This Friday, October 13th, Sneaker Pimps is
set to make its return to NYC. In anticipation
of the event, KATC sat down with Peter Fahey,
the founder of Sneaker Pimps, for an in depth
discussion on the entire history of the show.
In Part I, of this two part interview, Peter
takes us from growing up Skating in Australia
to what could have been the premature end of
Sneaker Pimps, nearly three years ago.
Continue reading for Part I of our interview with Peter Fahey
KATC: You are originally from Sydney, Australia. What is the sneaker culture in Australia like and how did that effect your wanting to be a part of sneaker culture?
PF: I got into collecting shoes from Skateboarding. I was never a Basketball kid or anything like that. Most collectors that I knew in Australia in the early ’90s were all about the Jordans. I always liked them, but I never had the money for those. When you skate you go through shoes fast, you bust a pair in a week or two, so I always found myself out looking for shoes. Gradually I took more of a closer look at what I was wearing and started getting more interested. That’s kind of how it started. A lot of my friends at the time who weren’t necessarily Skateboarding who were more Basketball type of kids, were collecting all of the Jordans. When I left High School, I started throwing events in Sydney, like Hip-Hop shows and Skateboarding competitions. At all of my events I always tried to push something different. One day I was in L.A. on vacation and I was kicking around a few ideas with someone there and we came across the idea of doing a sneaker show. This was before Soled Out or any of those other shows and before I was even into the Sneaker Culture like that. I loved them but I didn’t know too much about what was going on outside of Australia. We got back home and within two weeks we just put it together and threw the show, no sponsorship, nothing like that. I got my friends together we got about two-three hundred shoes, all rare shoes, nothing painted on or anything like that, no artwork. It was so low key. We printed like 500 maybe 1000 flyers, nothing passed them around to friends or whatever. No admission fees, none of that. It got swamped, hundreds of people came.
KATC: This was in Sydney, Australia?
PF: Yeah this was in Sydney, Australia, January ’03 right around my birthday. So we did that show and I remember during the show I sat there looking at all of the shoes all over the wall and it really did look amazing. The visual aspect of seeing that many dope shoes on the wall was very exciting, especially judging from the crowd that came. Right after that show General Pants from Australia stepped to me. They were the first company to be like “we’ll give you money to do a show”. That was kind of mind boggling to me because this was just a little side project. So we did one in Melbourne, which is the next major city away from Sydney, and that one was even bigger. After that we just started flipping them, doing them all over the place and we eventually moved out and did them all across the States on the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour. And then the rest is history to where we are now.
PF: But growing up in Australia and collecting shoes is definitely a lot harder out there then it is say in the States. In Australia, take a pair of Blazers, they would be $190 AUD and that’s the cheap price. So its very expensive. And Jordans, so much money. It’s really hard to find stuff there too. It wasn’t really until the Nike SB thing blew up out there that it became accessible to a lot of people. Jordan collectors out there tended to be more really into shoes, whereas the Nike SB crowd, was more into what Nike SB was doing like bringing Futura and all of these artists in. Having done this show all over the world now, when I do go back to Australia and do it, Australia has totally caught up. All of the footwear companies are really starting to put their own programs in place to bring stuff there. It is no different from doing a show in San Francisco than it is in Sydney. The same amount of people come, its Street Culture, its blown up. The other cool thing about Australia and a lot of people ask me this, “Woody from Sneaker Freaker is from out there and you’re from out there. What’s going on in Australia that all of these people are doing their own thing?” It’s pretty obvious to me that because America and Asia are pretty far away from Australia, we are all the way at the bottom of the world, it takes so long for us to get stuff from overseas and its so expensive to buy it, that I guess Australians are forced to create their entertainment or their own publications. So a really cool Streetwear scene developed out there.
KATC: When you were younger and skating in Australia, what sneakers were the skaters wearing out there?
PF: Some of the skaters out there, which is really funny, I don’t know how to put this…I know how to put it in Australian terms but it would be really hard for you to understand it… There are these groups of kids out there that I guess you would call “urban”, and I’m sorry for using that word but that’s the only way to try and describe it. They were kind of like the thug type dudes that would roll people for their money, those kids mostly wore Jordans. Then you have the skateboarders on the other side. So I remember when I used to start skating heavily I would see some of the kids downtown skating in Jordans! That to me was like are you kidding! These guys are skating in Jordans, that’s so Gangsta! Homey was the term for it, that’s what we called them. But mostly kids were rocking DCs, ES, DVS. Most of the really core skate shoe companies was what people were rocking.
KATC: Was there a presence from the “Big Three” sneaker brands out there?
PF: Yeah…but more on a sportswear performance level, kind of corny, you wouldn’t mess with it. It’s not that we didn’t get the Jordans but it was like, you have $200 to shell out for those? I remember when the Jordan VII or VIII came out, I was beside myself to get those shoes. This was way before I skated, I was dying to get them like every kid. I begged my mom for a month or two but I never got them. The best I got was Reebok Thunderjams. That was cool for me.
KATC: So you were on vacation here on the West Coast and you start talking with someone about possibly doing a sneaker show. How did that conversation come about and how did “Sneaker Pimps” come out of that?
PF: I was on vacation, however, I was out there to see a few people who were in the skate industry. I had this concept to create a Skateboarding Hip-Hop Art show. That traveled around. It wouldn’t be like your regular Skate competition, it would be like real spots replicated and it was going to have Hip-Hop music to go with it with some street art as well. I remember we were at the back of someone’s house just talking about this event and other cool events that we could do. We were talking and I remember thinking it would be cool to do something with sneakers. The original idea was to create an art gallery atmosphere with rare shoes on the wall. The idea stuck with me so full on that on the plane ride back I was just sitting there and thinking about it. As soon as I landed I called a few people that collected me to tell them that I had this idea. I told them lets get some shoes, throw them up on a wall, I have the venue, I will put the money up…I think it cost me $1,500 to do that first show. So they were down straight away I didn’t really even have to convince them.
PF: When it came time to do the flyer [for the first show] it was like what are we going to call it? So we were sitting there and I’m like “Sneaker Pimps”! Cause I know the band…Which has caused quite a bit of confusion over the years let me tell you that. It was the perfect word because we are showing off our sneakers, pimping shoes, as corny as it sounds. It came so easily there wasn’t even really too much thought behind it. Keep in mind, I never thought it would last four years across 25 countries…
KATC: Before you did that show in Sydney you had started collecting more seriously yourself?
PF: Yeah but only Skate shoes. I had a bunch of Vans, mad DC’s, a whole bunch of ES’s. I was such a Skate nerd. I skated 10 hours a day. Most of those shoes I’d put them on and skate in them, but if they didn’t feel right I would kick them off and throw them into the closet. The first time I got into Nike was when I saw the Zoo York Dunk. I used to love Zoo York before it got bought by Ecko and all that happened to it. I saw that shoe and thought this is the perfect low profile Skate shoe. I was like this is sick! I tried to go get a pair of course, but that was like when they first began to sell right out. From that point I was like ok I can’t get those, let’s get the “Sharks” or anything else that came out around that time from Nike SB that I was feeling. I thought it was such a great thing that they were doing. They tried to get into Skateboarding before…
KATC: Right they bought Savier…
PF: Right but even before that they did Nike Skateboarding which I guess not a lot of people recognize unless they skated cause Nike started throwing these big ads in magazines. But you would laugh at it, they were the worst shoes ever. I remember one dude skated it once and popped the whole front of top, they were so bad. I guess that’s when they bought Savier to try another angle. That wasn’t a bad idea except, I guess they realized that they were marketing a footwear company that wasn’t Nike. So then they got Sandy Boedecker and of course…
KATC: The rest is history….
KATC: How did that first show in Sydney go? What were the collections like and how was the reception?
PF: We had about 150 Jordan shoes, from I to XVIII in different colorways. Some Air Force 1s. Remember the Air Force 1s with the “L.A.” on the side of them? It was a white Air Force 1 and it had red and blue on it and it had “L.A.” on the side…We had those in there…Looking back on it man this is funny…This guy had a pair that had “AL” on it and it was supposed to be a factory second that he got. To me I was like that was a pretty sick shoe. Come to think of it now that thing could have been fake and we wouldn’t have even known it. That’s really funny, I’ve never thought back onto this this deeply…It was mostly Jordans, there were maybe about 10 pairs of Adidas, and other Nike’s like trainers and whatever.
KATC: What was the feeling of the crowd?
PF: Well it was mostly like hipster type kids that came. Lots of skateboarders. Lots of street artists that were like “hey you should paint on these shoes” and a lot of older people. Which is kind of interesting because most of the shows I do now are predominantly younger…
KATC: How many shows did you do in Australia until you came to the point where you wanted to take this to the United States?
PF: Well I’ll give you the complete lowdown because only people who are really close to me know this story. Interviewers never ask these questions. I was sitting in the first show and I was like we have to take this to Melbourne, but the art thing still never really kicked in until we finished the Melbourne show. So after Melbourne we were like we have to get artists to paint on shoes. So I went to the same sponsor like “let’s do another show in Sydney that has no rare shoes in it, just art shoes, and let’s call it 101″.
PF: Yeah, our idea was to get 101 artists to paint on sneakers
KATC: So you got rid of the Sneaker Pimps name or was it Sneaker Pimps 101?
PF: No it was just 101. I wasn’t thinking thinking too long term about Sneaker Pimps, it was like alright we did Melbourne that was cool, let’s do sneakers again but with art on them. So we did this show called 101, which should have been called Sneaker Pimps, but it wasn’t….We got 101 artists and we got this downtown alley way completely outside, and we had them bomb this thing. It was right downtown, we kind of did it a little illegally. This was so raw, there was construction going on. We just went in there put shoes on the wall and a gate up and made a party. We got kicked out a couple of hours later. The sponsor loved it. So after 101 we were like lets try to do Sneaker Pimps again and bring everything together and try to do it in Brisbane. After we took the show to Brisbane, which was the first time we introduced art shoes and rare shoes together, I knew a guy who was running the Warped Tour and he just started the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour. I hit him up on the fly and he was like this would work pretty well on the Sprite Liquid Mix. So we took half our art shoes and half of our rare shoes and we jumped on this tour and we went around 22 cities in America. It was funny because we were set up in this 10×10 tent just with shoes all over it, it was kind of raw. After that tour finished I went back to Australia and I was like “alright I’m done I’m moving on to the next project”. I was over it until I got an email from an executive at Reebok, completely random, about four months later. He was like “I want you to bring this show to Asia. Write me a proposal and let’s look it down”. So I sent him the proposal and he was like “no we can’t do it, that’s too much money”.
*For Part II of this interview, please click [here]*