Sneaker Leader: A Study Of The Mind Inside The Machine

The sneaker market is a complex platform of product, players, and ladder strategies with a unique code, culture, and language. The sneaker is not just a sneaker. It is a brand, personality, currency, bank, an idea; sneakers are living documents of social commentary inked by pens colored with race, class, and gender.

The price of admission is intimidating and gaining membership requires a byzantine social network built on the weight of one-word names. Price and value fluctuate. For a cultural outsider, buying a 5000 USD pair of Futura FLOMs might seem like an illogical decision. The gold rush inspires feverish pursuit, and the entrepreneurs - sole proprietors to MNCs - are savvy to the opportunity and profit at their disposal.

The fortune is in the formula, but for the individuals who derive a very unique pleasure from sneakers, have a passion for sneakers, and live and die by sneakers, the trade and exchange of sneakers cannot be reduced to a quid pro quo sport scored by points and dollars.

The purpose of the study is to cultivate a deeper understanding of the individual and the machine. Investigation into said foci requires knowledge of the intricate wiring of the machine's CPUs, which is delicately nested in a matrix of rich history.

The desired outcome is that an open source research instrument using data collected from key players from elite circles of market influence will be created. A diverse international collective of thought leaders have been and will continue to be interviewed.

The study will be a series rolled out in intervals. The initial installment has a unique time variable. The first set of Sneaker Leaders, Dave Ortiz (Dave's Quality Meat, NYC), Wes Tyerman (Foot Patrol, London), Abou Mounir (Opium, Paris), and Michael Dupouy (LA MJC/ were interviewed in February 2007. The aim was to expose credible opinions to a battery of tests, the most challenging being the ability to survive the test of time and the courtroom of public opinion.

This is the start and sample of more to come including interviews, photographs, and critical review. We hope that heated, positive, constructive, and intelligent dialogue is stimulated at all levels of the game.

Dave Ortiz, Dave's Quality Meat, New York, US
'That's the consumption in us. 'Gotta have it, gotta have it, gotta have it.' It's different for us guys who work at the shop. It's like a person working at Dunkin' Donuts, you would think that they eat Dunkin' Donuts everyday. No, after a while it kind of gets like, 'Eh, that's kind of cool, but I don't need to take that home.' Well, I used to take every type of shoe home before I opened the store. Now, I don't know. I take a pair. I wear them completely through and then I am like, 'you know what' I'll go across the street and give them to the homeless guys.' The homeless dudes are walking around with fresh shoes.I don't take more than I can absolutely possibly wear, but there are kids that do man, they got to have every one just so you can show it, 'look I got the, this and the that.'

Wes Tyerman, Foot Patrol, London, UK
"people are always asking me what are you going to do with it (shoe collection), are you going to sell it? No, I would love to give my collection to my children, and say, this is what I grew up on. This is kind of like my history in a way. Then there are certain pieces that I've got that I always know if something happens, I can go, ok, I can get rid of that... I have friends that are like, 'you can sell it and buy another house.' Yeah, but one day, you don't know. I might... if everything might go bottoms up. I might also have children that I need to support. I've got Stash Air Force Ones. Stash sent me the straps, so they're like 24 friends and family straps made and he signed the box and stuff like that. I got a friend who got me the CD from the Scratch Perverts so stuff like that it's almost like an investment and almost like art. But there are certain pieces, which are, it's really hard like the Pigeon Dunks, they're worth a lot and they are an investment as well. It's almost like they knew it was going to be an investment after the Tokyo's, the Paris dunks and after the London's. We sold them for our city. We sold the London Dunks for 90', the standard rate. So when we got to the Pigeon's, they were I believe, $300. So then the resale went up to $800 that's pretty much an investment. But it's so hard because so many fakes come out as well and fakes are only getting better and better.

Abou Mounir, Opium, Paris, FR
"When we used to collect shoes before, it was for the shoes, not the hype or anything else. So now, many, many people, I think, collect shoes because they are hyped. When we started collecting sneakers, it really was for the shoes and the design of the shoes, for the color, the material, just for that, not for anything else."

Michael Dupouy, LA MJC/, Paris, FR
'It's like a 'formula.' The formula is always the same and it's kind of dangerous. Take a famous brand, an established shoe and do a collaboration with another brand. It could be a collaboration with another brand, an artist, a guy with a "cool" name, a traditional shoe like Jordan, Air Max. You mix them, put it on the web, wait three weeks and the shoes are always a success. That's the "formula," but people need to change the formula and create real brand new products - performance or just lifestyle sneakers, but brand new in a way that attracts people based on the look of the shoe and not the hype of the shoe.