Sneaker culture is no stranger to camp outs, raffles and resells. Over the years, purchasing sneakers have become much more difficult for individuals. Consumers of sneakers were once categorized as two types of people; Ones who bought footwear for their sole purpose and others who bought sneakers because they were collectors. A sneaker can either allow you to tell a story or it can bring you profit.
Over the years, there has been an obvious a shift in sneaker clientele; Sneaker collecting was once a hobby and a select group of people were the sole collectors. These people earned the title of a sneakerhead, they had a passion for shoes and aimed to collect as many as they could. Sneakers are now considered an investment and a way to make money. Sneaker release dates now cause a different kind of chaos. There was once a time where the only barrier that stood between you and the sneaker you wanted was availability in your size, however now the barriers to stop you have “NYPD” written on them.
This shift in sneaker consumers can be traced back to the iconic 2005 release of the Staple Pigeon Dunk SB. This shoe released at Reed Space NYC and designed by designer jeffstaple. This iconic shoe was designed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Nike SB Dunk and represented NYC. The original release poster only included the date and no photo of the shoe was ever available to the public. However, this didn’t stop the hundreds of people who packed the LES block ready to buy a sneaker they’d never seen before. Slowly, as the crowd grew in number, weapons (bats and knives on scene) and impatience, chaos commenced and drew the attention of the NYPD and various media outlets.
This sneaker had the classic SB dunk silhouette with a medium grey and white color way and featured the pigeon. Seeing the sky rocketed prices on ebay, made people realize that this shoe’s worth is way more than what you pay. For some, a sneaker is a special shoe that has a story or means something to you. For others it is simply an investment and a way to make money. Although criticized for the shoe’s design showing a lack of innovation, jeffstaple’s Pigeon SB’s are reselling for $7,000. The pigeon’s changed the way people outside of the culture viewed sneakers and has a lasting impact.
Who is jeffstaple?
jeffstaple, who’s real name is Jeff Ng is Chinese-American and a Parsons School of Design alum. Coming as no surprise, Jeff is a self-proclaimed sneakerhead, collecting since 6th grade. Once wanting to be an astronaut when he grows up, now is the founder of Staple Design, Staple Pigeon and Reed Space.
“It all came out of a need, a necessity or a passion to do it. That’s why it exists.“-jeffstaple
This pigeon logo is found on various products by the brands and collaboration pieces by Staple Design. This pigeon serves as the unofficial mascot of NY and a representation of the city Jeff grew up in.
“NY culture still has a level of authenticity that cannot be replicated.” –jeffstaple
Reed Space, now closed, was a hub for sneaker heads on the LES. “Reed Space” was named after Jeff’s high school art teacher, Michael Reed who passed away. The shop’s name pays homage to a teacher who had a lasting impact on Jeff. The shop opened it’s doors in 2001 just months after 9/11 and housed apparel, music, publications and even an art gallery. Over the years, more brands have picked up on this style of shop curation, however Reed Space was the first of it’s kind. Bringing together different subcultures together and allowing you to purchase a pair of sneakers and an album in the same shop; Reed Space was an NYC staple.
The Pigeon: Back in headlines
12 years later, the Pigeon is back in headlines and this time, as the “Black Pigeons” Nike SB Dunk. Designed once again by jeffstaple featuring the pigeon over a black and orange colorway and released at Extra Butter NYC. The release day of both of these sneakers shared two things in common, the pigeon and the packed lines waiting to purchase it.
The “Black Pigeons” brought back the nostalgia that many remember and brought excitement back to sneaker culture. Unlike in 2005, now the chaos, media coverage and resell was expected. There is a story behind the “Black Pigeons” leading listeners back to 2005; A shoe that is a piece of history that forever changed sneaker culture. The Pigeons have come full circle and not many shoes or brands can do that.
Over the years, street-wear has garnished a cult following. Supreme is no longer exclusively worn by skaters and kids who grew up in NYC and developed a genuine love for the brand. The red box logo has even gained the interests of Saudi royalty, maybe a future unsought by James Jebbia.
While discussing the future of streetwear for Complex, alongside Vashtie and Bobby Hundreds, Jeff stated, “There’s still a very easily identifiable thing that is streetwear,” he continued. “But, as streetwear continues to get inspired by fashion, it’s going to change.”
Stating that streetwear has changed is an understatement. There has been an influx of brands and high demand from customers who outnumber the availability of a product. Due to the shift in clientele, unfortunately not all may care about the origin or stories brands are telling.
Small boutiques such as Reed Space and ALIFE are disappearing. Shops such as Kith and Dover Street Market may provide customers with apparel amongst other items, the difference is the intimate feel of a small space in-comparison to a 3 story store.
With an ever-changing culture and fleeting trends, it is often difficult to stay relevant. Jeff’s genuine passion to bring things to the culture allows him the ability to maneuver through the shifting world of box logos and camp hats. In all projects, it is evident that his aim was to bring subcultures together and offer something to the city that inspired him.
Jeff Ng recognizes the responsibility and power brands have and proves that it is possible to keep creating with integrity. The pigeon’s return shifts the narrative back to helping the culture grow.
If ur keepin track at home, you’ll notice that I’m not actually tryin to sell sneakers. I’m tryin to tell stories! 🙌🏽⚫️🐦
— jeffstaple (@jeffstaple) November 9, 2017