Dallas hits the block.
One of the worst things that happens to me in this business from time to time is the dreaded “Block.” Those days which have now become two weeks that every blank page seems to be laughing at me like cruel kids in high school. For the last two weeks I have tried to create a shoe and have been unable to come up with anything. There is a lot of distractions now that I’m more on the business side of the shoe game taking me down this path to the dark side. The “Block” can be the worst in this job because even though you can’t create, the world will not stop and wait. In the past I could walk over to a fellow designer’s desk and maybe show a sketch or two to get new insight and direction to help me out. I’m flying solo now, so often I hit up a few up and coming designers like my guy in training, Xavier Rush. However these are the days that I usually have to find inspiration in other ways.
Inspiration comes from so many places. As a designer often you are asked to be inspired by flying cars and coffee cups… I personally have found inspiration in creating basketball product from three major sources over the years. The first is playing the game of basketball. However at the age of 34, I find that with 35 quickly creeping up, my 42-inch vertical that died at age 25 and is more like 4 plus 2. I’m not gonna get an invitation to anyone’s camp any time soon. However occasionally I can exercise my love for the game clause and show up at a court for two games and look like a ex-collegiate star. People see the game differently but when I play my inspiration comes from movements I catch out of the peripheral that inspire some of my products. Watching the NBA and the players I had hoped to play against when I was still naive enough to believe I had a shot. It amazes me to watch these new guys like D.Wade, D.Will and CP3 go hard at the point guard and make me wonder just how far I could have gone had I kept pushing myself. I mean, man, look at Brandon Jennings’ rookie campaign!!! That kid did things that helped put U.A. in stores and kept us watching a few TNT games that we would have ignored just because the Bucks have such a eyesore for uniforms. I pray that my eyes in my old age are just fooling me and that’s not actually their real uniforms. Sometimes I just sit and watch guys feet and see things that inspire my next group of designs. You can learn a lot more about the game sometimes by watching it more than playing it. I watch taller and bigger guys run around in product built for little guys and laugh when they can’t understand why they get injured. A word to the wise people, you wouldn’t put 24″s on a Jeep and go off roaring. So why in the hell would you wear Kobe’s when you’re one value meal away from being Barkley? However, what you get from that is big guys like light sexy shoes so it can inspire you to find that happy medium much like you see in the LeBrons. Watching different groups and sizes can be very inspiring but that’s just not working out so it’s on to the next one.
Another form of inspiration is my love for basketball video games. I have been playing these games since the EA Sports Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs days. Now I’m not paid to endorse these products in any way but I can tell you that I can get lost in this experience for hours. Not since the NBA Jam days have I had so much fun with my basketball shoes off. For years I played NBA Jam and had fun reliving my three on three “He’s on fire days!!!” The new version is out and it’s my next love since NBA Elite is going through a reboot. For years I owned both NBA Live and 2K and rotated between both depending on which game my opponent was foolish enough to challenge me on. I’m so happy that Elite said, “yo lets hold back and come hard…” I can’t wait to see how they drop but for now we are all doing the 2K thing. Now to truly understand my love for 2K you have to understand that I have played everything from arcades to ColecoVision, Playstation, X-Box 360 and never felt more proud of my work ’til 2K Sports put my shoe in the game. I designed the Chromz shoe for Shaq which made its way to 2K!!! Man after a long day at work to come home and be able to see your shoe on a created player in a video game was one of the biggest accomplishments of my career!!! I was instantly hooked and remember feeling like I had made it!!! I think Mitch Richmond was on the cover who is one of my personal friends and heros on the court. I remember drawing that shoe and then seeing it on a game was like whooooa. Now there are only three people who can say they can take me in Live, Jam, and 2K comfortably so you must realize that this is my new adrenaline rush. I got more chips on 2k and Live than Kobe, Mike, Magic, Kareem, and Shaq combined. I can spend hours losing myself in a game of 2K and living out dreams that physically I can no longer do. The games have become so tailored to the aspirations of the guy that didn’t or couldn’t make it that the self gratification can give you a peace that even comes close to the rush you get on a real court. I play for days sometimes and enjoy the game so much that my employees and partner have to rip me off the stick and rehab me with work. The day the games drop you can ask my team… Don’t “F” with the boss for at least three days!!! I can remember And1 called me on a drop day and I was playing Live and listening to their spill and stopped them to tell them, “All I want to do is make product for the streets and shoes my boys will rock.” The next thing I heard was, “you are hired.” With that I said thank you and hung up to continue my game. Dude it was like in the third quarter… But today I can’t even find peace in 2K because the G.M traded me to the Lakers!!!
I have heard the greats like Kobe and Jordan say that they fail and they keep shooting and let the game come to them. Even Muhammad Ali who I have tatted on my arm took a few losses. I have been trying to keep sketching and just keep hammering away at old ideas but have lost interest after two or three sketches. Then my friend Xavier said something that sparked my creative fuse…
“For me, looking for inspiration can be very hard when coming up with a shoe design. But all I gotta think about is how bad I wanna get out of Alabama. That inspires me enough…”
Sometimes inspiration can come from a need not to fail. Time and time again I have to remind myself of the life I had growing up and that makes me realize why I work as hard as I do. A block is nothing more to me than your mind needing a break. However if your work ethic tells your mind there are no excuses, usually you can push past the block. It’s like a champion fighter who is in the 12th round. No matter how bad you keep getting hit the need to be a champion will always give you that extra mile. If you want to win don’t worry about failure because it is the secret to success. One of the greatest Jordan commercials of all time was the one where he told you of all his failures then said that is why he succeeds. I cannot accept failure and I cannot be “Blocked” by anyone or anything. When you have a “Block” remind yourself that with or without you the world will keep going, so suck it up and kick some ass. Now if you will excuse me I got some work to do.
With that said, winners always reinvent themselves to be bigger winners. Huge congrats to my boy Brett Golliff, the newest Senior Designer at GM!!! Keep winning my man!!!
Dallas Stokes is a 20-year footwear industry veteran. His current shoe design projects include BALL’N, Protege, Sean John, Rim Rocka, Van Grack, Militia Project, and The Dallas Stokes Collection. Read his interviews here and here.
Check out previous “Stokes Life With Dallas Stokes” posts:
- Stokes Life: The China Adventures
- Stokes Life: Sixth Sense Of Stokes
- Stokes Life: Shaq Vs. Bynum Part 1
- Stokes Life: Free At Last!!!
- Stokes Life: Building A Brand – Let’s Make A New Shoe Company (Part 1)
- Stokes Life: Building A Brand – Let’s Make A New Shoe Company (Part 2)
- Stokes Life: My Starting Five – What Or Who Inspires You!!!