Her: So When did you fall in Love with Streetwear? (as She places my Supreme six-panel back on the coffee table)
Me: Ummm, I fell in love with streetwear when I was like ten or eleven.
Back in the early 2000s, I was a young teen growing up in the Chelsea-Elliot Projects in New York City. Just like all inner city kids in middle school that were preparing for High School, you start to find interest in yourself and the opposite sex. I always appreciated myself but three key things that transcendent my love for streetwear were - sneakers, hip-hop & basketball. I was born at 450 W 27th street, just blocks away from Madison Square Garden. You could see the lights illuminate around “Mecca” on game nights when the Knicks and Rangers were playing. It was the beginning of 2003 when my siblings and I moved to Queens, and the soundtrack of my life was “God Son” by Nas. It would continue to be played all over New York City the entire year with classics hits like “Made you look” & “Thugz Mansion” Featuring the late Tupac Shakur. Furthermore it was a weird transition in my life from relocating with my family to a foreign borough that I only visited to take the airport. Ironically I would still spend majority of my time in Manhattan at school and back in Chelsea with my grandparents at their apartment located across the street from where I used to live.
It was a cold February, a day before my birthday, and my parents surprised me with a pair of Jordan 18’s that just released. Jordan releases were different back than especially new numbers that came out because Michael Jordan was still playing basketball in the NBA with the Washington Wizards. In fact the Jordan 18s would be the last sneaker he would wear on the court before he officially transition into retirement. I was so eager to wear my new sneakers to school but it just snowed making it unbearable to walk the streets without hopping over snow piles and slush. Typical New York weather in February right? But did that stop me from wearing an all nubuck suede sneaker to school? Hell No! I always stressed wearing your kicks, but word of advice, avoid breaking out new sneakers in the most extreme weather. My new commute was taking the 7 train from Queens to Times Square then transferring to the E train by walking through the longest tunnel ever (My New Yorkers know what I’m talking about) without messing up my sneakers before school started. Needless to say, it was a successful journey and I caught nothing but stares from other people on the train. I’m not sure if it was from the confusion of a snow blizzard we just had or they were just shocked to see a pair of Air Jordan 18s that was just a day old release. My dad told me we would meet at my grandparents to cut a cake, and then he had Knicks tickets for that night's game. That year the Knicks had Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardway on their team roster. They were playing against the Los Angeles Lakers that lead to a tough loss to the 2x champions. It was the best birthday ever, I got new sneakers, I had God Son on repeat through my new Sony CD player, and I got to witness Kobe in action. Of course i wasn’t happy the Knicks lost, but that’s a story for another blog post about my love for the Lakers and Los Angeles as a city lmao.
That summer the Lakers would take the NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets. The Lakers would make history as the last NBA team to this date to commit a 3 peat, and it was the first time I saw Kobe Bean Bryant sport his famous Jeff Hamilton 3-Peat Varsity Jacket. I wanted that jacket so bad. I knew I loved fashion more than ever right before entering High School because I started to care about what I wore along with my sneakers. It was my love and attachment to sneakers that groomed me to take a deep look into my closet for what I felt was cool. From there on I wanted to know everything that was happening in the sneaker and fashion space. This was the beginning of the web era so my search engine for information was very basic or little to no information except nike talk and other blog post friends would show me. Majority of the information we got at that time came from the people who worked at stores you frequently shopped and they would tell you of upcoming releases and if you were cool enough when the shipments landed. My dad was a young dad when he had me at the age of twenty. He was still in tune and an avid sneaker collector at the age of thirty, so I had a direct relationship with many stores that he would visit like Tom, Dick and Harry’s in Spanish Harlem who would sell me Jordan releases weeks before they dropped, and early Supreme staff saw me in my early adolescent years heading into high school when they were on Lafayette street. But how could I forget my Recon and Daves Quality Meat days? You thought sneaker lines were bad now? You’re right they are because back then sneaker collectors worldwide would wake up early in morning just to form a line. It was way more respectful and peaceful back then than now. Sometimes store would write your name on a list along with your shoe size, and they would have it ready by the time you got to the register. Don’t get it twisted, on occasions the line would be so crazy you would have to ask people in front of you what size they were just to see if you had a chance or it was a waste of time to stay. I was always lucky grabbing a size 11.5 and or 12, one to rock, and one to flip to counter my sneaker spending habit.
I never realized how much living in the city would have an effect on what you wore until I got to High School, but you never wanted to be that one person labeled out or being made fun of due to your wardrobe. It's a messed up situation, but those who were made fun of got it all day at school. Kids were harsh, but those were the realities growing up in the city. To me it was deeper than being mad fun of, It was self pride to look good. It was my way of expressing how I felt that day, but most importantly I enjoyed collecting and learning more about the artist behind the sneakers because I knew one day I wanted to get into the industry. I was introvert kid who never initiated socializing my wardrobe spoke for me. My sneakers were the conversation starter - Are those De Le Soul dunks? where did you get that Alife crewneck from? Yeah, that was me before it became cool. I had no idea what trends were hot at the time, but my many early visits to the Supreme store on Lafayette street definitely got me right every school year. This is where the love for graphics and tee shirt printing started to formulate in my life. The first tees I ever remember purchasing myself were from Stussy/Union on Spring Street. I remember my first day of High School I wore this green Union tee that sported a skater doing a kick flip with a halo around his head, The Hundreds jeans, and Jedi dunks I found used off of a sneaker con event I attended. I’m pretty sure I had “Food & Liquor” by Lupe Fiasco ringing out of my ear from my iPod during this time. No I wasn’t a skater or perpetrated to be one, but the influence of the skate scene into streetwear was happening, and it was coming fast. The streetwear scene at this time felt like a secret club where I could express myself and find my place. I remember one time a group of kids where hanging out in the staircase clowning on each other. As I got closer I knew I was next to get clowned but I was so confident in my outfit that consisted of a supreme hat, a Stussy worldwide tee, and Todd Jordan x Nike SB blazers. The first thing that came out this kids mouth was - "What the fuck is a Supreme!" I started to laugh along with everyone else because I found something that was mine and nobody else knew. He continued to clown my plaid color sneakers and went on and on. It didn’t phase me at all because I loved my drip and wouldn't trade it for the world. Years later me and the kid rekindled our interaction in the streets and he apologized to me dressed in Supreme from head to toe. Streetwear influences me to this very day and is still being felt all around the world as a leading category in the fashion sector.
So when did you first fall in love with streetwear?