T aschen Publishers has released the 650-page book Sneaker Freaker. The Ultimate Sneaker Book. Simon Wood, editor-in-chief of Sneaker Freaker magazine and author of this book, says that it is the most comprehensive description of the 100-year evolution of sneakers. The book is accompanied by many archival photos in addition to a breakdown of iconic collaborations and models, stories about industry protagonists, and interviews.
Simon talked in an interview with DTF Magazine about his work on the book, a turning point in the history of sneakers, and why brands are no longer creating revolutionary products
— What was the most difficult thing for you compiling the book and working on it?
— The hardest part of working on The Ultimate Sneaker Book was knowing when to stop. It’s a lot harder than it sounds when almost 700 pages have already been written.
— The description of the book mentions that it covers a hundred-year history of sneakers. What did you eventually take as a starting point?
— It has everything from Chuck Taylor to Kanye, including information on the Reebok Pump, Nike ACG, Vision, Airwalk, Troop and the Air Max franchise and it makes the book the most comprehensive lesson in shoe history ever written. About half is all-new content made for the book, the rest came from Sneaker Freaker magazine and a few of our publishing projects.
The starting point we agreed on was the Converse All Star, which dates back to the early 1900s. If we take into account the fact that this model is the best seller of all time and has the most iconic design in my opinion, we did not make a wrong choice. The odd thing is that a complete history of the All Star had never been written before. We were given access to Converse’s archive in Boston and uncovered some amazing info about the dozens of different versions released over the years.
— Could you say what was the main catalyst for the popularity of sneakers? In your opinion, when did this crucial moment occur when sneakers became a cult rather than just shoes?
— There are many points where pop culture and sports footwear intersect, but I’d say that the cult of sneakers can be traced back to Michael Jordan and Nike joining forces. Considering Tinker Hatfield’s supreme design skills, Nike’s genius marketing department and MJ’s immense career accomplishments, it’s not surprising Air Jordan became a billion dollar brand.
It’s the deep cultural hooks, starting with the Black Toe release to the iconic Jumpman image and Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon (this is about the film «She’s Gotta Have It», directed by Spike Lee in 1986, where he played Blackmon — this is a note from DTF Magazine) and not mentioning Do the Right Thing and Space Jam. They make Jordan’s legacy so enduring.
— There are thoughts it becomes more and more difficult for brands to create something really new and revolutionary…
— I do agree that it is getting harder to create revolutionary new footwear. It has been a long time since Nike launched Air and Reebok developed Pump, so it’s clear that groundbreaking ideas only come along every so often. Sneaker brands are more focused on developing new cushioning compounds like Boost and React than mechanical engineering today. Nike does have HyperAdapt, but digital technology and sneakers have never really been interconnected, despite repeated attempts like the PUMA Computer Shoe and the adidas 1 project.
The evolution of sneaker design currently relies more on aesthetics than gimmicky tech concepts, which is apparent when you look at the 2018 hype around fashion shoes like the Triple S by Balenciaga, which has zero connection to the idea of running faster or jumping higher.
— How long, in your opinion, will the surging popularity of sneakers continue? What does it depend on?
— After I started Sneaker Freaker in 2002, there were several times when I wondered whether the scene would pop and disappear like the fads for yo yos or hula hoops. But I long stopped worrying about whether that might happen — the scene is just too pervasive, too creative, and too enticing on multiple levels. Sneakers are so entrenched in the NBA, rap music and social media, not to mention reseller hustling, that I just can’t see its influence dissolving. As long as Nike and adidas continue to battle for supremacy, the health of the sneaker scene seems assured.
— When should we expect the next edition of your book, paying attention to the speed which the sneaker industry and culture develop with?
— We just finished a book for New Balance about their 997 runner, and we’re about to start documenting the history of Saucony. Aside from that, we have started work on a follow-up to The Ultimate Sneaker Book, though it doesn’t have a completion date just yet. It’s funny how print is supposedly dead but all we seem to do is make books!
All photos provided to the DTF Magazine by Simon Wood
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