Dallas Stokes is back, and goes in.
What up Sneaker Community!!! I have been on a bit of a hiatus as of late due to refocusing my creative efforts into film and television but have still been more than interested and dabbling in the footwear game. While I was gone, I have submitted work to Nike when I heard that Jordan Brand had a opening but never quite followed through on my effort. I applied for a job at a Finish Line store and never got called back. I sat down with ANTA and worked on a couple of things and did a few more shoes for Protegemvp.com, but not those boots and those fake wires!!! I don’t know what that’s about… Watched Van Grack crash and burn after I wasn’t given the cash I was promised to market it. Did you know they were out? Me either. Hooked up with NASA to do shoes and realized when talking to rocket scientists you have to dumb everything down. But really other than that I haven’t been doing much else beside trying to figure out if I will ever be beaten on NBA2k12.
However I have been keeping a close eye on the game because I love it and I always will. And with all due respect, sneaker community, I don’t know what the hell is going on!!! You have Jordan’s that look like Nike, then you got Under Armour that looks like old And1’s, adidas is starting to get sexy again but the basketball product is not as sexy as the casual or running. I mean, I look at it and I understand it but it just still looks utilitarian unlike the sleek and sexy running stuff. But the Chicago boy in me did like that Rose drop top. Let’s see…Reebok and Converse are no longer even players in the basketball game. Chinese brands have signed a bunch of players and can’t even sell shoes over here because they are selling the same shoe in China for $35 and trying to sell it over here for $80 when they are just copies of the same shoe we buy for $100!!! Retailers are staying strong with the relationships they have with major brands because they are the only ones that understand marketing makes money. I respect Brett and am happy that he got the opportunity of a lifetime but honestly I think some of you were pointing fingers at the wrong guy. And with all that said I have to sit back and ask,”What the hell ever just happened to cool man?”
Remember when companies made cool stuff that was functional but also made cool commercials? Shoes and commercials that sparked that inner “Be Like Mike” song that played in your head while you were shooting to 21 on that crate tied to a utility pole in the alley? Oh yeah…that’s right…crates tied to a utility pole in the alley!!! Guess what’s commercial and viral guys? Not everyone has a empty multi-million dollar techno lit gym or Roman coliseum to play basketball in while growing up!!! Where do they get this stuff!!! Like seriously…have these people ever even played basketball? Case in point: Kobe Bryant. Arguably one of the top three best players in the game today and he hasn’t had a commercial that made sense since adidas when he was shooting balls on the beach. The puppets don’t count, love the puppets…
And I want to see Derrick Rose in a barbershop going in on guys like Spree and C Webb did back in the day!!! I want to see a DeAndre Jordan and Brandon Jennings get busy like Q and D Miles did back in the day over some Gang Starr or Odd Future!!! Its called relevance!!!
Remember when the commercials were funnier or aspirational and gave you something to talk about as opposed to something to Google because you have no idea what the hell is going on in them? And please? Please? Watch some commercials from like the 90’s before shooting the ones you’re shooting now? They were cool and actually not so skinny jeans tight in the balls selling technology over a story!!! Technology should be PART of the story if the product is cool. Look at car ads, they tell you everything about the car and its fuel efficiency and give me a few donuts in the end. I’m sorry but basketball is not as cool as it used to be. Where’s those damn puppets!!! Where’s Durant and Russell How The Westbrook Was Won commercials? And Nike, if you put a pair of Blake Griffin’s out with some leather on it, guess what? That Shit Would Sell Son!!! His Kia commercials are doper than his Nike commercials that don’t exist. You got the Internet to inform us, now entertain us!!! I know performance is key and the message of performance is important but beside UA I don’t see much relevance or anything that gives me a story to follow so even if I’m not Cam Newton I still get where his product is going and how it relates to him. Kobe, who I naturally hate because I’m a Celtics fan, nobody likes being called a snake!!! And adidas…who were all those people in your commercial running from? I want the shoes on the guy chasing them!!!
Its crazy out there!!! Craziest of all however is what’s going on with my Jordans. I’m sorry and I know it sounds hypocritical or bitter since I applied for a job there but Jordan Brand and especially the Air Jordan is not as sexy as it used to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I got a closet full of Jordan and I would take a job over there in a heartbeat but I, like most, am not happy. I mean the retros are still great shoes but I think what the fans miss is that shoe that was great on the court, which this AJ2012 is, however it doesn’t make the visual statement or stroke the imagination or emotions like Air Jordans of the past. I think the athletic designers and managers of today have grown so comfortable with expressing all the things they learned about other industries that they have forgot they need to design for the industry of basketball also.
Tinker Hatfield when working on shoes of the past was great at introducing new materials and ideas to the Jordans but the shoes were always still relevant to not only Jordan but basketball and the imagination. I get the wingtip thing but I miss the way the shoe would have a story about something bad ass like a cat or car or fighter jet MJ owned and how it morphed into his game and the shoe. Little less pretty boy, little more bad ass. There is nothing wrong with being inspired by a nice suit or a piece of furniture or a toaster in a french IKEA store but can we get some more inspiration from the game itself also? Like for instance what is the trend setter and athlete’s perspective on today’s game and how does that reflect on the brand. “The Cool.” Then there is just a respect factor. I don’t want to take my insole out of my Jordans like I do my Kobe!!! I don’t want to see tech that I learned to love with LeBron passed down like a Bulls center to my Wades!!! And I don’t want people to look at a Jordan and say,”Those are fucking ugly!” Back in the day we would say it and then when we saw it in person we realized how hot it was because of blocking and materialization and we got it. That’s like somebody saying to me your girlfriend looks really intelligent but she’s ugly. I really don’t know when all this started happening? Then I thought about it, talked to some people, and read every post in Brett’s “Design Insight” blog and began to realize what’s missing. The product doesn’t relate to the legend anymore because the legend is no longer on the court anymore. The emotional attachment to the product has been severed because we feel like Jordan is perhaps no longer putting the same input into the product because he’s no longer playing. Bullshit. I think the product and the man have left more than enough on the court to create stories and shoes for years to come.
So now I have to ask,”Is it just that the shoe itself is not hot?” Did TNT (Tom and Tinker) not blow it up? I thought that at first as I did for every year an Air Jordan came out and then it grew on me and I got them. The reality is that Jordans, just like every other shoe, has to evolve to survive. What we growing up became comfortable with is the past. Even though we may not accept the aesthetic approach of Flywire we have to understand these materials may be the leather of the performance future along with tech like Fuse and Flyknit. These ain’t your daddy’s Jordans no more kids, so keep up. Now am I buying the 2012s? No, but thousands of other people are so just like any other product I feel doesn’t work for me I move on to something else. In talking to people in the community I understand there is an expectation for the Jordan that has not been met by in their eyes for years but hey, them Chris Paul’s and Melo’s aint looking all that bad… So unless your ready to protest on One Bowerman Drive or not put up tents and start fights on a school night in front of Foot Locker, show your distaste by not buying them. When those red 50% tags start covering up enough Jumpmans things will change.
And I know what some of you are probably sitting out there and saying,”Well can you do any better?” NO. Honestly the same person that would ask that question is probably the same person who complains about Obama being President but is not a registered voter. I grew up in a time when if you made crap nobody bought it. I have been a victim of crap making myself but nowadays people will buy anything as long as there is a big billboard and stupid commercial attached. It’s kinda like the music game which I often compare to the shoe game with the exception of we designers don’t get shot. For years the music industry was filled with diversity and talent, as it is somewhat now. What ended up happening is that the talent began to become self aware of itself and its worth. When that happened the record companies as opposed to making the talent comfortable began to think we will always be here and the artist are a dime a dozen so if they don’t play by our rules we will just replace them. When you replace talent with a system of talentless monotony to make a big machine work you end up taking the soul out of the products you produce. I mean Whitney Houston and Rihanna have sold tons of records but which do you think actually had talent and which do you think is a processed gimmick? When you have no real talent you have to push gimmicks. Best way to push a gimmick is marketing. So if you have a plethora of marketing being shoved in the consumers face at the end of the day the consumer may overlook the quality. So you ask “What is he saying?” Basically I’ve said it before and I will say it again,”If it’s not cool don’t buy it.” The power is truly in the hands of the consumer. YOU. Don’t cry about it on blogs, then when it goes on sale you buy it. Just don’t buy it. Force these companies to take notice that we want better and you will get better. And leave the big homie Brett alone!!! He’s got street cred in the D. LOL!!!
On another note. There was a lot drummed up about the whole riots at the sneaker stores for the Galaxy Foamposite Penny thing. Let me give you some advice since I know how much it costs to actually risk going to jail or getting beat up or robbed over a shoe. With all due respect, I can’t blame Nike for shoe riots anymore. People won’t line up to vote but they will camp out on a school night to get a limited release pair of shoes. You’re whack!!! You deserve an ass whooping!!! If you’re going to line up outside in the cold where everyone knows your sitting on $160 at night with limited police resources, in the words of the immortal Butthead, “You are a dumbass, Beavis.” Once again the Sneaker Community has put a dent in our lifestyle image. You never see rich people riot outside the Bentley dealership when the new coupe drops. Come on people? You’re not just doing it, you’re just dumb.
Dallas Stokes is a 20-year footwear industry veteran. His current shoe design projects include Protege, ANTA, Van Grack, Militia Project, The Dallas Stokes Collection, and maybe some NASA-licensed shit in the near future. Read his interviews here and here.
Get Stoked and catch up on the complete “Stokesworld With Dallas Stokes” archive.