For anyone who has traveled through the world of streetwear, the madness for sneakers or urban culture, the name of Jeff Staple (New Jersey, 45 years old) is a kind of philosopher’s stone: one of the main culprits when it comes to diagnosing why something that started on the streets of New York and Los Angeles and that functioned as an identity engine for certain young people in certain neighbourhoods, it ended up being a global phenomenon that generates billions of euros each year and that seems to have no ceiling.
“I don’t know if I’m to blame, but it’s an honor to be part of that list,” says the designer by video call. He entered the Olympus of lovers of sneakers when 18 years ago he created the Pidgeon, shoes with which Nike paid homage to New York. On February 22, 2005, riots broke out at his Orchard Street store when hundreds of kids eager to get a pair had to deal with gang members who wanted to steal them. The story ended with police intervention and a mythical front page the next day in the New York Post, the other great newspaper in the city: “Locura por las zappas”.
“The fact that we are still talking about it after so many years and that everyone continues to ask me about it is a sign of its relevance. Of course I didn’t know anything about what was going to happen,” says Staple. “It’s like that group that is always asked to play the same hit, I don’t mind being asked. The secret of madness? I think it was the right time. It also happened that a journalist from the New York Post he lived on the same street and that’s how he jumped from the street to the mainstream: if it weren’t for her, perhaps the thing would have remained a street anecdote”.
Staple became one of the most sought after names in the fledgling streetwear industry, limited editions flooded the planet and if someone wants to get a Pidgeon today, they must prepare a minimum of 40,000 euros. “Everything has changed, but in a way and despite the disaster that was the pandemic, I think those who are in this business and survived came out of there with new ideas and a new perspective. If you had asked me about him streetwear and the shoes a few years ago, I would have told you that the golden age had already passed, but now I really want to see what we are capable of doing in the future”, he says.
New Balance, The North Face, Timberland, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre, Puma or Clarks have already passed through the hands of Staple, who has also always claimed the roots of their culture (“in my institute there were 1,600 students and only three were Asian”) and the obsession with trying to absorb everything: “New York graffiti artists have that expression of all city, which means leaving your mark in every neighborhood, on every subway line, from Staten Island to the Bronx. I really like that philosophy, that of being everywhere”, says the American, who has become a global label. Something that celebrates with the publication of a book called Jeff Staple, Not Just Sneakers (Rizzoli), in which he compiles the good (and bad) moments of a memorable career. “Maybe I sound naive, but I’m very proud to have come this far,” he concludes.