Scotty Norris spent his youth making mistakes and paying the consequences. The ramifications of his hellraising started with groundings and eventually led to reform school. Those years at reform school were a precursor to prison, which is where Norris soon found himself.
Many stories would end there. But Norris was determined to escape the cycle of recidivism; so he changed his mindset and promised himself that when he went home he was going home for good. Today, Norris is one of the world’s most renowned sneaker resellers. He’s the proprietor of Private Selection in Dallas, as well as a podcaster and a YouTube personality. And if he didn’t get caught up in the system, it’s likely none of this would have happened.
“I’m going to be honest with you, one of the pivotal points of my life was when I got out of prison,” Norris says. “I got out and I had a friend who knew I was trying to find a way to change, and he gave me a job.”
Norris started promoting hip-hop shows in Texas. It’s the unglamorous side of the industry—booking acts, selling tickets, marketing—all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes or breaks a tour. But it landed him in the hip-hop world, which led him to the lucrative business of streetwear.
Norris then had the opportunity to take over an existing boutique. “The guy who owned it had some things to handle and he just left,” he explains. “Instead of liquidating the property, he reached out to us. Right off of Sixth Street in Austin, Texas, we had this random streetwear boutique with all the latest hype in there.”
This was in 2011, the Stone Age of sneaker reselling. There weren’t any apps, and a few entities, like Flight Club, controlled the whole industry. Norris and his business partners saw an opportunity and pounced on it. The Austin shop soon expanded to a second location in Dallas, and from there everything snowballed.
“It was one of those things where we thought it’d be a great idea to start carrying sneakers with the streetwear, doing resale as well as retail,” Norris says. “We were able to control the market because there were no other outlets to compete with. We integrated sneaker culture with the streetwear retail culture and created this hybrid that’s been going for over 10 years now.”
It was a pair of Reebok’s pearlized Allen Iverson Question sneakers, the blue ones, that first hooked Norris. Like many sneakerheads of the time, he wasn’t loyal to any one brand. It was more about who was making the most interesting shoe at the time. What he would quickly learn, and what still holds true to this day, is that he was coveting so much more than a fresh pair of kicks.
“To me it’s all in the thrill of the hunt,” he explains. “When I travel, I go to every single sneaker store in the city. When I’m at Sneaker Con I like to walk up and down every aisle, look at every booth, because that’s how I find the nostalgic shoes that I couldn’t get when I was younger because either I couldn’t afford them or I couldn’t find them in my size. It’s the thrill of waiting in line, getting in and earning that self-gratification when you’re successful. Once you find that grail, there’s a feeling you get that you can’t get from anywhere else.”
With the soaring prices of so many coveted sneakers, there’s a long debate about whether or not collectors should even wear their grails. And while there are some shoes he’s saving for special occasions, Norris is firmly in the “wear them” camp.
“My followers give me shit about it all the time,” Norris laughs. “My gym is right down the street from me and I don’t like carrying shoes around all day. If I’m wearing a $2,000 pair of Off-Whites that day, I’m wearing that $2,000 pair of Off-Whites to the gym.”
This anecdote is an encapsulation of Norris’ current mindset. He’s driven to succeed, but also thankful for the good fortune that comes his way. He won’t lock his shoes up in a vault—he’s going to enjoy the spoils of his hard work. There is a level of intentionality in everything he does, and nowhere is this more evident than in his tattoo collection.
Every tattoo is packed with meaning. Norris has worked with the same artist, Freddy Trevino, since his first swipe of ink, and the pair made sure there isn’t a patch of skin wasted. It’s a visual representation of the thinking that has carried Norris this far.
“I would never put something on my body that has no meaning,” Norris explains. “Life is about meaning. If you don’t have a meaning in life, you’re not living the way you should. My right arm is meaningful because it’s everybody in my family, or who I consider to be my family, that I’ve lost. And on my left side are all the things the Lord does that you should do as well in order to have a very fulfilling life.”
One of the left side tattoos is of a couple of lambs, representing the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for the sins of the world. Those lambs remind Norris each day of the sacrifices he has made. They keep him grateful and humble. As he looks back on his career, he is proud of what he’s done, particularly considering that he did it with the challenges that come with having a felony conviction on his record.
“I don’t smoke any longer, I don’t go out,” Norris says. “I sacrificed all these worldly things to get where I wanted. The next thing you know, I got approved to have a store in a Galleria, and the coolest part about it is I’m a felon. I checked that box that said, ‘I’ve been convicted.’ Eight years of being criticized everywhere I go—from bank loans to apartments to getting pulled over. But I made sacrifices, and I was able to put my name on a contract.”
It would have been so easy for Scotty Norris’ story to go another way. But through hard work, sacrifice and a lot of faith, he pulled himself up by the laces of his Off-White Nike Dunks.