It seems like every industry or hobby has its go-to source for the latest news and information. For those of us who love sneakers, that publication has to be Sneaker Freaker. Enthusiasts clamor for the latest issue and can’t seem to wait to share pics of upcoming releases first seen in the small-sized, full-color matte pages of the magazine. In a culture crowded with blogs and other online sources for “information and news”, the reality is that most become SkyMall for sneakers with lots of pretty pictures of shoes with little original content or opinion (and no, top 10 lists and “You might be a sneaker head if…” articles don’t qualify). Even in this digital age, the print version of Sneaker Freaker continues to scoop new and upcoming releases regularly. Beyond that, the writing and expanded articles are detailed, thoughtful, informative and entertaining. The man behind the success is none other than Woody, founder and editor since he created SF in 2002. Thankfully I was able to catch up with the man himself to pose my “Five Questions” and naturally his answers were not regular old stock feedback. See for yourself below.
1. We all have that one moment or pair that was an “aha!” moment in sneakers. What was yours and how would you describe it?
The memory is a bit foggy these days, but here’s how I recall things. Back in the early-90s, I was in New York City wandering around the Canal St area when I found the gulliest-looking sneaker spot. There was no store name on the door and the general vibe was low-rent at best. When I walked inside, it was a revelation. About 30 amazing different Air Force 1s graced the wall, which precipitated a total mind-melting freak out! With limited funds and small backpack, choosing one single pair of Uptowns to haul around on my travels was a sweat-inducing nightmare. I finally settled on black canvas with a maize Swoosh, which is still my all-time favorite combination. We did a lot of miles together over the years but sadly, they went to sneaker heaven a long, long time ago. I still regret binning them, even if they were full of holes and totally junked. Those unexpected moments of pure retail discovery are long gone now. RIP.
2. If you had to choose only one sneaker to have – currently in your collection or not – what would it be and why?
Gimme a pair of classy Air Force 1s every day of the week and I’ll be a happy man. Nike has done some heinous things to the Air Force in recent years, but the new Nikelab editions in solid colours and premium leathers are just about perfect. I say ‘just about’ because I wish they would stop replacing the real airbags with a fat wedge of squishy foam and a tiny air widget underneath. It’s way too heavy and spongy AF! How is that better in any way than the original? I’m all for progression, don’t get me wrong, but why mess with perfection? And someone has to tell Nike to stop releasing those cheap-ass Ultra editions, especially the crummy Ultraforce Mids.
3. Who or what is your biggest and best design inspiration?
Depends if you’re talking about footwear or graphic design, but I’ll answer based on the latter as it’s a much more interesting field. I’ve always been inspired by the world of magazines and I still read about 20 different titles each month. Hot Rod, Wired, Street Machine and Vanity Fair are all interesting for different reasons, but if I had to pick one mag over all others, I’d go with The Face which was published in the UK in the 90s. It’s not around anymore, but it was the fucking coolest magazine. The content was a sexy mix of art, design, street wear, fashion photography, politics, celebrity worship and music all rolled into one tight package. They had a lot of sneaker content too. Neville Brody did all the design and layouts in the early years.
I also have to mention David Carson, whose ‘grunge’ design work on Ray Gun was as provocative as it was beautiful (and slavishly imitated by nearly everyone at the time). Running an entire text in the wingdings font as payback for a lame interview is still my favorite DGAF publishing story.
4. Hypebeasts. Resellers. Sponsored posts. Influencers. Doing it for the Gram. What is your take on the current state of sneakers and social media?
It is what it is – a shitstorm of the good, the mad, the ugly and the totally corny. At least it gives kids something to do with their fingers!
5. In 30 years, people in the sneaker world will look back and say Woody from Sneaker Freaker was….
too smart for his own good and too stupid to quit when he was ahead.