How the New York City Pigeon Became a Streetwear Icon

I’m friends with a lot of musicians who make a hit and 10 years later they’re still playing it. Pharrell still has to do “Happy.” Nas still has to do “One Mic.” So for me, yes, I get it when I’m asked to share the story. And I’m super honored to be able to continue to tell it.

Why do you think that sneaker hit so hard?

It was the right time. I mean, I love the design and it had great storytelling, but the timing was a big factor. The greatest luck was that the reporter who broke the story for them New York Post lived on Orchard Street. If Rachel Sklar didn’t live on Orchard Street, the entire mythology of the Pigeon Dunk might be different now because that newspaper cover is so tied to the actual shoe.

It elevated it from a downtown story to a citywide, and eventually a nationwide thing.

Quite. If it just ended up on Hypebeast, it just becomes a Hypebeast thing. But because it was on mail, it became a 90-year-old grandmother who lives on the Upper West Side. All of a sudden it became pop culture. Love it or hate it – and some people say the Pigeon Dunk killed the culture and took sneakers from a subculture to this ridiculous thing it is now – you can’t deny that the Pigeon Dunk really put sneaker culture on the map.

The book really documents the large number of collaborations over the years: Nike, Coke, Dr. Martens, Clarks, Beats By Dre, Timberland, New Balance, Puma and so many more. Was it intentional to make collaboration a cornerstone of your career, or did it just happen that way?

It wasn’t a goal or a goal. I was greatly inspired when I was young by graffiti artists in New York City and how I saw tags on all the subways, buses and trains throughout the city. Or Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant sticker. I remember one time, on one of my early Tokyo trips, when I was at the immigration counter in Narita [airport, in Tokyo]and I saw an Andre sticker on the immigration wall and I was like, “Wow, this guy gets his everywhere.”

There’s actually a term for it in graffiti culture: going “all over town” means you’ve hit every subway line, so every neighborhood and neighborhood sees your tag. And that was the goal of a graffiti artist. So when I started doing one or two collaborations, I certainly wasn’t like, “I’m going to do a million collaborations.” But it clicked for me when I did the New Balance collaboration after the Nike collaboration.

A lot of people would say “Yeah, why don’t you just sign a long term contract with Nike?” And when New Balance gave me the opportunity to work together, that’s where the graffiti mentality clicked and I liked the idea of ​​doing something with one brand and then almost the same thing with another brand. To me it is the same brand on two different trains.

I hear the criticism and the comments like, “When are you going to do something different? You keep beating a pigeon and turning it gray.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that’s kind of the point.” Because now, when you zoom out 25 years later, it’s pretty stupid that I was able to basically go to town with corporate America. I was in able to bomb on all these brands.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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