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A year ago I started an internship with Ronnie Fieg specifically and Kith in general. A few months later Ronnie hired me into a management and creative position that I’ve been in since May of last year. This week will be my last week with the company – I’ve decided it’s time for me to go. When Ronnie hired me he knew he had me on loan – my calling lays elsewhere, which I let him know on day one. I wanted to be involved with Kith and learn what I could and maybe have some positive affect. I’ve done a lot of all of those things in this last year and am sad to leave this chapter behind me.

I can tell you now that I will have a lot of regrets about leaving. The old adage is, “No Regrets,” which I think is bullshit. If you never regret anything I think it’s a marker of never failing, which means you’ve never risked anything. What Ronnie has set up for the next year is really unbelievable. What he’s shared with us (which is usually less than half of his full plan) is stuff that’s never been done. There are projects that you’re expecting (obviously some incredible sneaker collabs), and others that would never be on a list of your wildest guesses. The projects that I’ve gotten to see are exquisite, and those that are still in development are awe inducing. Kith as a company is tiny – much smaller than most people imagine. When I leave there will be 2 people in the Kith offices – Ronnie and Thomas. Matt will be in the basement under the shop packing boxes and answering phone calls and emails. Everyone else who works for Kith full-time is in one of the two shops. How we’ve done it this long is a lot of hard work and a little magic. I have nothing but love for everyone at Kith, and cannot wait to rejoin the legions of fans looking forward to what’s next and cheering the team on from the sidelines.

Now my big question: What’s next for me? I promised myself I wouldn’t sacrifice truth for brevity, so skip this if you like. It’ll pay off if you stick around for it, I hope.

Since I graduated from college I’ve danced from one career to the next. Starting in theater (as an actor and playwright), on to yoga instruction, then to film, and most recently, Kith. I’ve had incredible relationships with people in each of these fields, people who are playing at the top. And I realized recently it’s because I latch on to people who are on their dharma. You’ve probably heard of “dharma” before if you watched LOST, and even if you haven’t you know what it is, you just didn’t know its name. There are a lot of translations of “dharma,” but it’s an old word from the Vedic tradition (the spiritual tradition that gave rise to Hinduism and Buddhism), which basically says it’s your “divine duty.” It’s what God put you on this planet to do. In the Bhagavad Gita (super old book, probably older than the Bible), a warrior, Arjuna, is complaining to his friend, Krishna (God in disguise), that he has to go to war and kill his friends and family members in an epic battle between good and evil. “Wouldn’t it be better,” I would paraphrase him saying, “if we all gave up this war business and became monks in the mountains?” God basically responds, “Don’t be a fucking idiot. You’re a warrior, your job is to be a warrior. This world needs you to be a warrior, and if you don’t do that you’re fucking yourself up and fucking everyone else up.” We all have our parts to play that are ours and ours alone.

Macklemore talks a lot about dharma in his music, but in his song Vipassana he says,

“I was put here to do something before I’m lyin’ in that casket
I’d be lyin’ on the beat if I said I didn’t know what that is
The world’s a stage and we play a character, I found him
It took me 20 something years and a bunch of shitty sound checks “

Basically he’s saying he knows what his dharma is, he recognizes that he’s gotta be this one little piece in the puzzle that makes up all of us.

Before YOLO, everyone was saying “Just do you,” which is actually an interpretation of one of the things Krishna says to Arjuna when Arjuna wanted to escape his seemingly impossible dharma. Krishna said,

“It is better to perform your dharma poorly than someone else’s dharma well.”

Just do you.

A lot of people go their whole lives never knowing their dharma. Or they divorce themselves from even finding it. Maybe they know what it is but because of car payments, parental expectation, or seeming impossibility they give it up. Please don’t think I’m trying to say that if you follow your dharma you will do something on the world’s stage.

Many people’s dharma is raising children to the best of their ability. My Algebra teacher was on her dharma – she taught the shit out of algebra to 8th graders in a tiny school in upstate Connecticut. She loved every minute of it. Everything about it, the math, the kids, communicating complex information and processes in such a way that was nurturing and taught the systems as well as engendering curiosity, mastery, and (most importantly) confidence. She’s a math genius, offered a half a million dollars to go work for big oil and help them with drilling. But she would rather get paid a pittance to do her divine work.

I find a lot of people who don’t know what their dharma is, and that’s okay. We live in a world that sells very few versions of dharma. It seems most people think that they should have a dharma like someone on tour wearing leather pants, or someone else on the Heat. But pursuing someone else’s dharma will always leave you unsatisfied, creating a feeling of lacking, and ultimately force you to fight harder for something you think you need but don’t. It’s a horrible, damaging, and destructive cycle.

Macklemore is lucky that he knows what his dharma is – when you listen to his music you can hear it, every word he speaks is truth. Whether it’s in his love song to his Cadillac or describing his shame with his relapse. I came to Kith because Ronnie knows what his dharma is, and he’s on it. He burns for it. Whether it’s designing a sneaker in 5 minutes that now sells on eBay for 4 figures, or a jacket that went through 8 samples over a year that never gets released. Dharma isn’t about results, it’s about the work. It’s not the meaning of life, it’s the action of it.

I discovered my dharma, my work, a few years ago. I’m one of the lucky ones. I know exactly what it is I need to do. So, I’m going to go do that. I have to do that. When I was talking John (the a designer for Real Eyes Realize) he told me that I was being really brave. But, what I told him and what is true, is that it’s not bravery when it’s the only option.

I’m not sure where it’s going to take me – and that’s really scary. There’s a lot of fear. A lot of doubt. If I wanted to stay comfortable, getting all the sneakers I want, catching praise for something that I’m only okay at (really, there are so many better product photographers than me), I could stick around. There’s a lot of work to do at Kith, some of which I’m alright at. But, there’s something that I’m good at that I need to bring to the world – even if it ends up amounting to nothing. There’s some work I need to do. If I didn’t do this it would be the great shame of my life. I opened saying that regret is a part of life, especially if you’re living fully. But there are some regrets that are unforgiveable. Passing up on your dharma is one of those things. Because your dharma is the work you do for your world, not yourself.

So, I’m going to go write a few books. (I told Ronnie early last year about these books. That I think they’re going to change the world. But, we’ll see. I’ve got to write them first – and then you’ll all have to decide.)

Thanks for sticking with me guys. I’ve been treated better than I could have hoped. This isn’t goodbye, because I’ll be in line with you now. See you on the other side.

(And, yes, you can all unfollow me on Twitter and Instagram now. I won’t be offended.)

United Arrows’ Beauty & Youth has teamed up with New Balance to bring the “Beauty & Youth” 1700. An upper made almost entirely of rich navy suede with a mesh vamp, the sneaker features textural and tonal contrasts with hits of 3M and tan leather. The cream leather lining plays off the grooved midsole with hits of navy all around. A graphic collage inspired sock liner commemorates the collaboration. The limited collaborative sneaker is available now for $160 at Kith Manhattan and KithNYC.com.

The Nike Air Penny 5 takes on two new colorways for Winter 2013. The Penny 5 “Total Crimson” combines neon red in contrast with a black sole for a very bold look. The “Royal Blue” option brings a rich blue upper with white accents, and zebra print detailing all over the shoe. The performance based shoe features Nike’s technologies with mesh panels on the side, a colored midsole and an air bubble on the outsole for shock absorption. Both styles are available at Kith NYC stores and by phone order at 646-648-6285 for $165 USD.

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If you follow my Instagram – which is about to get super boring again – you may have seen the bed I’ve been sleeping on for the past few nights. I’m sitting on it right now as I type this. The mattress is 24 inches wide, 4 inches thick, and not quite long enough for me (I’m 5’7”). I was given one pillow and one sheet. I was able to get another sheet because it gets so cold here at night that despite 4 layers on top, 2 pairs of socks, polar fleece pants, and a wool hat I’m still cold.

When it comes to water, we follow the old rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” We’re in the mountains, so all the water is carried up to us. Our water tank empties from time to time. Today we spent the afternoon at the beach where many – including me – got their first shower of the trip. I could only stand to wash my hair – even at the resort the water was not heated and came out in a trickle.

Teeth are brushed with bottled water. The electricity gets turned off when we’re all in bed. Soap and towels are brought in by the participants from their homes. Resources here are scarce. But everything that I’ve described represents a situation that is better than a lot of people have here. For many, they must steal their electricity because it’s too expensive to keep the lights on at night. They have to carry their water on their heads up the mountain roads to their homes. Our first night we had a delicious dinner of chicken and rice prepared the traditional Creole way – with a well spiced red sauce. The chicken was lean and on the bone. But it was Haitian chicken – more expensive than the fat Dominican or Miami chicken, but it’s the best so the women in the kitchen used only the best for us.

That’s the way we’re treated here, with a lot grace and too much thanks. This morning we spent a few hours at a tiny school in the mountains. It’s run by a woman named Madame Claudette, in a small enclave carved into a hill. She thanked us for visiting the “hole.” The name of the school is “SOKAMA” coming from the Haitian words for Solidarity, Home, and Godmother. This school that serves just over twenty students of all ages, is what an American would consider “outside,” but when their corrugated tin roof was finished the children were so excited that Claudette gave up on trying to get them to focus on their lessons that day. The main room is missing one wall, meaning the space is open to see the rolling hills and Port au Prince below. They have two other dark rooms, but most of the work is done out there, outside.

When we brought the kids jump ropes, jacks, and bouncy balls, they were so excited that these impeccably behaved children couldn’t sit still. The girls lined up to get their nails painted. The boys hoarded bubbles and off brand Nerf balls. Two children were so excited they lost control of their bladders.

Their new roof cost only $250. That’s five dollars over the MSRP for Yeezy 2s. Soles4Souls presented Claudette with money today – more than the cost of the roof, but less than my rent in Brooklyn. Claudette has books, but she needs more. She has enough chairs for the kids to sit in during lessons, but not enough for them to sit at the tables to do their work – they stand around them instead. When she picks up the kids their parents ask her to keep them, and they’re serious – they cannot provide for them, or they can’t handle the strain.

Mme Claudette’s uniform for the kids is simple: a yellow shirt or blouse paired with a black dress/skirt or pants. When we came to see them, those that had uniforms were dressed in them. Those that didn’t have them approximated them – yellow teeshirts, some even green. They had taken time out of their Christmas vacation to prepare a presentation of songs, displays of color knowledge, even a skit wherein the kids conjugated verbs. We are a small group and they are a small school, but it was important for them to share this with us. When we started to leave Claudette asked us to wait and ran into a dark room. She came out with her beaming smile holding 25 straw hats having been painted with “HAPPY NEW YEAR.” She put them on each of us as her children sang to us.

I don’t know what the hats or paint cost her, but I know in a place where there’s nothing to spare it was more than just a gesture of generosity. It was a gesture of hope, of kindness, and out of joy. It was a gesture of thanks. Not because we gave her things – Claudette didn’t even believe our leader when she told us we were visiting. She made the hats before she knew she was getting a monetary gift. She is proud of the work she’s done and of the work she’s doing. And she’s thankful for the attention paid to that work, even if it doesn’t result in dividends. Sometimes when you have to create something on your own, when it seems too much to bear, just hearing “I see you” can be the most beautiful thing in the world. And make continuing possible.

We see her, and we see her work.

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Today we woke up with the sun and drove a few hours to a school that also acts as a church. That happens a lot here: the community centers that are used for religious purposes are also used for educational purposes. These are the places where people come together. These are the spaces where people learn – not just to ingest information, but also how to work together as a community.

Hand written across the wall above the pulpit is

“ASSEMBLONS-NOUS POUR NOUS FORTIFIER ET SORTONS POUR SERVIR”

Which my High School French tells me means

“We bring ourselves together to strengthen ourselves, and leave to serve.”

When we come in to bring shoes to these people, we aren’t an external force that is somehow adding some strange dynamic from the outside – instead we are fitting into a larger construct that is already built. They all lean on one another. They require their community to build, and their community gives what it can.

The country has been built by hand, and is held together by the same hands. Every advertisement is painted on the side of building by hand, the public transportation is pieced together by creative welding, the buildings are built by hand –even the cinder blocks with which the buildings are build are made by men street side with shovels and molds.

This afternoon we went into Port au Prince to learn what little we could about Haitian history. Their history was paid for by the lives of innumerable men and women who were slaughtered during the slave trade through their years of fighting for independence and the following years of turmoil as they discovered the civics that would serve them best.

When you go to the governmental center of Port au Prince you find busy streets and fences. A few new buildings, some modular prefabs and a lot of rubble. When the earthquake hit only a few years ago, the government lost three quarters of their buildings – and in losing the buildings lost a lot of the people who were working in them. Their government was crippled and has only been half rebuilt. The palace doesn’t exist anymore, it’s just a pile of rebar behind a fence. But this is by design. The President would rather spend the money getting his citizens into homes than rebuild his own lavish home.

The square that we walked through, with artisans selling their paintings and maracas, was very recently a tent city. The fountain wasn’t painted blue, the statues weren’t visible. But those tents are gone now, and in their places are men and women happy to describe the monuments and the Haitian Flame of Freedom – “As long as it burns we cannot be slaves.” This is a people who have paid dearly for their history, and they’re proud to share it.

Not all the tents have been emptied. There are vast numbers who are still without homes. The credit that the government has offered to those who lost their homes isn’t enough to rebuild. So, many wait. They use their credit for rent or are going to use it as a piece of what they require. Property has been claimed by different people, foundations don’t exist to rebuild. There’s a lot of tension, and a lot of anger.

Most of what was lost in the quake wasn’t buildings, but the infrastructure not only of the government but also the economy. Without a home, they need to find a place to sleep. Without a place to do business, they need to find an income. If you lost your parents, your family, there’s no net to catch you anymore.

A woman who teaches at the school we were at this morning, Nadege, has started an orphanage for a few girls. Not long ago she only had three. Now she’s up to twelve. They’re finishing a second floor that will double her available beds. Her girls are happy, they’re well educated, clean, and well kept. They smile more often than not, their laughter echos through the cinderblock walls, out the empty window frames, and through the locked gates protecting them from the dangerous neighborhood around them. They love stickers, sunglasses, and hair bows. Nadege has stepped in to be the net to catch the girls whose parents cannot afford to offer a healthy life, or are not around to even make that decision. She’s accepted the girls who don’t have a family to bed, feed, or educate them. She’s come home to give a home to those who don’t have one.

The tents are disappearing, and the rubble is being put aside in waiting for the new buildings. But first, Haiti is worried about they’re people. And it’s a task they’re equal to. They have a long way to go, and many have still gone untouched by aid, but it seems that the focus is strong and well placed. Things are changing, however slowly.

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Usually when we do a distribution the group is predetermined, but we don’t know sizes before we go – most of these people have never been sized before, and aren’t even used to properly fitting shoes (they prefer them really tight because they’re used to wearing shoes long after they’ve grown out of them, undersized shoes are all they know). When people come into our shop in New York and don’t know their size it can be frustrating – but in this world, there’s no reason to know your size, they’ve never bought a pair of shoes before.

They come in small groups, huddled together and uncertain. Mostly wearing flip flops – many worn through with golf ball sized holes in the heels, they curve up on both ends – or shoes that look like athletic inspired dress shoes from companies without names – soles split all the way through, threads spreading and frayed. They take off their shoes and peel off their socks and stand with one of our representative to get sized. They’re so excited that they can’t figure out which way to stand, through laughter and high fives they’re directed properly and we write their sizes on their hands in marker. Next they go over to the washing station and get their feet washed.

Initially I was convinced it was a New Testament thing, but Soles4Souls is non-secular, and despite the intimate spiritual implications (regardless of religion) it’s purely pragmatic. They come in having worn the same shoes for months, if not years, their feet fit to their shoes and vice versa. Walking through the dirt and dust kicks a mess up on them. It would be a shame to make the new shoes dirty on first wear, so we clean their feet first. Karin mentioned that while washing them you can feel the contours that their feet have developed. And when you compare the map of their foot to their shoe you see they fit together perfectly. The ridges match the splits, the callouses match the holes. Once washed, they’re brought over for sizing wherein we get their size and have them put them on.

As is traditional for a Ronnie Fieg shoe, there are a few lace options and the kids hardly know what to do with them. But once they realize they can customize the way their new shoes look, they grab them like treasure. At first they don’t know whether to accept them or not but once they wise up they ask for more. The split tongue throws them off too, but it’s actually good for them. Having shoes without support means that some of their feet have developed in ways that aren’t that healthy – super high arches, or overly wide. The split tongue allows for molding to their feet resulting in a more comfortable shoe.

Some are ashamed of the shoes they walked in with. Leaving them behind and feigning confusion when we ask them if they want their old shoes back. One kid came in with sneakers whose toe box had been completely worn off. I tried to get a picture, but he refused to be documented with them – then took them away with him so I couldn’t take a picture of just the shoes. Perhaps the most healing that we’re able to do is offer a new piece of their realities that they can live without shame.

The kids we get shoes on and help aren’t the only people who come to see us. When word gets around what we’re doing, many more come than were anticipated. They crowd around the doors and gates, peering in through the windows, reaching hands and arms in yelling in Creole. They don’t yell at us, and they don’t yell out of anger – it’s excitement and impatience. They just want new shoes. They need new shoes. But they won’t get them from us today – we just don’t have enough. Buddy, the CEO of Soles4Souls who has brought his family with us on this trip is disheartened to remember that the aid we’ve extended is merely a “drop in a bucket.” There’s a lot more work to do.

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The air is opaque with dust and smog. Huge gouts of black soot spout for the unfiltered exhausts of vans that are covered in wooden construction and painted with Biblical passages in neon colors. Hands reach into our open windows asking for money. Words spoken to a stranger: “Mommy I’m hungry.” It’s that dangerous combination of performance with the promise of a truth – you know they’re just playing on your heart strings, but you’re convinced it’s still in earnest. Shantytowns lay up against newly constructed condos, still empty. Expanses of buildings push against each other like leaves in a yard casting shadows on undeveloped land, peppered by people like a park. No benches, no landscaping, stark wilderness next to a highway. Wild fires lick the streets, the smoke enriching the thick air. Rubble. There’s rubble everywhere. Whether it’s remnants of the earthquake three years ago, or waiting as stock to build something new is impossible to tell.

Haiti is a place in flux.

When you drive through it feels alive in a way that’s different from what we know. New York is alive because people are always on the go, trying to get from one place to the next, late for this meeting, on their way to that event – and the city acts as a board on which the population plays that game. In Haiti, it’s smaller, more intimate. There’s an immediacy, a closeness – it feels like it’s breathing on you. Every moment is about that and only that. A place where you have to walk for a half an hour through mountain roads to get to where you want to go – life is about life.

It’s easy to look at the kids pushing their dusty rags against your dusty van – calling it work for pay – and feel pity. It’s easy to drive without a main road and think about a lack of resources. It’s easy to miss the conveniences that we go to battle for and look down, or feel guilt for what you have. But it misses the point.

We can’t measure others wants and desires against our own. In the scenes I saw outside the window, through the smoke and exhaust, over the rubble and dust, between the trees and fire and jerry-rigged vans, I saw smiles. Lots of laughter, and no fear or worry. None of this I can know, of course. And certainly a large part of this is ascribed by me – but it’s easy to forget that people are happy in situations that would make you unhappy. Aid is important, and in many places is needed deeply. But always out of generosity and kindness. Out of a desire to support and uplift. Guilt is easy, but it’s false.

Unlike New York which allows it’s people to scramble upon it and live their torrential lives, Haiti holds the space for its people and tells them to take their time. The public clock that we have – a New England Patriots team clock – isn’t even plugged in.

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Nobody asked me, which I don’t say out of a need for pity but to put a context to how meaningful this is: it isn’t. So many people compile these lists and I thought, “What would I do?” So, here’s what I would do. I really just did this for myself, but this will probably give a lot of insight into my stylistic temperament (or lack thereof). And the conflicts within it.

10.) JORDAN IV Black/Red

There are two styles on this list that I wasn’t able to get my hands on, and this is the first. If you know my history with Jordans, you know I’m far behind. But the Black/Red IV is definitely high up on my “catch up” list. It’s going to take some quick and creative work for me to grab a pair of these before they sail up to the $300s. (Photo credit: Bartosz Wróblewski via SneakersAddict.com) (Personal note: these python Black/Red IVs that The Shoe Surgeon made trump everything. But a 1 of 1 doesn’t seem fair for a Top 10 list.)

9.) NIKE X COLE HAAN Lunargrand – Charcoal Grey Suede

Admittedly, this was an impulse buy – but the impulse came from the right place. A total sucker for hairy suede, I love expressive detailing especially in formally slanted styling. There’s a sense of humor behind these shoes. In the Kith offices sometimes we joke (?) that I’m trolling streetwear. These Lunar Grands are kind of a step in that direction. (Photo Credit: Cole Haan)


8.) NIKE Lunar Force One – White & Black Digi Camo

I couldn’t choose a color for this shoe, both the White and the Black Digi Camo are so awesome. In my self-education of the sneaker game, learning about the AF1 was an early lesson – how could it not be? It’s arguably the most classic sneaker of all time. And I’m a stickler for classics – I read Ancient Greek Lit in my free time. But any time a classic can be updated in a way that it enhances or adds a new chapter is always something that excites me. I doubt you’ll ever catch me in a classic pair of white AF1s – I think there’s very little I can’t pull off, but that would be one of the few pairs on that list. The LF1s, though, these I can rock without apology. (Photo Credits: Nike and Sole What?)

7.) NIKE Air Yeezy 2 – Black / Solar Red

This is an obvious choice and on everyone’s list. Maybe I have it here because who could take this list seriously if it weren’t on it? That being said, I do love the shoe. It’s modern without being too complicated. The few details on the shoe are bold without apology, but not excessive. Textural contrast is the name of the game, which is a choice I’ll always respect. There are a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s not out of hand. Also: a glow in the dark sole? Every day. (Photo Credit: mademoisellekdia.com, which seems to be a dead link.)

6.) RF X ASICS GT-II Super Red 2.0

The Super Red 2.0 has everything I need. The GT-II is a classic runner shape with subtle design elements. Ronnie’s choice of “Lightning Red” and pigskin work off of one another with a very loud color that’s being presented with the most luscious material. The grey sole offers a tonal contrast on top of the textural contrasts with perforation on the vamp and behind the ASICS stripes. It’s a statement, but, again, not excessive.

5.) NEW BALANCE M998GNR

I don’t know. There’s something about this shoe that just hits me to my core – and, no, it doesn’t make any sense. There’s nothing “special” about this shoe except that I love everything about it. Grey suede and navy mesh form a subtle base on which the brightest white laces and lining sing. 3M shows up in all the right places and two hits of red scream from the midsole. It’s a colorway that looks like everything a classic is, but the details prove its contemporary reality. Subtlety, volume, tone.

4.) NIKE Inneva Woven

If you are lucky enough to own a pair of Innevas, you know how special they are. If you don’t have a pair, you may still understand – but, more likely, you’re like me before I put them on and think we’re all insane. This sneaker is really something else. The way the upper is constructed allows it to literally form to the shape of your foot within the first 20 minutes of wear. It is literally the most comfortable shoe of all time, because it’s perfectly around your foot. Not to mention the subtly (I’m a broken record) of the black and grey broken up by the unique all woven upper. It also skips that little horn on the toe that all other Nike wovens seem to have.

3.) NIKE Free Powerlines Hyperfuse – Rainbow

Initially I joked I was going to buy these to wear to Pride next year, I ended up falling in love with these shoes. They replace subtlety for color. A lightly speckled free sole and mostly black upper allows the brightly colored stripes to really make a statement. The shape of the shoe, being a runner, is unobtrusive and slim. So, while making a statement allows to be perfectly functional in a way that other style sneakers aren’t. They stay comfortable all day – while remaining an awesomely fun option. These are one of those sneakers that I get jealous of people I see wearing them, until I remember my pair is safely at home on my shelf.

2.) NIKE Flyknit Trainer – White / Black

If you know me, you know I love Flyknits. I have as many pairs as I can get my hands on, but this is the one I wanted from the start. And this is the one that continues to allude me. In fact, I even had someone with a pair that was going to sell them to me and the deal kept falling through. Unreturned emails, no follow up. Really breaks my heart. But they’re a gorgeous shoe. The sleek runner silhouette allows the texture and process of the Flyknit construction to really show itself – and this white option makes for a shoe that super clean. Still hunting. (In other news, the IOA Flyknit is by far the best and craziest version. But, you know… Good luck with that.) (Photo Credit: Nike Store)

1.) RF X NEW BALANCE M1300NSL Salmon Sole

I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t surprised these were at the top of my list, initially. When I first had to shoot these (for a shoot you’ve never seen pictures from, which is a good thing – the shoot was “no bueno”), I definitely thought they were cool, but was more attracted to other upcoming collabs. It wasn’t until after the release and I’d owned them for a while that I really started to appreciate these sneakers. I actually remember sitting in my bed editing photos for some other sneaker and seeing them out of the corner of my eye on my floor near the door and thinking “Whoa! What are those?!” It was like seeing them for the first time, and that’s what happened – I really saw them again. They have everything I’ve mentioned above. The navy upper sets a subtle tone that the bright blue and salmon sole play off of. It’s that play between light and dark, nubuck and mesh and leather, expected navy and unexpected pink and bright blue. Within them there’s an inherent contrast like – not to put too fine a point on it – this list.

Not a lot of lists, I’m sure, have the Yeezy 2, GR New Balances, and Cole Haans sharing space, but that’s where my head is at and that’s what I try to impress on freshman sneaker enthusiasts. Buy and wear what you like, not what’s “right” for you. If you wear it without apology, it will work. Everything else is just style suggestions from people who don’t know you and have no business making those decisions for you. Have fun.

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This is an oldy but one of the most powerful music videos I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for repetition and the subtle changes in habits that speak to a larger shift and story.

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Full disclosure: In this post you’ll see both my embarrassment, and how little I know about Jordan Brand – to this day.

When introducing my gateway sneaker and my first grail, I mentioned that when I started really looking at sneakers the way I do now my focus was solely on Nike Dunks. As someone who collects in totality, a style that has a deep well of highly collectable variations was the perfect inlet. But after finally getting a pair of Bison Red Toes (despite the fact that they didn’t and still don’t fit), I allowed myself to take a breath and look outward.

If you don’t know anything about Jordans it’s hard to see a through line with the models. Obviously if you look at the 4 and 5 side by side, it’s impossible to not see the progression. Likewise the 6 to 7. 10 to 11. You could even argue that the asymmetry introduced in the 12 is the defining theme in the 13. But, to the uninitiated it’s impossible to draw the line between a Jordan 1 and a Jordan 11. Unless you’re savvy enough to see the Jumpman you’re not going to know it’s from the same lineage. Especially if you don’t even know to look for a Jumpman. So, it took me a long time to even know what Jordans are.

What I did know is that I liked what I saw. And what I saw were the Jordan 5 “Green Beans.” (I call them that because that’s what Google tells me to call them, so if you hate these nicknames – forgive me. Jordan Brand is still a sect I’m trying to educate myself on, especially its history.) The flair along the midsole, the rubber netting on the saddle, the springy lace thing that is usually reserved for the pull ties on jackets. There are a lot of bells and whistles on the 5, and I loved them. They were everything the Dunk wasn’t: a whole lot of design, but subtle colors.

My first attempt at a Jordan was a Jordan 4 Black Cat – what I ended up with were horrible fakes that were about 18 sizes too big and unwearable. I eventually donated them to the homeless and decided to only buy retail since I didn’t know enough to spot fakes – and obviously had no idea what my size was going to be in these monsters. What I really wanted were Black/Cement IIIs, as I could tell – even with what little I knew – they are an epic shoe. I could go on about them, but this isn’t the place. All I knew is that they hadn’t come out in years, and were supremely expensive. Way out of my budget. If I had it I would have paid it, gladly. But I was teaching yoga at the time, and keeping my expenses tight. I eventually discovered that these things had release dates (who knew!), and saw that one was coming up. It was for a Spizike which seemed like a good idea at the time. The worst things always do. All the same bells and whistles as the 5, a red, white, and blue colorway, and the perfect excuse for a Christmas present to myself. Something I claim 7-10 times every December.

I know now that it was a horrible choice. They’re a hideous shoe. Not that I would ever tell them to their face, for fear of hurting their feelings, but I would never wear them into a situation where I needed to impress – because they don’t make me feel impressive. They make me feel like I had no idea what I was doing and was just buying to get a piece of history. Which has its own merits. But when there’s a variety as wide as that within Jordan Brand, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel before looking at the cream on top. I convinced myself these were a good choice because of the cement print. And that they were Jordans. That’s the full extent of PROs. The lining says “DO YOU KNOW?” I obviously didn’t…

The lessons learned with cash are learned most quickly, and unless I did it in secret (for the Stealth, or Infrared, or Bordeaux, or Black/Red…), I’d probably skip every Spizike. Not that I don’t appreciate what they stand for – but they’re playing second fiddle to an orchestra of firsts.