BROTHERHOOD OF THE FEET: SANDY BODECKER

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There is perhaps no one man greater at understanding the passion and intricacies of both soccer and skateboarding culture and their impact on the masses than Sandy Bodecker. When we started this feature, Bodecker was alive. You can imagine our shock when we learned–in the middle of writing this piece–that the legend passed away on October 2nd, 2018 from a battle against throat cancer. Not only does this affect the tone of the piece, inevitably turning it into a homage to his legacy, but more importantly it affects the world of both soccer and skateboarding as a whole.

For those unfamiliar with the Nike veteran, Bodecker was the architect responsible for instigating both the Nike Football and Nike Skateboarding divisions. Through his own passion and deep-rooted understanding of just how important these two sports are within their respective worlds, Bodecker put it best, “if Nike was going to truly be a global sports brand then we had to be great at soccer…It was sort of a cultural imperative.” Knowing his impact on both these worlds, because let’s be honest, Nike dominates when it comes to sports–yes even skateboarding ripe with vital-to-the-culture DIY brands–it becomes our duty to share our interview with the man conducted only weeks prior to his passing.

Going through his answers, it becomes blatantly apparent that Bodecker was the perfect vessel for channeling the importance of spreading both soccer and skateboarding culture to an audience the size of Nike’s. While it is safe to say that both sports ran strong the world over prior to Nike’s involvement, it is equally as notable just how much the brand has influenced and educated the general public since. And while this intro now seems to sound a little like its sponsored by Nike, I’m only emphasizing the scale of Nike’s influence on the two sports to help emphasize just how important Sandy Bodecker was as the man behind the scenes.

But before we delve into what made Bodecker so integral to soccer and skateboarding, it’s worth looking at how he got there. Bodecker’s last position at Nike was its VP of Special Projects, his first was footwear test coordinator when he joined the then running orientated brand back in 1982. Since then, Bodecker has held titles such as VP of Sports Culture, VP of Design, VP of Action Sports and more. Having moved internally throughout the company, Bodecker was able to fully understand, perhaps more than most, what Nike’s ethos stood for. While it’s easier to bring that ethos to the masses, the challenge is bringing what the masses has to say back to the brand. Bodecker was an expert at this. “Sandy aimed to visit a series of local skateshops to listen, learn and hopefully get a chance to inspire the skate industry with a newly reinvented Nike SB Dunk,” Nike states in an article on Nike News last year.

This is what made Bodecker so important to not just Nike, but to the people who followed and appreciated what Nike offered. You’ll be hard pressed to find a true SB Dunk head who doesn’t at least recognize his name. “With its focus on artistic individuality, creative collaboration, and epic limited edition product drops, Nike SB ruled and defined the sneaker game for close to a decade. None of it would have been possible without Sandy’s genuine passion and appreciation for both skateboarding and what would later become known as sneaker culture,” writes Woody from Sneaker Freaker mag in his own homage article.

And then there’s Nike Football, a now world-leading sponsor for the sport with many of its top players under its roster, and a major part of what soccer is within America, with Nike being the sponsor for half of the MLS in its inception. Soccer has been a part of Bodeckers life since even before his formative years, having “played soccer since I was old enough to walk,” he tells us. Bodecker saw just how important soccer was to the world, and if Nike wanted to be the biggest sports brand in the world, it had to get involved with soccer. Bodecker made that happen, and we thank him everyday for it. But not only is he passionate about soccer and skateboarding and having the rare ability to professionally connect the dots within their culture, he’s also a comedable human being. When asked what he would like to see more of in soccer culture, his answer couldn’t have been more dignified, “it would be to become a loud voice of positive social change, whether that’s to fight racism, poverty, classism, environmental challenges.”

With the below interview being perhaps one of his last, we urge you to read through what Sandy Bodecker has to say about the current state of soccer and skateboarding, his thoughts on where both worlds are heading towards, how his time at Nike really looked like, and much more. In addition to our exclusive interview, we also had the privilege of documenting Sandy’s own archive of footwear which you can enjoy below. Sandy, here’s to you, and may you Rest in Power.


Having been with Nike for so many years, you must have seen a lot of development within the brand outside of just running. Talking specifically about soccer, how would you word Nike’s approach towards the beautiful game? What is its ethos behind soccer?
I think the first word I would choose is “committed”… in the same way that we have been committed to running and the entire running community, we do the same with soccer. It starts with being connected to and fully understanding the game at all levels, and continually exploring innovative ways to enable players and teams as the game continues to evolve. Having personally experienced the game on every continent with the exception of Antarctica, you see and feel the passion the world has for the game and we use that passion to help fuel our innovation.

You’ve been integral in pushing soccer culture within Nike. Why was/is this important to you?
I’ve played soccer since I was old enough to walk. My father was Danish and I had as much a European upbringing as American, and being from the east coast (NYC/New England) I played from middle school on in both organized as well as pick-up games. Being aware of the importance of this as the biggest global team sport, if Nike was going to truly be a global sports brand then we had to be great at soccer… It was sort of a cultural imperative.

What do you look to for inspiration when it comes to soccer at Nike?
The inspiration comes from the athletes, the teams, the coaches and of course the fans. They all provide many nuanced layers of inspiration for Nike and me personally. We value their insights to the game and how we can help them perform at the highest level and to meet or exceed their individual or collective potential.

Can you highlight some of the main challenges you’ve found within soccer culture from a global standpoint?
I don’t really view the cultural differences as challenges but more as opportunities to deepen and broaden our understanding and connection to the game. The rich and diverse cultural views and approaches are what make it the “Beautiful Game.”

Being a soccer-orientated media platform, we see a lot of marriage between soccer and other forms of creativity, be it art, music, other sports, etc. What’s been the most obvious marriage for you and why?
I think social media has provided a platform and given a shared voice to athletes and fans. Due to the global nature of the game and the size of the global fan base soccer stars have a bigger social media base than any other sport. This combined with much higher level of outside interests by many of the biggest players and the money they’re making, make it a natural melting pot of the different cultures of art, music, design, entertainment…it’s analogous to basketball in the US but on a global scale. If I had to pick one for soccer, I would pick music as that is the true universal language that has no boarders.

Seeing as we’re enjoying the World Cup right now, is there a country that you’re rooting for? (while we’re passed this period now, we decided to leave this in to keep the interview in its original form)
Well, with the US out, I’m “doubling up.” One side of me is barracking for Denmark (obvious reason) and the other side is for Australia, my adopted home. Not much chance here but I value loyalty.

While the future is hard to predict, where do you see the sport of soccer going in the far future in terms of product innovation?
Soccer like any sport has a unique set of demands and in general players want to do more with less, you couple that with how the game itself continues to evolve and future environmental factors, there are lots of areas to explore from an innovation standpoint. As technology and material science improve, these will also provide new paths to explore and apply.

What would you like to see more of within soccer culture?
If I had one thing I would personally love soccer culture do more of, it would be to become a loud voice of positive social change, whether that’s to fight racism, poverty, classism, environmental challenges…basically to rally globally and collectively to enable positive change.

What’s your personal favorite soccer shoe?
Ahhh this will show my age but I’m partial to the original Ronaldo Mercurial

Given your involvement and influence on Nike SB, what were your thoughts on the Skateboarding division before you got involved, and where did you want to take it to – and why?
There were certainly some parallels that I considered when I accepted the Nike SB challenge. The main ones were, in both cases we were outsiders looking in and neither the skate or the soccer community were asking or looking for us to join in. It was really the opposite to that. The second, what we needed to do to gain a foothold was not going to happen overnight and we needed to be willing to commit 100% over an extended period of time before we could judge if we were going to be successful or not. With SB we wanted to be considered over time as a real and committed part of the core skate community but do it in a way the was unapologetically Nike. Essentially we wanted and needed to earn the respect, not buy it, as many expected us to do.

There are a lot of connection between soccer and skateboarding in terms of their cultures, such as borrowing designs when it comes to fashion and shoes. Being involved in both, how would you describe the connection in your own words?
There are definitely parallels from a cultural perspective and you see that where ever you travel to. I think the connection to the art community is a little stronger in skate due to board and T-shirt graphics playing such an important role and probably is pretty equal when it comes to music. But it does depend on where you are in the world. As an example, if you go to Brasil the top 2 sports for boys are skate and soccer and the girls are catching up… the creative community in general is deeply immersed with both so there it’s pretty equal. While is the US, skate is definitively ahead on the creative connectivity due how the sports have developed. From a footwear perspective both sports have their sort “ah ha” moments that sort of launched them into the collab mode. For soccer it was the 98 World Cup and the original Ronaldo Mercurial in silver/blue/yellow. Prior to that it’s was primarily black/White and that opened the flood gates to where we’ve evolved to today. For skate it was the SB Dunk collab’s we did with our original skaters Gino, Reece, Richie and Danny, along with early work on the AF1 that helped launch what is now the sneaker collector culture. Today you see those connections evolve with collab’s like the Neymar/Jordan collab on and off pitch.

What are some of your favorite soccer silhouette’s that you’ve pulled inspiration from specifically for Nike SB?
The two that stand out are the early Tiempo indoor and the first Mercurial Flyknit Hi both were leveraged into skate shoes that core skaters would use every day. The Tiempo SB has had 3 different iterations over the years.

Where do you see the connection between soccer and skateboarding going in the future?
I think as the popularity of soccer grows in the US and skateboarding grows outside the US, you’ll see more and more connectivity both sports rely on and are built around what you can do with your feet, are very democratic in nature and physical size doesn’t become an inhibitor to achievement at the highest level. Also in many parts of the world where access and cost become factors, there is a broader level of access for more kids so again back to the democratic nature of both sports. With skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport and the continued excitement around big tournaments like the World Cup or Champions League the future is bright and exciting for both.

SANDY BODECKER’S FOOTWEAR ARCHIVE


 

 

 

 

ONCE KILLING THE KIT GAME, KAPPA IS NOW AN ICON

Kappa is, without doubt, a brand that is coming back into the mainstream in terms of fashion, but for those that are more familiar with its lifestyle offerings, the long-standing brand was once producing absolute fire soccer kits back in the day.

They’re still producing kits today for teams like Napoli and Torino, but reflecting on the history of the brand, some of their kits were beautiful and are now icons. Teams like Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester City have all donned the Kappa logo on their shirts, with these kits filling up numerous spaces on my wishlist and it goes down to pure aesthetics.

Maybe it’s my very deep inner Hypebeast coming out, or maybe it’s my nostalgic side (most likely the latter), but the Kappa shirts from the ’90s are incredible. The Kappa logo running down the sleeves, the collars and the pure class designs on them just make me fall in love with every shirt. Look at Barcelona’s kits from ’92 to’98 – they’re stupendous. And seeing a player like the Ronaldo wearing these sorts of kits just makes me fall in love with them even more.

Now, the kits that the brand is currently offering us are truly a fall from grace. Albeit, they’ve done some adequate kits over the recent years that have impressed various kit nerds but for me, they’ve plummeted from what they were once producing. That isn’t a dig at the brand, it’s just a personal preference on kits and it highlights just how good their ’90s kits were.

Soccer kit’s have a 20-year turnaround – normally. A kit will become ‘fashionable’ due to trends wanting classic/vintage items circa 20 years on. Kappa is a brand that is becoming popular again and I see more and more people wearing it, including myself. Alongside this, the sub-culture of soccer is becoming increasingly mainstream and shirts can now be seen as a fashion item rather than the team you support. ’90s Kappa shirts suit this perfectly. Their shirts can be sought after by collectors but also by the fashion conscious. We’ve even seen superstar Kendall Jenner wearing a vintage Juventus Kappa jacket before, and this is substantial evidence that vintage Kappa football items are for much more than just your average soccer fan – a Fact… Apparently.

Kappa: A delightful brand that was once killing the kit game and one that has now seen its shirts become more popular with kits due to the nostalgic and vintage trends. Kappa is an icon. Respect them.

OG GRAFFITI LEGEND SABER TALKS ART AND SOCCER

Art and soccer go hand-in-hand – that’s obvious. We see the marriage displayed on our favorite soccer jerseys, we see it on posters, campaigns, and art projects from a novice fan to a recognized artist… there’s art even found in how the beautiful game is even played – many argue that soccer itself is a form of artistic dance. Does it lie in the beauty of art though? Or in the beauty of the game? Perhaps both! Either way, it’s a marriage we always enjoy, no matter the genre, so when we heard OG graffiti legend Saber was involved in adidas Football’s recent Energy Mode X18 event here in Los Angeles, we jumped at the chance to speak with the man to get his thoughts on the relationship between art and soccer, as well as how and why he’s particularly involved, where he would like to see the shared cultures going in the future, and much more.


So, to start, what’s your relationship with soccer?
The first thing I can say is that I played soccer when I was about five… I don’t know shit. I know nothing. World Cup? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? I don’t know what it is. Football… Futbol? Okay… I’ve always appreciated the sport, but then I get sucked into this gig and I’m like okay cool, let’s go! So then I start researching – I didn’t really know much about ‘street league,’ I don’t know about a Tango League – I didn’t know anything about this… But I start seeing videos, I start seeing what these kids are doing and the energy, the technical aspects of how talented these kids are, and I thought it was really cool, man. There’s a lot of energy behind it and I thought that was really moving. When I saw the momentum and saw the energy, I thought that was really cool. It seems like something that’s very positive. I like that it’s aggressive. I also like that it can get aggressive, that it’s pretty hardcore. It can get pretty intense. With street soccer and graffiti, we’re all kind part of being born out of concrete to a certain degree, and I think the competitive spirit might be similar. I don’t do graffiti much anymore – I’m too old and have kids and shit like that, but back in the day we were always are unstoppable.

That’s how people are describing soccer players now: as being “unstoppable.”
Yeah, I was unstoppable back then!. Nothing could stop me, nothing!

So back then, did you see any sort of marriage between the street art/graffiti world and soccer? Do you see it happening now?
Well honestly, for me those worlds didn’t even combine. They didn’t even exist together. So I think adidas, with their efforts and the Tango league and street soccer aspect, it’s nice to see adidas sponsoring these things and making these things happen. It’s only going to grow, and these kids are very competitive! So yeah, clearly they’re going to grow the sport and grow it into something bigger and maybe America will embrace “football” as opposed to [American] “football.” I don’t even watch it. I like violence, so I like watching jujitsu and people killing each other. Other than that, I don’t follow sports and I don’t have time… I’m too caught up with other stuff. But still, I think the energy is very similar and I think what translates that energy is when you have the fashion, you have the momentum of it. You have that action, and I think there are similarities between soccer and art with that.

You can look at other countries where it’s easier to see both cultures of street soccer and graffiti side-by-side – both born from the streets. I mean, you go to a place like Brazil and you’ll have a pickup game on the streets amidst a whole bunch of graffiti, some kids partaking in both. Is that something you’d like to see more of in America?
Absolutely. I would love to see that. That seems to be a more healthy environment. We were born out of the gang mentality. So we didn’t really want to open up to anybody, you know? We kept to ourselves. I think this could be a good bridge – a cultural bridge – between the two worlds and more: music, skateboarding, streetwear… anything really!

SOUTH KOREA FOR THE WIN: A SPECIAL STREET STYLE EDITION

Today marked a monumental win for South Korea within the world of soccer, as they beat Germany in today’s match for the World Cup 2018 with a two-nil win! Out here in Los Angeles, a city with the country’s largest Korean population, let me just say, the high energy, pride, and spirit felt throughout simply cannot be put into words. For those of you who are – or were – rooting for Germany, the Korea win comes as an immense blow given that the country is now out of the World Cup…

While we as a media outlet strive to stay as unbiased as we can, we can’t help but share in the joy our Korean brothers and sisters are feeling right now. In a bid to continue Korean pride, we’ve got a special Street Style fashion editorial that highlights Nike Soccer’s official Korea collection, modeled in Downtown Los Angeles by our very own writer Raymond An who is currently out there in Russia doing his own bit of Korea-support – if you haven’t heard about his #followtheflag initiative yet, click here to find out all about it. Donning South Korea’s official Nike 2018 away kit in white, as well as their travel top in black, the editorial also brings out a retro World Cup piece in blue complete with the Korean flag emblem, as well as an official Korea Football Association cap, all styled in street-ready looks. Check out the special South Korea street style editorial throughout.

OUR BEST CUSTOMIZED PLAYER BOOTS

Custom boot jobs are a wonderful expression of creativity and uniqueness from players and fans alike. I love seeing players take a silo and customize it into something that represents them, but which ones have done it the best? Let’s find out.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A striker full of flair, full of speed and full of star material. The BVB player turned the spotlight on him when plying his trade at Saint Ettiene, but not just for his footballing ability. When at the French club, he attracted a lot of attention when he took boot customization to a whole other level: a Nike Mercurial Vapor silo covered entirely in Swarovski crystals. The boot took over 50 hours to customize at the cost of £2500. Despite PEA wearing the boots in a pre-match warm-up, the boots were entirely cosmetic and for the aesthetic rather than performance which is why they were never actually worn in a game. Outrageous.

A Japanese delight. For all the Manga fans out there, this Bakary Sako collection is something you might like. A collection of multiple designs, all based around popular Manga shows. Dubbed the “MANGA Collection,” these are a thing of beauty. Designed by Orravan designs – who also designed the above pair – the collection is fully handpainted and the Dragon Ball Z edition was actually worn by the midfielder during a Premier League game.

Sticking with the Manga theme, Lukas Podolski joined in on the fun. Now competing in the J League with Vissel Kobe, the team who just signed Andres Iniesta, the German decided to embrace some Japanese culture. A custom job focusing on Captain Tsubasa, a famous Japanese cartoon show focused on football. He customed the Adidas X17 silo on the Manga show and this wasn’t the first time. He also sported Captain Tsubasa on a pair of adidas F50s.

These are three of my favorite custom jobs released with a few more just missing. I am all for the players wearing custom jobs on the pitch, especially when they’re as good as the ones mentioned. I urge these players to continue doing as they do but also call out for more to join in on the fun and start giving us all more custom jobs. We love them. Don’t we?

FORGET NIGERIA’S SHIRT, IT IS CHINA’S TIME TO SHINE

Apologies but this had to be done. I’m saying it; China’s new away kit is so much better than Nigeria’s home kit. There, it’s said. And I’m going to tell you why.

Nigeria’s shirt has dominated the scene since it was revealed back in February, and rightly so. It’s a fantastic kit. Not only is the shirt good but the whole release was solid and Nigeria and Nike worked wonders on the products and reveal itself. It’s skyrocketed Nigeria into the forefront of the kit scene for this World Cup, even though they have next to no chance of taking home the gold. However, they have won the kit game. The shirt sold out within minutes online when it was released, huge queues formed outside NikeTown in London, and other stores and the resell value of the shirt near tripled online (much to the disgust of us football fans, eh? People cashing in on our growing culture).

But let’s discuss overall kit releases this year – not just within the World Cup. And that’s where the Nigeria kit plummets back down to Earth and tastes the loss it has been handed by the King: China Away.

The China kit is a perfect juxtaposition of adventurous yet exquisite. It’s a near perfect shirt, in my opinion. Albeit, China isn’t good enough to even qualify for the tournament, but their kit game is, in my opinion, one of the best. Ranked 73rd in the World rankings, with President Xi Jingping pumping in investment to the infrastructure of the Chinese game, the nation is yet to see any sort of improvement regarding their country’s team. But what a wonderful kit to use that makes them look less of an average footballing side. They may not be very good, but at least they look slick doing so.

A wonderful design is used on the kit; paying tribute to the country’s history and culture, using an exquisite dragon graphic. This was a very bold move, regarding that it could have either went two ways; incredibly bad or spectacularly brilliant. And it went the way of the latter. Combining this with a one-color design in a wonderful black with neon green detailing, the kit pops. It works. It’s so good. I can’t stress that enough.

I mentioned something about the kit being ‘near perfect’ earlier in this piece. Now, I say this based one thing: that DAMN neckline. I’ve argued this on twitter for weeks, ever since it was first revealed and now it needs to be addressed here. If Nike didn’t ruin every kit, even the Nigeria one, with this silly neckline then maybe we’d have a lot of kits regarded better than they are being said to be right now. I know I certainly would rank a lot of Nike’s kits higher if it wasn’t for this. And the fact they’ve put it on this China kit, a kit that so magical, is just upsetting. I’d still rock it though.

It’s a kit that rivals some of the best, and if China were good enough to get in the World Cup, then it would (or at least should) be getting the recognition that Nigeria has been and more. It deserves that, even if they haven’t made it to Russia. It’s just that good. A kit made for the culture. A kit made of us football kit gurus to swoon over. A kit made that is just, to put it simply, incredible.