Working with sports footwear, or as Scoop Jackson would call them, gym shoes, on the daily, It’s easy to get very, very jaded, and lose sight of exactly what lured you into making them a profession of sorts. In my case it was a fluke. As with anything attracting disciples, there’s tiers of hoarders, collectors and fanboys who’ll pick a particular boomtime that was a cut-off when things were purer and the herbs were less involved.
With sports footwear it’s a tough one to call. Things are still mighty healthy, but the early ’00s was a point when the big brands truly capitalised on the cult of the collector, and when they entered the fray and saw the extra $$$ to be made, things went out of control. At time-of-blogging, visions of Jordan XI retros are on the mind – just as religious types can suffer a loss of faith, the avalanche of drivel has caused a few doubts lately, and to be excited about a release proves there’s still some personal mileage in the industry. But that shoe is a design that’s fourteen years old. It still looks fresh, but still, fourteen years. That things tailspinned from an aesthetic direction in favour of re-rubs of former classics is a debate that won’t be unleashed on this blog, bearing in mind that it was meant to be a sneaker-free spot. But hey, worlds are always going to collide on occasion.
Beyond the moans, early shots of DJ AM’s Dunk design, set for a posthumous release, show the handiwork of someone who loved shoes and knew enough about that overused silhouette to still identify a gap in releases for something fresh – it’s got a connoisseur’s touch about it that’s a break from the roll call usual celebrity squanderers. He had an ideal in mind for a classic, and the opportunity wasn’t wasted. That’s because AM knew his shit. Some of the best shoe-centric footage of him occurs in the shelved Wieden+Kennedy/Brand Jordan ‘Sneakerheads’ documentary from 2004. You know Thibaut de Longeville’s 2005 documentation ‘Just For Kicks’ – a textbook example of crowd (courtesy of some tight editing and great motion graphics) and connoisseur (thanks to some rare unearthed footage) pleasing storytelling, but ‘Sneakerheads’ deserves a spot too.
Seeing as it never made release, with some citing music clearance issues as the cause of the no-show (Scarface, Cannibal Ox and Jan & Dean are among the artists soundtracking a rough cut), what’s been seen on bootlegs which occasionally crop up on a certain auction site, is occasionally scrappy, but absolutely priceless. Me? Curiously I opt to watch it whenever I lose interest in the next bad artist series car crash, or pick Tricker’s over Air Maxes of a morning. I find ‘Sneakerheads’ cathartic – beyond the underlying air of weariness with the next wave of hypesters circa. 2002/3 that’s prevalent throughout, the essence of what brings a certain kind of (flawed?) character to this curious subculture is present, and it’s an essential document of why that interest will sustain, regardless of any number of big budget, mishandled knocks from the big guys.
The highlights? Given that Jordan Brand cash, that legendary line figures heavily for full segments. From Bobbito dismissing the first shoe as ugly to Ari Foreman pushing its cultural significance, to obsessives like Andre Lustina, with his car customised to match his cool grey XIs, down to marbled leather and suede inserts, non-stereotypical hoarders like Surgeon Todd Turner and Alan Mesa with their vast collections of game-worn pieces and player samples, plus Spike Lee talking signed XIs. Then there’s superior footage of a cigar munching Mike himself announcing that “there’s some mystery shit going on with that one” in regards to the then-unreleased Jordan XX.
Fat Joe, Rev. Run and Chuck D make appearances, but some of the most charismatic talking heads are the notorious collectors like DJ “If it’s green suede I need them” EMZ who shows off some PRO-Keds Royals and is keen to reinforce that you didn’t know about the suede Swoosh AF1 lows, and calls out Nelly, “Do you have these? Nooooo. Because you’re a new jack” and Adam AIR REV breaking out the classics, and get filmed hunting for deadstock after some history from Packer’s owner Martin Packer, digging out some fly Ellesses. Collector don-dada Chris Hall and Alex Retrokid make appearances, as do Sir Charles Barkley, Clark Kent, Fraser Cooke and Jon Shector. Interscope’s Chris Clancy concedes that while he’s got a serious Uptown artillery, “…AM is the guy. It bums me out.”
Getting plenty of screen time in front of an enviable wall of shoes, Adam’s passion shines through, claiming of sneakers that, “It’s a part of hip-hop that’s not in the four elements, but it’s an absolute important piece.” He was, and is that dude. That fanboy glint isn’t something that can be faked. He’s a contrast to the more jaded talk from A-Ron, “You have no choice. It’s a love hate thing with sneaker collecting“, and the amusing observations of Viz Avedian, “It’s a sick obsession if you ask me.” As queues form outside Foot Action for the grey/white Jordan III release, and outside NikeTown and NORT for the Espo AF2, tempers fray. The whole thing is bookended with Alife’s Tony Arcabascio wandering around the looted Rivington Club post 2003 blackout, ultimately, it’s not the cheeriest documentation of the planet’s then spiralling sneaker habit. Perhaps that was the reason for the fact ‘Sneakerheads’ stayed unreleased.
Extra points for the appearances from Patta’s Edson, a particularly passionate Thomas Giorgetti dismissing those non-Italian made Jordan II retros, plus Crooked characters Mr. Steve Bryden and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him C-Law during the global segment.
There’s a sense that things rebooted around 2005. Go Google for the pieces that had you fiending in 2002 if you don’t believe me. Even the events, releases and attitudes of the early ’00s feel almost warm and cuddly compared to hard-nosed 2009 where cash is king. This of course, is the ill-judged nostalgia that overkill induces, but ‘Sneakerheads’ is an essential document of a bubble that seemed set to burst before filming had even finished – in rough cut form, it manages more in 78 minutes than most could ever manage. It’s a tough topic for a fickle crowd, but this needs an official release. R.I.P. AM.