Local sneakerhead Hayden Manuel schools us in the world’s biggest sneaker brand
Words and Photographs by Hayden Manuel
I recently got back from sneaker hunting in Tokyo – yes, my obsession with kicks runs that deep – to source some rare vintage Nike joints for my collection. That is to say: The 2001 3M Snake Air Force 1 and the Nike x Supreme 94 SB, which I hunted for at stuff-of-myth stores like PX Megastore and K-Skit, which you might have heard about from the message boards.
I got my kicks, but I also learned that even though I can barely speak Japanese, the fact that I was wearing Yeezy 2s on the Harajuku high street meant that the Japanese kids instantly knew what I was about and we could communicate through our love for the Nike brand and what it stands for. And that is pretty effing dope!
Back on home soil, it's often said in South African streetwear and fashion circles that "real sneakerheads are from Cape Town", which means that although our Johannesburg counterparts have the shoes, we were the ones who showed them how to take them off court and onto the streets, teaching them how to rock their joints with jeans and tracksuits.
There’s a unique sneaker style in Cape Town with a heavy influence from the late 90s baseball, basketball and x-training models like the CB34, Uptempos, Air Pillars, Tuned Max and Vince Carters.
How did it get to a place where South African kids care so much about the apparel of foreign sports disciplines?
That’s the power of the Swoosh.
When University of Oregon athlete, Phil Knight and his coach Bill Bowerman founded Blue Ribbon Sports in 1965 to sell Japanese running joints, Asics, I don't think they realised that they were starting a movement and one of the most iconic brands in the world.
Blue Ribbon Sports officially launched the Swoosh-bearing Nike in 1971 off the back of their waffle sole running shoe with prototypes being made in Bill Bowerman's kitchen. Somewhere in all of this, the Cortez was born and is still putting up a big fight 44 years later.
So how did we get from humble beginnings in Portland to jogging shoes for your dad to global fashion staple that cool kids around the world can’t live without?
Shout out to Michael Jordan who signed with Nike and started the Air Jordan brand in 1984. We could argue that without the Air Jordan brand, sneaker culture as we know it today would not exist. The turning point came when Nike employed the religious figure of Tinker Hatfield (the man who gave us the Air Max 1 amongst other things). From that moment on, the classics started rolling in and designs started looking fresher off court than on.
Meanwhile, across the pond, a major Air Max movement was being formed. The widespread walking culture meant that comfortable shoes like Nike's Air Max saw a serious surge in popularity. Air Max still gets crazy love out there from the Air Max '87 all the way through to the Air Max 2015! Peep this video of UK grime artist Skepta talking about it.
And while we're showing videos…
Hip-hop and sports have always been intertwined, so it didn't come as a surprise when rappers took the idea of wearing sports gear – off the court – to the masses through their lyrics and videos. As a teenager, there was no greater feeling than seeing your favourite artist wearing the same shoes as you.
"I'm a Nikehead, I wear chains that excite the Feds" – Nas.