 

But after posting a few pictures of his classic pairs of Adidas Predators – dating back to the early 2000s – that all began to change. 

By April 2020, James was buying football boots on eBay and selling them over social media – and when demand didn’t slow down he set up a website and made The Boot Chamber official. 

“The furlough and lockdowns have been completely ideal for me, really,” he admitted. “We had a child in February, so it’s been a bit of an extended paternity leave, and as I work in the travel industry there’s been a long time between calls over the past year or so! But it’s meant I’ve been able to take the time to create decent content and really establish this business.” 

He gets most of his sales on Instagram, with more than 17,000 followers waiting to see which retro pair will appear on The Boot Chamber next. There have been some big scores. 

The biggest find – “and probably will stay the biggest for a long time,” James said – is a pair of boots worn by Zinedine Zidane in 2002. They were given to the French footballing legend to wear for a photoshoot and have his name embroidered on the tongue. 

The biggest find for The Boot Chamber was this pair worn by Zinedine Zidane. By The Boot Chamber

There are a few specific boots James would love to find – Nike Mercurial Vapors from 1998 for the right price are hard to come by – but he says he’s been lucky with what he’s been able to track down. 

Fortunately, fakes of classic football boots are rare, although Adidas have begun to remake some of their 90s and 00s designs. According to James, fakes of those new boots/old designs can be easily spotted. The boots are thicker and the tongues shinier – but he’d much rather stick to stocking the classic pairs anyway. 

A pair of brand new never-been-worn Adidas Predators from 1996 came in from Russia and were shipped out to Malaysia within two days, such is the demand.

“Nostalgia is the driving force,” James said, giving a hint to the secret of his success. “I see it most in our kids section sales – it tends to be the dads, buying the 90s designs because that’s what they had and loved.”

In one year of operation, James has turned over £100,000 and has sold hundreds of pairs of football boots. Football has gone from a passion to a livelihood – at least part time. 

It’s not all about the money, though. One of James’ finds will never be for sale: “I’ve got a pair of Steven Gerrard’s boots that, being a massive Liverpool fan, I’ll never part with. No, those are the ones I’ll keep forever.”

Follow The Boot Chamber on social media for more information - or to pay attention to what James finds next.