Collector Feature #8 — Sneaker Grandpa
Retrobok is proud to present its’ 8th Collector Feature, this time with Instagram legend ‘Sneaker Grandpa’ (real name Patrick Dempsey) from the US who doesn’t mince his words on quality… Hit the jump, it’s a mammoth interview!
Hi Sneaker Grandpa, it’s a genuine honour to talk with you and to feature your collection here on Retrobok.
The honour is all mine. I’m glad we were finally able to make it happen. I have to say first, thank you for all you do for the Reebok community. Always great stuff on the site and I enjoy your posts.
Thanks, appreciate that. Please tell us about yourself; where you’re from, what you do.
I live in Austin, Texas, I’m 42 years old, married with two young daughters (7 and 5) and I’m a partner in a small boutique Graphic Design firm.
So, ‘Sneaker Grandpa’. Let’s cover this unforgettable handle before we get stuck in.
I had adopted the name sneakergrandpa when I was bidding on a sneaker penny auction site (yes they exist, check out www.onecentkicks.com) and after I’d won some high priced sneaker this young prick commented on twitter “Enjoy the sneakers Grandpa!” because in my profile pic I had a full grey beard. So I thought to myself, I’m going to run with this. Through using hashtags, networking, getting a few features, I grew my following to around 2k.
I’ll refer to you as Patrick from here on, as it feels a little more personal. I don’t Instagram very much myself, but you were featured in a Nice Kicks video (see bottom of article) in March last year which is where I became aware of you. Give us some background.
Yeah, the whole Instagram thing. For me, approaching 40 at the time, there were not a whole lot of people I could interact with and discuss sneakers. I mean, not a lot of 40-somethings I run into know about the next release from Hanon, or even who Hanon is. So I decided to start posting shots of what I was wearing and nothing else.
By the way, I also felt we have very similar attitudes; particularly in ‘stepping sideways’ as I say, from the Sneaker mainstream.
I completely agree. As I mentioned previously, I started late into buying sneakers. That’s because I had to work and pay bills, and get married and have kids and help build a business. I didn’t have the disposable income to buy multiple pairs of sneakers. I’ve always been a collector and I even sold a pretty good sized batch of Star Wars collectibles to fund my first few pairs. I started out gravitating to the the stuff I didn’t get as a kid – namely Jordans – but soon found that most were either poor quality or not age appropriate (or both) so I discovered runners. At first I was all over the place and tended to try for the hyped stuff but eventually narrowed my focus and found pairs that appealed to me.
In the end, it is about what I like and what I will wear. It wasn’t until after the Nice Kicks episode that I even posted any pictures of myself. For me the focus is the shoes and not about me and what I’m wearing or being corny so that maybe some brand might send me something for free. I am always honest about any pair I get and post and I wouldn’t feel right not being able to be that way because I feel obligated to some brand.
The funny thing is – or maybe the conundrum – is that we bitch about “hype”. But when you do it you set yourself up for hypocrisy. What if something is hyped but you really like it? Do you not buy it because of the implied hype behind it? At 42 years old, my self image and worth is not determined by how many followers or likes I have or whether a teenager agrees with what I wear.
So, can you tell us a little background to your history with Reebok as a brand, ie; when – and what – first appealed to you?
Being older, I guess you’d have to say I have multiple histories with Reebok, or at least an interrupted history. My first memory of Reebok has to be the Reebok Freestyle High Top in the 1980’s. Aerobics were huge back then and I remember wondering what the shoes with the Union Jack were. They were a huge part of the look with the leg warmers and thick socks. Personally the first pair I really wanted (and haven’t gotten but plan to soon) was the ACT 600 with the red and blue stripes. Some of the older, cool kids had them and it was the first pair that caught my attention. Before that it was Kangaroos and Kaepa and probably some Nikes mixed in there.
The first pair I actually owned and wore were the Dee Brown Pump D Time in black and if I remember correctly they had a gum sole. That would have been 1991-92 so I was a senior in high school. During college I had a pair of Vertical I. I have no idea whatever happened to those pairs but I probably ended up finding a defect with them and figuring out a way to trade them for a new pair at Foot Locker.
Fast forward through college, work, marriage, kids and I found myself interested in retro sneakers. One of the first pairs of Reeboks that caught my attention was the Burn Rubber 30th anniversary pair. After grabbing those my collector bug kicked in and I knew I had to try and gobble up the full collection if I could. It helped that shops were really doing some great stuff with the model so the entire release was worth it.
How was the interview process with Nice Kicks? George Kiel III and his team looked super professional at what they do.
It was pretty amazing. George and Sid Ashford (the videographer) were great to work with. It all happened very quickly. George and I had discussed it a few months before and kept in touch and then one day he commented on a pic of my collection “it’s time”. We texted and set something up. The first time we had to reschedule because they got snowed in at the NBA All Star Game in NYC. When they showed up we looked at my downstairs closet and then the upstairs closet and started talking and recording. There wasn’t much structure to it but I think they knew I would ramble on as long as they let me. I was really excited the entire 30th Anniversary CL collection was included but I was bummed we didn’t get to show more diversity. Overall it was amazing and I still keep in touch with George and Sid. George is doing amazing work with his Kiel Colon Cancer Foundation.
Since the Nice Kicks video interview has your collection grown much? In the interview you said you had around 200 pairs.
I’m probably up to around 250 now. I’m constantly cycling things out but also always picking up new pairs. My goal is always to TRY to keep the stuff going out to pay for the stuff coming in. The closet is pretty crowded upstairs but I’m overdue for a good purge.
I’m particularly envious that you had the luxury of requesting a Sneaker room, as your wife is an architect – you’ve already outgrown that room?
Thanks. I love the closet set up and only wish we had made the shelves shorter so we could fit more pairs. It was really the only thing I asked for in the new house and my wife was very supportive. Definitely have outgrown it. In fact, during the Nice Kicks episode we went upstairs where I have the majority of my pairs still in boxes.
Do you have a personal preference on how to store or display your collection? I recently had to transition to displaying ‘heels out’ as my collection grew, must admit I do prefer the luxury of the side-on view; recreates that first moment of awe when you step into a shoe store…
I like the heels out but it is mostly by necessity too. I can fit about 75 pairs or so in our main closet so the rest are all in boxes upstairs. I’m honestly not sure how I settled on that versus toe out but I guess it makes for easy grabbing and you can see what the shoe is that way.
Actually yeah, I tried ‘toes-out’ and it doesn’t feel right. And are you able to wear your kicks on a daily basis during work hours?
I wear my sneakers every day. Even when we travel for work I have on sneakers. For the more important days when customers or attendees will be there I try and wear something like some nice leather lace-ups or slip-ons (Greats Brand typically) but otherwise my clients practically expect me to wear sneakers. About the only time I wear dress shoes are for weddings or funerals. I think it has become much more acceptable these days as far as fashion goes, but particularly in creative fields.
We’re like brothers separated at birth, Patrick – same goes on all those counts. I briefly worked at a company with a formal dress-code and couldn’t stand not being able to wear my sneakers on a daily basis. I wasn’t the same person any more! On the subject of work, in the Nice Kicks video you mentioned travelling to Singapore – that must be a great feeling, dropping into some unique places and stores – anywhere else your work has taken you, that has allowed you to check out great stores?
I’ve been really lucky to get to travel and visit some cool shops. It is crazy when people there recognize me, too. The past two trips to Singapore I’ve gotten together with some great guys over there who I keep in touch with. They’ve shown me around and this last trip I was able to visit SBTG’s studio and get a personalized pair from him. We have also been to Copenhagen where I visited Wood Wood, Norse Projects and my favorite shop there, Le Fix. Our yearly trip to Las Vegas has allowed me to visit Feature a couple of times now.
So let’s talk specific shoes and collections; we absolutely have to start with your Classic Leather 30th Anniversary (CL30) collections – are you ‘complete’ now or is there still something you’re looking for?
I consider it complete. The thing is that Reebok put the 30th Anniversary tag on some other pairs that year but I went by some article I read that listed all the Certified Network shops and that’s what I use as my checklist. I’ve had people mention the Palace pairs and a few others but I’m happy to consider it complete.
Possibly the most out-there shoe in your CL30 collection are the (Singaporian) Limited Edt. collabs, with green snakeskin, pink details and ice outsole – they look insane!
Ha ha yep those are wild and don’t get worn very often. Limited Edt. has several shops in Singapore and that’s who I visit when I’m there. I love when these shops go all out on a pair and for that particular collection it really stands out in its own way.
I’m particularly envious of the (Taiwanese-American Actor/Singer/Reebok Creative Director Van Ness Wu) 3.V.0.7.’s in Purple/Black with Denim, Ostrich Leather you have – that looks like an absolutely incredible shoe.
It is still funny to me that I got those on eBay from a seller in Hong Kong for around $130 shipped. They had at least two full size runs. It is a really great shoe and one of my favorite CLs. I have always loved ostrich print and while I’m not a huge fan of purple, the whole design just works. Very happy to have that one in my hands to wear.
Talking quite broadly here; there feels like more of a disconnect between Asian and Western collabs – in terms of territory releases – than we’d like to see. I appreciate the different market forces and logistics involved, but collabs have that luxury of being exotic and surprising….
Very true and it isn’t even limited to Reebok. I would even differentiate between the US and then Europe and Asia. I have no idea what gameplan (if any) Reebok has for the States. When you really look at some of the materials and designs used for most of the Euro and Asia releases it is night and day. I do most of my shopping for Reebok releases overseas because Reebok availability here is weak.
Funny, those of us outside the US often think you guys have got it made over there, from a consumers point of view. But let’s get back on track to the CL30’s, what others are your favourites in terms of wearability?
I’d have to say Livestock produced a very wearable pair. While I love nice suede, I don’t consider an all suede shoe to be very wearable on a day-to-day basis. The Burn Rubber pair is leather and happens to be one of my favorite pairs as well.
And what about favourite in terms of concept/back story? Gary Warnetts’ possibly?
The Gary Warnett pair is insane. I love orange so that helps but I feel like his whole concept was a bit of a poke in the eye with the whole concept/back story thing with collabs these days. Things have gotten so oversaturated that shops seem to go out of their way to create some contrived story and oftentimes some unwearable shoe to support it. When you look at the Solebox pair, or the Burn Rubber pair, or the Hanon pair, they are just nice shoes! But now every release has to have a silly nickname or be part of a “pack”. It is exhausting sometimes.
But to answer your question, yes the Gary Warnett pair for sure. The Burn Rubber pair for a lot of reasons. It was the shoe that got me started on the collection. The supporting video of Rick and Ro driving around Detroit looking for inspiration and finally landing on a statue is great. More importantly the shoe stands on its own. The color is not one I’ve seen before. The details of God and Family, the bag of laces, the inscription on the insole and tongue – it’s all there.
I’d not seen that Burn Rubber video, that was awesome! Some that I didn’t see in your Nice Kicks video or on Instagram are the Palace Skateboards collabs – I’m a bit in the dark again if these were officially part of the CL30 releases? Did you pick any up?
As I mentioned before, I didn’t consider them part of the full collection at the time but it is pair I consider grabbing from time to time and I’m working on one right now. Unfortunately Palace has reached that hyped status now so who knows what they will cost.
And what about the City Classics? (Stash, and the global artists involved). Great to see a Mexican artist (XGHETTO666) in there too. Between you and me I’m not a huge fan of the City Classics; the quality and materials aren’t really up there at all, although some of the artwork does work pretty well.
I only have one pair from those and it is the grey Stash pair. They are my beaters and I’ve worn them enough that they have broken in very well. I agree on the quality aspect though and that is indicative of most Reebok general releases. All of those releases sat at places like Finishline and I think I got these for under $50 shipped.
Before I forget, did you consider tracking down a pair of the (Polish Rapper/Musician) Fisz Classics? I think these were released around the same time as the CL30’s were releasing, but definitely must be pretty damn rare.
Never seen those but they are amazing. Man I’m learning more and more from this interview but that isn’t surprising! Now I may have to go on the hunt.
Did you see the (Italian) Planet Funk / PF 1999? I spotted those on super-luxe fashion site Luisaviaroma for crazy money.
You got me again! Time to hit Google. I think since I wear a lot more than just Reebok I don’t spend as much time researching as I should…
Here’s a tough question – one probably that most sneaker blogs would not dare ask – and that is, are there any disappointments for you within the CL30’s? For example I love the look, attitude and details of the Atmos camo Mids, buy the upper materials aren’t so flexible which makes them a little challenging to wear as a Mid. Good wet-weather shoe though!
Very fair question and I think I was pretty honest in my Sneak Peek. Materials played a big role in those choices for me. The Crooked Tongues pair is not a favorite. The Limited Edt. pair is cool to look at but not very wearable. I’ve thought the same as you about the Atmos pair and the materials. They all tend to feel cheap when they are synthetic like that. I have too many pairs to ever wear a stiff plastic shoe for an entire day. I enjoy having them as part of the collection but they aren’t pairs I look to wear very regularly.
Let’s move on from the CL30’s and talk about other shoes. Ventilator; favourites over the last few years?
After my foray into CL30’s I was all ready to gobble up the Ventilator releases. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my wallet) the releases were very, very disappointing. Extra Butter came out strong with the first release but after that it was mostly downhill. Whereas the CL30’s were mostly with well known and established shops, the Ventilators seemed to be all over the map by including shops or people/designers/artists I’ve never heard of. I grabbed a few pairs but ended up getting rid of most of them. To add insult to injury, most of them showed up on sale after the fact. On top of that, hardly any US shops carried all the releases. Maybe the only pair I regret not getting was the Bape red, white, blue and camo pair. Honestly out of all the releases last year, the OG grey/pink/green pair is my favorite and I wear them often.
In a previous email to me you mentioned enjoying some of the Ventilator II and Supreme retros – I’m in total agreement with you there; the Vent 2 I love for its ‘technical’ appearance without getting too fussy, and the Supreme really looks like it took the fight to the Air Max in terms of aggression/stance. Favourites? Opinions?
I’ve decided I like a tough midsole and I think that is why the Ventilator II and Supreme appeal to me the most. Just like the New Balance 997, the higher profile midsole coupled with all the technical panels and cuts just get me. I think your description of “aggression/stance” is accurate. I’d have to say the Wood Wood and High Point I both enjoy quite a bit. And Garbstore has owned both those models in my opinion.
Yes! And Garbstore is another talking point; I’ve said in a recent feature that I felt some of the results have been a little hit and miss, but overall it’s been a hugely conceptually succesful series of collabs, which has elevated Reebok Classics into the Fashion world to an extent.
Coming from a design background, some shoes just draw me in instantly. The first few rounds of Garbstore releases with the inside-out design were conceptually appealing but were either on models I didn’t like or just were too fussy for my taste to wear. Once they got into the Supreme and Ventilator II I was hooked. Actually the regular blue Ventilator they did was what drew me in. Having that Hexalite showing on the sides and those multiple tones of blue made have to buy them. I would put that pair up against any of the anniversary pairs any day of the week. Materials, color, design – all of their past few seasons have had it all and stand out for me personally. On top of all that, they almost always go on sale so a little patience pays off even more!
Those Bolton collabs with Distinct Life are pretty special, aren’t they? I was fortunate to be sent the Grey/Black/Yellow pair, and to me the quality is so good they pretty much have a luxe Italian Fashion feel to them.
I agree completely. I was not familiar with the model at all and I’m not completely set on fit between a 9.5 and 10 but I have loved both models. Rick Williams is one of the few people on our side of the pond to consistently show how Reebok can be done right. The blue pair is incredible if you haven’t picked them up yet. You are absolutely right about the luxe feel. Sad part is most people outside of Reebok enthusiasts would not give them a chance.
Absolutely, photos don’t do those shoes quite the justice they deserve either. I think I’ve spotted 1 pair of Pump Fury in your Instagram feed – not big on those?
I don’t own any at this point. I had the Mita pair and also had bought the Burn Rubber release but didn’t end up keeping either. They are comfortable but I decided they don’t fit my style. Have to know where to draw the line and I loved the look of that Mita pair with the sweater-like material.
Have you checked out the Furylites?
They look cool but another pair I don’t think I can pull them off. I’ve learned to differentiate between pairs I like the look of and pairs I will actually wear.
Well, fwiw I’m far more comfortable – style-wise – in a pair of Furylites than Fury OG’s, they are pretty sleek and low, something I’d personally like Reebok Classics to consider as a design cue actually ; imagine a Pump Fury with a thin – or no – midsole. That would be a sick looking shoe!
Before we go we have to cover off Bballers. Did you see those Major x Pump OG 25th’s? I’m not sure if a shoe could look much more American!
Yep very American but filed under “not appropriate for 40-something white dudes”! Personally I think the Pump releases had some really original designs and lined up more closely with the CL30 pairs. Just could not make them work unfortunately.
Fair enough! For a collector like yourself, with a taste for quality and an enviable collection of different brands, what areas do you feel Reebok Classics could improve on? Is there something they could learn from New Balance for example?
I could go on and on but I think I’ve covered a lot of this already. I don’t understand at all what Reebok Classics’ gameplan for the US and North America is. The majority of the Ventilator anniversary releases didn’t even make it to shops over here. Rick Williams had an incredible GL6000 mid release that he wasn’t even allowed to carry in his own shop, Burn Rubber. Let that sink in. As far as I know it didn’t even get a US release. How does that make any sense?
I hadn’t realised that – and yeah that 6000 Mid is pretty special!
I also mentioned previously but the quality on the GR side is complete trash. One of the main reasons I gravitated toward collabs was because the materials and finish were above average. I own 2-3 GR pairs and I almost can’t wear them the materials are so cheap and the shoes are so stiff. New Balance has the finished product down but is out of control with pricing. Anyone who knows won’t pay retail for a pair of 997s even if they have a cute nickname. Wait it out a bit and they will be half price or better. Reebok Classics just starts low with build and price.
At this point Reebok as a brand seems to be focused on fitness and that’s it. I can see no real approach to growing the Classics line. From what I’ve heard they don’t have any type of seeding program. The only pairs I’ve seen any hype around are the Kendrick Lamar and Camron pairs. The second KL release didn’t have the same hype so now you can get those for around retail. I guess the Alien movie shoe release did well but that’s a limited audience and in my opinion had more to do with resale and perceived scarcity.
As bitter as I may sound I love the pairs I end up keeping. I guess I love Reebok Classics despite all their shortcomings. I see what other retro releases like Asics and New Balance and Saucony do and I think Reebok Classics should be doing the same. I’ve also had quality issues recently with Reebok. The grey TDL Bolton and the Burn Rubber Phase 1 both had completely different suede on each toebox. Reebok sent me a replacement pair of the Boltons and they were identically horrible. The suede problem isn’t unique to Reebok but nonetheless frustrating.
And, before we make this interview longer than the German translation of War & Peace (hey, Germans have very long words – that’s all I’m saying!), are there any other Reebok Classics you care to mention?
Ha ha. I will leave the Germans out of this. I would say the GL6000 pack from Rick Williams and The Distinct Life are also one of my favorite releases from recent years. Love the colors, materials and subtle details like the embossed camo pattern. As far as other models go, I’ve enjoyed the Club C releases and plan on picking up more. The HAL NPC are out of this world with the deer leather and the perfect tones of blue.
I’ve really enjoyed the Club C’s too, especially the Vintages – insane comfort! Any final thoughts, words, shouts?
First of all I feel like I should apologize to anyone who read this whole thing and put up with all my babbling. I’m pretty opinionated and I only express my thoughts hoping things will improve. My only wish is that people buy and wear what they like rather than worrying about what others like and think. Reebok Classics know where and how to find me and really I’m a huge supporter. Shouts to shops like Hanon, SNS, size?, Packer Shoes and guys like Rick Williams who continue to collaborate with Reebok on well conceived and executed pairs. Thanks to David Jordan from OneCentKicks for being the one person at the time who cared about the CL30 releases as we helped each other track down pairs. And to Gregg @threegeees who continues to send me links to cool Classic Leather releases we never get over here in the US.
I have to say again Patrick it’s a real honour talking, and sharing the love and passion for our shoes. Thanks for your time and patience in getting this interview sorted. Keep in touch! –BokOne
The honour is all mine. Thanks so much for the opportunity. Thank you for all you do for the Reebok community by providing history and insight with a professional touch. -Patrick.
Watch Sneaker Grandpas’ Nice Kicks ‘Sneak Peak’ —
Read more Collectors Features —
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #9 — Kevin Hoyle (New Zealand)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #8 — Sneaker Grandpa (USA)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #7 — Brad Spriggs (USA)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #6 — Tristin Kennedy (Canada)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #5 — Piotr ‘Natty’ Kaczmarek (Poland)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #4 — Jake Montana (USA)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #3 — Etienne Malaquin (France)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #2 — Russell ‘Bobby Necro’ Hall (UK)
Retrobok — Collectors Feature #1 — Alexander Schuh (Germany)
Posted on June 7, 2016, in Features, Interviews, Newsfeed and tagged @sneakergrandpa, Reebok Classic, Reebok Classics, Retrobok, retrobok collectors feature, sneaker grandpa. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.