The Conversation With: Woody Sneaker Freaker - CROSSOVER

"More than a decade in the making, Soled Out is an
epic compilation of nearly 900 vintage print advertisements
sourced from the golden age of sneakers”

More than a decade in the making, Soled Out is an epic compilation of nearly 900 vintage print advertisements sourced from the golden age of sneakers. Written and compiled by the legendary Sneaker Freaker magazine, every page is packed with iconic imagery, bold graphics, witty marketing slogans and outrageous trash-talk devised by the industry’s sharpest minds and biggest players. Sporting and cultural icons such as Andre Agassi, Shaquille O’Neal, Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan, MC Hammer and Paula Abdul are all represented in their primetime glory.

The Conversation With: Woody Sneaker Freaker - CROSSOVER

Q & A

What is the inspiration and purpose behind SOLED OUT?

I started Sneaker Freaker in 2002 so brands would send me free shoes, and I certainly had no idea I’d still be in this game 20 years later. As my ambitions grew, I built up a decent collection of vintage advertising that we used to research magazine features. At some point, I realised I had a few hundred and the idea for a book crossed my mind. Sneakerheads will obviously love SOLED OUT, but it’s also perfect for anyone who appreciates the evolution of advertising, graphic design, copywriting, photography, typography and even professional sports. There’s a lot more going on in these ads than just the promotion of sporting footwear.

What are the challenges you faced in preparing and publishing SOLED OUT?

The biggest challenge was knowing when to stop. At 720 pages, SOLED OUT is a huge publishing project, so keeping track of everything was the main job. Every ad is placed by brand, then sport, then in chronological order, so the selection and arrangement of them was like solving a huge sprawling puzzle. At one point we had well over 1000 ads, so trimming things down to 900 was tough.

Can you share with us your favourite ads in Soled Out, and why?

1. We Don’t Sell Dreams. We Sell Shoes (Nike Air Max 96)

Let’s face it, the Air Max 96 hasn’t gone down in history as an all-time greatest of the Air Max family, but this double-pager is nevertheless one of the coolest looks in SOLED OUT. If you loved Ray Gun magazine as much as I did, you’ll know all about David Carson, whose deconstructed approach made him a rock star graphic designer in the mid 90s. This ad might not be a ‘Carson’ (at least we don’t think it is!) but the photocopier texture (new machines at the time and hella expensive) was one of his design trademarks. If this isn’t one of his ads, then it just shows how his gritty influence crept into the sneaker world. The headline is typical Nike at the top of their game, mixing total truth with a flourish of fantasy. Nike sell shoes, but they are well and truly in the dream business as well.

2. Go Where You Feel Most Alive (Adidas Badlander)

Some of the greatest ads score a TKO with a killer headline, while others rely on a big name athlete to project superstar status. In the case of the adidas Badlander, this image was part of a series that ‘butterflied’ shoes over a double-page spread, much like a sneakerised Rorschach inkblot. This outrageous outdoors beast was officially part of the Equipment line-up, though it bears little resemblance to the expensive runners in the same EQT stable. Cool, crazy and bad-ass to the bone, the Badlander would still rock melons today.

3. We’re Breaking Out From Coast To Coast (Vans Style #438 and #439)

It’s hard to beat ‘We’re Breaking Out’ for wild style flavour. The brogued-out boxing boots didn’t turn out to be popular with lockers, poppers and b-boys, but at least we have visual evidence these crazy clown shoes existed. Who knew the ancient sport of breakdancing would be admitted to the Olympics in 2024?


4. Now There’s An Air Suspension For Every Size Budget (Range Rover x Nike Air Max 93)

American muscle cars and exotic European supercars are intuitively designed to look fast even when they’re standing still, so it’s no surprise the link with sneakers was made explicit in several memorable campaigns. This random contribution to the canon arrived courtesy of Range Rover, who incorporated Nike’s new Air Max runner into the promotion of their top-of-the-line County LWB model. The copy could have come straight from the new Apple Mac Performas whizzing away at Wieden+Kennedy, Nike’s advertising agency, though it did lack a touch of their trademark pizzazz. Phil Knight must have been chuffed with the comparison between his $75 sneakers and the luxurious English off-roader.

5. It’s What’s Inside That Counts (Converse)

I must admit, I don’t have any personal memories of these Converse ads, but their subversive approach easily vaulted them into my top 5 calculations. With a huge shoe placed over an irreverent stream of consciousness, the ‘It’s What’s Inside That Counts’ series from 1991 is a unique combination in SOLED OUT. Look out for Grandmama, Kevin Johnson, Larry Bird, Jimmy Connors and Dicky Barrett, the lead vocalist from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who loves his pair of beater All Stars!

The Conversation With: Woody Sneaker Freaker - CROSSOVER

Everything is on the digital platform now, what makes you published Soled Out as a book, instead of a digital print?

SOLED OUT had to be a book! I’m old enough to remember a lot of these ads when they were published in magazines so there’s a lot of personal nostalgia. On an emotional level, these ads are – to me at least – an intoxicating incubator of memories. I was never able to watch Michael Jordan live on TV in the 90s, but I remember the print ads in Rolling Stone. I never owned a pair of Andre Agassi’s Air Tech Challenge, but the ‘rock’n’roll’ print campaign by Wieden+Kennedy is what drilled those shoes into my head. I think the latent impact of those advertising campaigns is often more memorable than the shoes they promoted in a lot of ways, especially the way they used charismatic athletes to tell the story.

Other than sneakers, do you have any other passion?

I do collect lots of different things, but tinkering with American cars is my real hobby. I have an old pick up truck and a muscle car that are both loud, obnoxious and so much fun. Finding parts, driving to events and making them go faster is my idea of a good weekend.

What is the usual song play list that is playing at your office?

I made a lot of Spotify playlists while Melbourne was in lockdown, and most of them are on high rotation in the office. Check out my most recent one at:

What are the 5 books you recently read?

1. Sneaker Freaker x PUMA Trinomic Retrospective
2. Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
3. The Latin American Cookbook by Virgillio Martinez
4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


The Conversation With: Woody Sneaker Freaker - CROSSOVER

With the current situation, what is your expectation and prediction for sneaker future trends?

Nike’s dominance looks set to continue but I’m hopeful adidas can regroup and bring some new concepts to challenge them. The big mover has been New Balance. The brand looks good in every department! From sport to street, everything is well executed visually and they finally have a diverse and interesting creative team pushing things along. I keep hearing 80s/90s basketball high tops are the new idea but I’m not convinced. Aside from that, the outdoors vibe will only get stronger, with brands like Merrell, Hoka, ACG and Terrex. Technical gear that is still fun will be huge in 2022.

After SOLED OUT, are you currently working on any new project?

We typically have a bunch of half-finished projects on the go at Sneaker Freaker at any one time. I’ve just finished a new book for a brand that will come out in early 2022. We had three collaboration shoes due for release this year, but delays caused by factory closures have put them all on hold indefinitely, which is frustrating. Aside from that, I have to do a final proof read of Sneaker Freaker issue 46. This edition is way behind schedule so it’ll be good to get it out into the world. We have three collector features that are all amazing and a crazy 7000-word article about fakes and bootleg shoes. Sneaker game never sleeps!

The Conversation With: Woody Sneaker Freaker - CROSSOVER

Interview: Jem | Translation: Khalisa Johari | Photography: Woody Sneaker Freaker