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Words: Seb White
Images: Robbie May

In front of us right now is a collection of some of the most prized design pieces in the world. Aesthetically daring, scientifically innovative, and as the original advertising tagline communicated in 1994: 100% legal and 0% fair. It’s the first ever football boot to be sold featuring rubber fins, the boot that David Beckham once saw being played with and thought, “I’ve got to get myself a pair of those. Let me try them on.” That’s a story that Becks tells himself. The adidas Predator is a football boot full of stories—and Hinson has got the lot.

“Quickly, it became an obsession,” Hinson, a 42-year-old from the Wirral, tells me in a studio in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle area. “It was never just about the boots; it was their attachment to football history and culture. Every time I watched a match on TV, I’d look for the boots first; it’s never-ending...”

Hinson has every model and every colourway you could ever imagine. Looking around at the pairs sat in an organised pile in front of us, there are boots you remember really wanting as a kid and a couple of pairs of boots you’d forgotten ever existed. Hinson isn’t just an obsessive; he’s The Authority. He doesn’t just collect; he preserves. The history of the adidas Predator is in very safe hands of the affable Evertonian whose @thepredatorpro Instagram account is the holy grail for Predator fans, and it’s our (and your) privilege to have a sneak peek at a fraction of his collection…

“His technique was incredible,” Hinson tells me about how watching Becks play started it all off for him. “We all tried it on a Sunday morning, shooting from 20 to 25 yards out. He showed that if you worked hard, you would always have a chance. And then there was the fashion side of it, which set him apart from most and proved that if you wanted to be ‘different’, you could be different. That was really appealing to me, and the Predator boot was central to all that.”

Like many other youngsters, Hinson didn't have the means to buy the Predators when they first came out, but he made up for that when he got a job after finishing university. Those first pay packets burnt a hole in his pocket and would be used for numerous trips to the adidas outlet. Very quickly, it became, and here’s that word again, an “obsession”.

Those first pairs he bought nearly two decades ago are very much key to his collection today, and the boots and everything else (T-shirts, bags, keyrings, catalogues—literally anything adidas Predator related) that surrounded them soon became more important than the game itself for the collector. “I’d fixate on what players like Beckham and Zidane were wearing and then try and get them if I could; it was hard to keep up as the different versions and colourways seemed never-ending. It wasn’t just the boot itself; it was the marketing campaigns and branding around them. Just look at the Beckham logo he had designed for him - I’ve since bought everything with that on.”

I pick up a pair of the Accelerators from the pile, and it feels like I’ve gone behind the scenes at a museum. I really should really be wearing white gloves. The boots’ elongated stripes, as well as that big elongated tongue, take me right back to the late ‘90s watching Zizou’s Juventus and Beckham’s Man Utd battle it out on ITV. They are arguably the most iconic version from the boot’s first two decades, and until today I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about them.

“It puts me at odds with pretty much everyone, but they are far from my favourite model.”, Hinson whispers in my ear. I do a double-take. I am standing next to the expert on all things adidas Predator, and he has basically told a young kid that Father Christmas isn’t real. “For me, the tongue is a stylistic addition rather than a performance enhancer and, for me, covers up too much of the boot. Whenever I play in these, I tuck the tongue under the laces so you can’t see it.”

Then Hinson takes out the OG. The very first iteration of the Predator.

It’s a story that has been well told, but the tale about the birth of the boot remains an interesting one. When former Liverpool midfielder Craig Johnston started work on football boot innovation in his retirement, he came up with the idea of giving footballers more control on the ball by adding rubber fins to the exterior of the boot. He took prototypes to the big brands, and none of them were having any of it. But then things changed. After filming Franz Beckenbauer testing the boot’s grip in the snow, five years later, adidas were all in.

The version of that first boot that Hinson has in his hand is actually a sample that combines the 94 and 95 models, and like all collectors, Hinson has stories about the weird and wonderful ways he’s expanded his inventory. He found this pair up for sale on eBay 15 years ago via a vendor in Poland. He still doesn’t know how they ended up there but says he’s never transferred the money quicker—all £67 of it.

I ask Hinson how he felt when adidas put the Predator series on pause after the release of the Instinct in 2014, which many thought might be the last Predator boot. “The timing was right, to be honest with you. I’d managed to get pretty much everything I wanted collection-wise, and I had just become a dad, and my priorities obviously changed.

“Then, in 2017, it came back. To be honest, I didn’t care what anyone else said; the Predator was back, and I was excited. It reignited that passion in me all over again.” Back then, Hinson would’ve been happy to just keep adding to his collection and trying his best to get his kids involved with his obsession as they grew up.

Then one day in Asda, his phone rang—a contact at adidas telling Hinson to check his email. Nervously, he did so next to the frozen chips and saw that the brand with the three stripes was asking if he and his friend Chris (@thepredcollective) would be interested in designing their own Predator boot. His disbelief that this chain of events occurred is still palpable. And as he picks the boot up off the floor, he holds it as proud as any father holding his child.

The Predator Archive was limited to 2,000 pairs, sold in five different continents, and the one I’m looking at right now is signed by Xavi.. Hinson talks about every aspect of the boot—the k-leather, the Powerswerve colourway, the pulse elements, and, of course, the minimal tongue. The care and attention he takes in describing it shows just why he was the perfect person to be asked to take part in the project. “The initial reaction was that it was too crazy a colourway, but that was great, to be honest. We were never going to please everybody, but we got people talking about the Predator again, and I’ve done something amazing that I will be able to tell my grandkids, and they will tell their grandkids. That’s not bad, isn’t it?”

Knowing that we’ve only got a small part of his collection at the studio, I ask Hinson to tell me how many he’s got… and how much they’re worth.

“People ask how many I’ve got all the time, but to be honest, I just stopped counting. I reckon 350 odd, but I couldn’t say for sure; even yesterday, I saw stuff I’d completely forgotten about up in the loft! In terms of price or value, well, you can never put a price on what you obsess over—it’s priceless to me, that’s the important bit. What I’m doing isn’t transactional. It’s about preserving football history, and you just can’t put a figure on that,” Despite the many phone calls and a morning in his company, I curse myself for asking such an irrelevant question. Hinson is a collector, not for collecting’s sake or even to flip for profit; he’s a genuine obsessive with a genuine desire to keep the history going.

The immediate focus of keeping that history going is sharing it with his son and daughter; as Hinson explains, “I’ve been buying small-sized pairs for years, even before I knew I was gonna have kids. I just knew the time would come when I would want to pass the obsession on. My daughter is just about to start her second season—in Preds, obviously. I’ve told her she has to look after them, clean them, wash them and put them back in the box! All so she can pass them on to her children. My son is a little younger, but there’s plenty of boots there for him when he needs them as well.”

After loading the precious cargo into Hinson’s car and going to a nearby cafe to talk some more, I get the train back to the capital still thinking about how a football boot can create so many different memories for so many different people. We’ve all done something we’ll remember forever on the football pitch, and we can all remember what boot we did it in. With the Predator line continuing and collectors like Hinson preserving the history that builds with each new iteration, the story of the adidas Predator is far from over.

This piece was originally published in Issue 23. That's sold out now, but you can subscribe to MUNDIAL so that you don't miss out in the future by clicking here.You should also sign up to our newsletter. Free! Weekly! Good! Do that here.

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