BOBBITO GARCIA as part of AIN'T NO HALF STEPPIN' at Klinik (360 Adelaide West), Thursday (April 15). $10. 416-408-2646 Rating: NNNNN
Sneakers have transcended fashion and become culture. A lot's changed in the sneaker game since Run-DMC first rocked their Adidas. While modern technology and marketing are creating athletic footwear - I mean "integrated performance systems" - with features like "micro-climate management," the resurgence of retro kicks is keeping it nostalgic for old-school heads.
Celebrities design them now. For Reebok, Jay-Z's limited-edition S. Carter series was the fastest-selling in the company's history. 50 Cent's G Unit collection was yet another Reebok hit. Early this year, Pharrell Williams and Halle Berry both got down with Nike to rework and re-brand their sneakers for charity. The shoes were available for one weekend in New York and L.A., and some waited 26 hours in the cold for a scarce pair of the few thousands made.
Enter Bobbito Garcia, DJ, columnist, Rock Steady Crew breaker, Puerto Rican pro b-ball player and host of the Strech Armstrong/Bobbito Show. Aside from being a force in hiphop who broke then-unsigned Nas, Big Pun and Wu-Tang on his radio program, Bobbito is your consummate sneaker head. Since writing the feature Confessions Of A Sneaker Addict for The Source in 91, he's run a sneaker store and consulted for Nike's design team. He's also written a book on the origins of athletic shoe culture called Where'd You Get Those? (Testify).
As DJ Cucumberslice, Bobbito throws down beats tonight for anniversary one of the Goodfoot store (see Store Of The Week, page 33) for serious shoe lovers and collectors. (Find his book there, too.) The jam is half-party, half-showcase for über-modern and vintage sneaker styles.
He's on the phone from his bed in Manhattan on Easter Sunday morning at 10 am (!), the only time the prodigiously busy Bobbito has to speak about the footwear explosion - and I'm not just talking about casualties of the Reebok Pump.
"One of the ills of this explosion of sneaker culture in the mass market is that a lot of people collect them and don't really know why," says Bobbito. "Some people collect and know why, but a lot just fall victim to trends. People think I have, like, a thousand pairs, but I think someone could have a great collection with three pairs of sneakers - so long as each pair means something to them."
According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Americans spent $3.2 billion in 2002 on basketball shoes alone.
As for all those limited celebrity lines, Bobbito is unimpressed. "It was inevitable, because sneaker companies have realized for a long time that the market is determined by non-athletes.
"It's cool in some ways, but then in other ways it's kind of cheesy. When I was coming up, there would be a limited shoe for a college team or a pro team. They'd make, like, 20 pairs and that was it. But now when it's limited-edition, it's, like, 10,000 pairs. And they have limited-edition for everything, not just athletes any more. Anybody can get their own sneaker," he laughs.
Even Bobbito's got his own. Co-branded with German company K1X, Garcia's custom kick will be available at NYC's Training Camp shoe store in a month.
"As opposed to Halle Berry, I'm a ball player," he justifies. "I'm very intensely married to the basketball community here in New York. I wore the shoe for a while to see how it performed. I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think it was a high-performance basketball shoe."