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Kickin’ Facts | Sneaker industry pros reveal what favorite kicks they would bring back if they could

For this week’s “Kickin’ Facts,” we spoke to Black and brown sneaker industry professionals about the historical heat they cherish and the silhouettes they would bring back, if given a chance. 

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“Kickin’ Facts” is REVOLT’s sneaker column, written by sneaker expert Jazerai Allen-Lord, where she dives into the culture and discusses all things kicks with a special emphasis on Black people who are in the scene, but who the now very-gentrified sneaker industry often overlooks. Come here for the real from an absolute sneakerhead who truly is of the culture.

The widespread adoption of sneakers can be contributed to a variety of events. From fashion trends to the colorways to the unique partnerships, they all play an integral part. But the constant through-line that has perpetually connected sneakers to the consumer has been the stories we tell about the shoes.

Once upon a time, the community conceived the stories, which conversely created the hype. The Banned 1s and Flu Games are prime examples of moments frozen in time that continue to live on through product. However, in today’s sneaker culture, one of two things happens. One: The same stories continue to come back, i.e., the Air Jordan BRED 11s, or two: New stories are manufactured by the brands - frequently around the same three retro silhouettes - and distributed back into the market with little to no cultural resonance.

My business partner, Mazin Melegy, once said to me that when it comes to brand storytelling, you don’t tell stories about yourself; people tell stories about you. And while we love an iconic retro or reworked Air Jordan 1, hundreds of beloved stories remain hidden away in the archives waiting to be retold. For this week’s “Kickin’ Facts,” I spoke to Black and brown sneaker industry professionals about the historical heat they cherish and the silhouettes they would bring back, if given a chance.

Their nostalgia evoked so many emotions, reminding me why I fell in love and continue to love the sneaker game.

Name: Eric Montgomery, Nike Basketball Senior Copywriter

Shoe: Converse Triple Double

Colorway: White/ Lakers Purple and Gold

Year: 1990-1991

sneakers DefyNewYork.com

“In 1991, Michael Jordan was it. In L.A., after the Chicago Bulls beat the Lakers in the Finals, even the most loyal Showtime fans were copping Jordans. But my dad remained faithful to the Purple and Gold. So, when I asked him for a pair of Js, this man picked me up early from school, and we pulled up to a local Sports store, and on hold at the counter was not a pair of Js but a pair of MJs— as in, Magic Johnson. The shoes were the Converse ‘Triple Double.’

I was tight, but looking back, I had a pair of signature shoes that didn’t feature a brand logo but a player’s logo. It was groundbreaking, and we’ll never know what type of impact the signature line could have had if Magic didn’t retire due to contracting HIV. The silhouette isn’t the greatest, but like most classic designs, the story of and around the shoe is iconic.”

Name: Dean Jackson, Reebok Global Entertainment Partnerships Manager

Shoe: JAY-Z x Reebok S. Carter’s (Original White Gucci inspired)

Year: 2003

Shoe: Reebok Pumps, White/Yellow/Green

Year: 1989

JAY-Z Reebok

“I chose the S. Carter’s because I currently work in product collaborations and entertainment partnerships, and have always been inspired by partnerships with notable hip hop artists and/or hip hop culture leaders. Now that I get to work on collabs and partnerships from inception to product release, I understand the full scope of what it takes to bring these partnerships/collaborations and products to market.

The JAY-Z x Reebok partnership became an industry standard for how partnerships and collaborations are approached and executed. This included a product placement in JAY-Z x Pharrell “Excuse Me” music video, and on the retail execution side, the shoe was marketed in music stores in conjunction with the album release.

sneakers Complex

“I chose the 1989 Reebok Pumps because this was the first Reebok shoe I ever had. I got the Pumps for my 7th birthday. At that time, I truly believed that Pumps would make me jump higher, run faster, or play basketball better! But most importantly, they were cool. And now, as an employee of the brand, I am looking forward to the return of Reebok Pumps. I’ll be first in line.”

Name: Natalie Nelson, Jordan Brand Merchandising Director NYC/East

Shoe: Nike ACG Caldera 3/4 Plus

Colorway: Bright Khaki/Bright Khaki - Persian Violent

Year: 1992

sneakers The Culture PDX

In the early ‘90s, hiking boots were having an entire moment. Since I’m a huge fan of sneakers and booties, a sneaker boot is the best of both worlds! If given a choice to bring a shoe back, I would go with the ACG Caldera. Aside from its boot-style construction, the natural tones mixed with a color-pop colorway is what makes me go all the way in!

Name: Chief Johnson, Puma Senior Manager Entertainment Marketing

Shoe: Vans x Iron Maiden SK8-Hi “The Trooper”

Year: 2008

sneakers Famous Rock Shop

“I was torn between the Supreme x Nike Blazers or these Vans, but I decided to go with the Iron Maiden because, as a kid, when my oldest sister exposed me to rock music, Iron Maiden was one of those first bands. I remember loving the artwork from the album covers more than the music at the time, but later on, I eventually become a fan of the music. I remember coming up on the OG pair of the Sk8-Hi many many years ago, and I loved them so much, I still have them to this day —raggedy box and all.”

Name: Cameron Mason, adidas Director of Product Marketing Footwear - Basketball

Shoe: Nike Air Diamond Fury II Mid

Colorway: Black/White/Red

Year: 1996

sneakers Defy New York

“Growing up, my father pushed me to be a multi-sport athlete. Because of that, I always gravitated towards bold, expressive, and elite athletes in their game. Deion was and still is my ultimate No. 1 athlete of all time, but baseball also had other flashy all-stars during the ‘90s, which I admired.

Ken Griffey Jr and Kenny Lofton are two players who wore the Nike Air Diamond Fury 2 during the 95-96 season. Both came to the plate tapping the bat on their dope shoes and then proceeded to tuck in their gold chains before getting on base. Obviously, my being from Cleveland, I was biased. Still, the shoes were captivating and immediately caught my attention because of the large side panel logo, the Nike Air, and the patented over-branding of Nike swooshes.”

Name: Sarah “Rah” Sabino, adidas Senior Footwear Designer

Shoe: adidas Adventure Mid Boot

Year: 1997

sneakers AllYouCanWear.de

“Around 1997/1998, Adidas had this line of footwear called “Adventure,” it was part of its “Equipment” Collection. Honestly, the entire boot range was inspired by the Feet You Wear / Kobe sneaker-era, and almost all of the boots from this time were amazing. Being from the east coast, boots have always been a staple for me year-round, and if this collection were to make a comeback, I would be rocking all of them. I loved the mix of OG colorways and browns, with the neons and brights.”

Name: Jordan Johnson, New Balance Lifestyle Designer

Shoe: New Balance BB800

Colorway: White/Black

Year: 1995

“New Balance is experiencing some momentum in the basketball space due to rising icons like Kawhi Leonard, Darius Bazely, and Dejounte Murray. I would like to bring back an obscure model like the BB800 to remind the consumer of New Balance’s rich basketball history. This isn’t our first time at the rodeo.”

Name: Brianna Gazelle, Foot Locker NYC Marketing Manager

Shoe: Nike WMNS Air Vapor Trainer

Year: 1996

sneakers Eastbay

“I absolutely love the strap option on the WMNS Air Vapor Trainer, along with the rugged look of the classic Air bubble. It would be dope to see these transformed with an icy blue sole! It’s incredible to see something for women with a little more grit to it, especially in the trainer family. It makes this silhouette an obvious choice for me.”

Name: Clyde Edwards, Puma Senior Marketing Manager

Shoe: Puma Cell XC

Year: early 1990s

sneakers Ebay

“I’d love to see Puma dig into their archive and bring back shoes like the Cell XC from the 90s. It’s a retro running silhouette with technology included that wasn’t too popular back then or yet proven. It seems like the shoe itself was way ahead of its time for the ‘90s. I just found a pair on eBay, too.”

Name: Cedric Hudson, adidas Senior Apparel Designer - Basketball

Shoe: adidas Tech Road

Year: 1993

sneakers adidas

I’m a track and field guy for life — a former All Big-10 long jumper at Indiana University. When looking at shoes to bring back, for me, this model is not only iconic but would take updated materials very well. You could go two directions with the design — either technical or classic — and when choosing the materials, we would let the textures dictate the highs and lows you would experience visually. It would even be dope in tonal.

Finally, I’ll close with mine.

sneakers Coveteur

Most people who have been following my journey know that I once had a love affair with Nike SB. It was the first family of sneakers that I started collecting — from the Blazers to the P.Rods to the Dunk His and Lows. As someone who grew up on Southern California’s beaches, it was skateboarding — not basketball — that was my entry point to sneaker culture.

One of the first pairs of SBs that I fell in love with was the De La Soul Hi from 2005 complete with the coveted Nike SB Pink box. The young revolutionary in me was a Native Tongues stan, and De La Soul was in my top five. After copping the sneakers on ISS through a trade plus cash, I made the decision to wear them on my wedding day. The photo of my De La’s under my gown became a Tumblr phenomenon, later leading to the founder of KicksonFire finding me and offering me my first job in the sneaker industry.

Fast forward to 2007 where Pos and I met on SneakerPlay where he was a moderator. That relationship extended to Twitter and then to real life when I had the opportunity to style him for a few engagements. In 2008, I was featured wearing my De La Soul SBs in Girls Got Kicks, a sneaker book by the founder of Female SneakerFiend featuring women collectors worldwide. While the group was in L.A. recording their next album, Pos invited me down to the session and asked me to bring a copy of the book. Upon arrival, he asked me to sign it for him, and I almost fainted. It was a full-circle moment for the fangirl in me, and now the stories attached to the Nike SB De La Soul is the principal reason I will never, ever, ever sell the shoes.

And that’s what sneaker culture was born on — moments in time, and the passion and enthusiasm that they invoked. It’s that imminent feeling of exaltation that we now know as “hype.” A statement that was built on something that we often now see manufactured, but the true stories, the real stories, stick to our souls and forever live on.

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