Over pie’n’mash, our in-house sneaker expert Bradley Martinez-Hare introduces us to Fresco Wilson of New York’s legendary Stadium Goods. Together they discuss the history of sneaker culture and SG’s debut collaborative exhibition with Browns, whilst Fresco gets his first taste of East London’s famous jellied eels…
In case you hadn’t heard, Stadium Goods have curated a ‘Trophy Case’ of grails and cult-worthy pieces (based at Browns East), celebrating some of the world’s most desired sneakers, clothing and the community that surrounds them.
Bradley: As an enthusiast, being able to see and touch sneakers and garments that you thought you’d be never be able to see in the flesh is a major highlight of the exhibition. You can fully appreciate what’s gone into the design and concept of each item, whether they’re highly sought-after, hyped releases or lesser known pieces. Can you talk us through some key pieces from the show?
Fresco: We brought along multiple special items from a variety of brands but to call out just a few, the Supreme x Louis Vuitton all-over monogram hoodie, Adidas’ Chanel x Pharrell Human Race NMD, which was only released in France, and the Off-White x Serena Williams x Nike Blazer 'Queen of Queens’.
Bradley: There are a couple of others which steal the limelight for me... the incredible technological feat that is Nike HTM Lunar Flyknit and the Kanye West designed Louis Vuitton Jasper. As part of the Sneaker Beast activation, you're teaching a class on sneakers and streetwear at Browns, which I understand you've done at Stadium Goods as well. How did you start getting involved in teaching?
Fresco: Education is a key part of the overall Stadium Goods mission. We want everyone to feel welcome, and like they’re a part of what we do. I’m a member of a program called SOLEcial Studies with my main role being a school teacher, aka “Sole Doctor.” I’ve taught in schools as well as at universities and libraries with the aim of showing kids that they’re the ones that are truly influential in the growth of these footwear companies. That something they have a genuine interest in, even as small as sneakers, can spawn the growth of not only their mind but also their life.
Bradley: I learnt a new fact at your talk: the Samba is Adidas’s second best-selling sneaker! It triggered a discussion of sneaker history in the US and in Europe, and how two of the heavyweight brands got to where they are. Why do you think sneaker culture has become such a huge part of contemporary fashion today?
Fresco: It all started with outsiders—people who weren’t concerned with fitting in but wanted to stand out. Music and basketball are both vital parts of the growth of sneaker culture. With basketball, most hoopers started out wanting to have a pair that were similar to the team colour they were playing with or rooting for. In the beginning, hip-hop was something outsiders gravitated towards and as it became popularised, so did the style of the artists.
Bradley: It’s true. The music industry has consistently been a link between the mainstream and niche tastes. Adidas were really the ones to start it all off collaborating with Run-DMC on the Superstar or ‘shelltoe.’ Back in the late 80s and 90s, buying sneakers was also different to now - there wasn’t the internet or Instagram to help you find in-stock items or open your mind to trying to find what’s new and pioneering. It was about insider knowledge. What are some of the most well-known ‘holy grails’ of sneakerhead history?
Fresco: ‘Grails' have to be broken down into categories: ‘original grails’, ‘hype grails’, and ‘personal grails’. If we’re talking ‘originals’ that would be items like the Air Max 1 Anniversary or almost any black/red colourway in the Air Jordan line from models 1 through 14. ‘Hype grails’ would be Fragment Air Jordan 1, Undefeated Air Jordan 4, Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red October, Nike Air Max 90 Bacon, and Air Jordan 1 Colette, amongst many others. ‘Personal grails,’ for me, would be the Questlove Air Force 1, Concord Air Jordan 11, KITH LeBron 15 Floral, Adidas Metro Attitude, and the Nike Dunk Hi Stussy City Pack.
Bradley: For me, it’s the Parra x Nike Air Max 1 ‘Albert Heijn’. If you find a pair you’ll be paying a hefty price. They were the original design the Amsterdam artist Piet Parra wanted to do back in 2004 for the Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn, but the company changed the shop’s colours mid-design and the sneakers ended up an F&F release.
So, the opposite of a ‘holy grail,’ what’s a sneaker style that you will never let touch your feet?
Fresco: I might get backlash for this however I must say it’s the Adidas Yeezy 500.
Bradley: Mine are Gucci Ace sneakers, never got them, never will. How do you see the sneaker enthusiast and collectors market changing in the future?
Fresco: There's a constant desire for innovation and with the resurgence of individual style and consistent need for that new shoe that speaks to the moment you're feeling. I see it growing exponentially.
Bradley: On that note, what sneaker trends are you picking up on for 2019?
Fresco: The 'dad' shoe, which is now spearheaded by the Yeezy 500 and 700, remains strong, along with sleeker running styles like the Element React 87 or even the Yeezy 350. The mood now lives in the world of collaboration with a focus on many circles being not just about the brand, but who they collaborated with.
Bradley: Mizuno, specifically their Kazoku range, is really on my radar at the moment. They’ve been making some of the most accurate re-retros I’ve ever seen. Their Wave Rider 1 is the shoe of the year for me.
What are some insider technical sneaker terms that you could teach us? One of my favourites is ‘taking the L,’ - it’s not funny because it means you missed out on a release, but I think it sounds funny to say.
Fresco: I like it! ‘deadstock’, of course, means brand new, ‘G-fazos’ are Air Force 1s, and ‘Tier Zero’ is the highest level of Nike accounts.
Bradley: What’s your favourite word for sneakers? Mine is ‘wheels’ or ‘crepes’ as that one catches people out because they aren’t sure if you’re talking about pancakes or shoes.
Fresco: It’s easily ‘uptowns’ because of the ties to my hometown.
Bradley: How many pairs of sneakers do you own and which three would you rescue from a fire?
Fresco: I lost count a long time ago! I know that I wake up to about 150 pairs around my flat, but I’ve probably got somewhere around 400 in total. I give away shoes monthly to students who are either less fortunate or for achieving high test scores in my class, as well as via my personal giveaway Seven Seventeen initiative. From a fire, I'd rescue my Questlove Air Force 1, Kith Nike LeBron 15 and my Parra Air Max 1 that you mentioned earlier.
Bradley: What would you say is the most exciting thing about the 'sneaker culture' market today?
Fresco: Probably the willingness to collaborate, not only with established fashion brands but with individuals who have built a name for themselves. One of the biggest hurdles that I’ve faced is showing the world that brands do not dictate what’s cool, we do. I say that with complete humility but absolute confidence. It’s not just the numbers that quantify the value of a business but also the culture that surrounds it. Some of those collaborative cultural moments have produced some incredible pieces of art and are a huge part of why the sneaker industry has grown into what it is today.