While you may be confused about what exactly to call Bobbito Garcia — Bobbito, Bob, Kool Bob Love, to name a few options — there’s no mistaking the love and passion he has for New York City’s many cultures, in particular the footwear variety.
In 2003, after four years of what he calls hard but fun work, Garcia’s book Where’d You Get Those? New York’s City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 hit bookstores worldwide, using beautiful illustrations and detailed accounts to examine the golden years of sneaker culture in New York City before that culture spawned a multi billion dollar industry.
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Where’d You Get Those?, Testify Books is re-releasing the book on Saturday, November 30 on Amazon.com and at bookstores everywhere.
Unlike many current retros being served to the masses whose quality doesn’t match the original, the reintroduction of Where’d You Get Those? is new and improved with a deluxe hardcover crafted by Todd James, a new introduction and two new chapters.
CounterKicks caught up with Garcia to talk about the re-release of his book and to get his thoughts on sneaker culture as it stands.
CounterKicks: Ten years have passed since your book released. How does it feel that a publisher is bringing the book back with extras, since most literature centered on sneaker culture comes and goes?
Bobbito Garcia: The amazing thing – I’ve been on Instagram recently and there’s a lot of cats that are just finding out about the book and swearing by it – I feel like it’s still relevant 10 years down the road, which is amazing because I started writing that book in 2000 and it didn’t release until 2003. It took me four years to put together. The other thing that I’m happy about is 10 years later, there’s yet to be anybody to contest me on any information in the book. I felt like I nailed it for the time period, and it’s a moment in history that’s dear to myself and a lot of people. Obviously, because there’s still a desire to read, explore and learn about it. Obviously, in this day and age, there’s a lot of documentation about what’s going on with footwear. We have magazines dedicated to it, blogs. I did my TV show on ESPN (It’s The Shoes) completely dedicated to sneakers.
So it’s kind of nice to have my book as just a piece of the puzzle for anyone trying to get up to speed with what happened before. I’m definitely happy that the publisher has enough faith in it. We saw that it was selling on eBay when it went out of print two, three years ago. It started selling on eBay for $100, $125, $150. So we knew that there was a market out there to bring it back out, and it just kind of makes sense with all the sneaker reissues and collabs. Why don’t we reissue the book just like you would a sneaker?
It was really [Testify Books publisher] Dana Albarella’s idea to change the cover and she got Todd James to do it, who’s known in the graffiti and art world as Reas. I updated my post-’87 ‘slept on butter’ chapter and then we got Elliot P. Curtis, who’s co-creator of the first university course on sneakers called Sneakerology 101. He first offered it at Carnegie Mellon University and it’s now available on skillshare.com. He wrote a new intro, so we have two new chapters, an updated chapter and a new cover. Hopefully people will enjoy it and for all the people who were spending too much for it on eBay, they can get it for a decent price.
CK: It’s not just a book about shoes but a big piece of your life. How did penning this come about and just how much fun did you have writing it?
Garcia: Any of the personal moments like in my intro and in some of the chapter transitions, those were like the most fun. The harder work was – my publisher Dana, she challenged me to find a photo on every sneaker that I was talking about, which at that time, I was like some of these brands don’t even exist anymore. Luckily, I knew a lot of really incredible collectors — EMZ, Air Rev, [MC] Serch, Chris Hall down in Virginia — and they were really instrumental in helping me get photos of all the sneakers of the brands I didn’t have catalogs of, so it was definitely a lot of work. I think the thing that I most enjoyed was not just telling my story, but others’.
I interviewed about 20 people, some very famous like Pee Wee Kirkland, Serch. Some not so famous like Ahmad Hooper and Teddy Nitro, people who I came up with in my generation. We as a group were really responsible for a huge change in culture and industry because of our outlook on how we dressed and that impact is being felt globally now. So I felt it was just as important to feature the lesser known cats as some of the more known. That’s pretty consistent if you remember my radio show with DJ Stretch Armstrong; we had Nas when he was unsigned and we had Cool G Rap when he was at the height of his career. The film that I recently co-directed with Kevin Couliau titled Doin’ It In The Park: Pick-Up Basketball New York City, we have Kenny Smith and Dr. J, but then we have John “Mookie” Thomas from Tillery Park, who nobody knows outside of Brooklyn.
I always try and humanize and sort of give the common person a voice in whatever endeavors that I’m doing, in the best way possible.