Exclusive: Fabolous On His Favorite ’90s Sneakers And What’s Wrong With Sneaker Culture Now

Fabolous Sneakerhead Converse
Fabolous for Footwear News' annual sneakerhead issue.
Annie Tritt.

Fabolous’ talent on the microphone made him a star, but as his celebrity grew, people took notice to his take on fashion — particularly his stellar taste in sneakers. With his “Summertime Shootout 2: The Level Up” mixtape now available to stream and download, the renowned rapper spoke exclusively with Footwear News about his personal style, his fondness for sneakers from the 1990s, and opening up his own sneaker shop in the next year.

What bothers you the most about the sneakerhead world today?

The re-popping, it’s out of control. It changes the experience for the regular consumer. It used to be track down the shoe, purchase it at box price and put it on. Kids are now working three weeks to a month to get a shoe that shouldn’t be that [elevated] in cost. It’s Jordans, Yeezys — anything that’s popular. Even Adidas Originals NMDs are starting to get that chase. I don’t know the solution; just give kids the chance to buy the shoes. When Kanye West first put his shoes out, he said he [wanted] everybody to have a chance to have quality. But when they came, it was the same re-pops, same markups, and Adidas didn’t do anything about it. It’s fun for the hype when you’ve got to pay $2,000 for a $200 sneaker, but [it’s hurting] the average consumer.

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F*cking sneakers. Who cares.

Fabolous Sneakerhead Saucony Grid 9000Rap star Fabolous in the Saucony Grid 9000 on the cover of Footwear News’ annual sneakerhead issue. Annie Tritt.

Who is the leader in the sneakerhead world?

I think there’s a best in different categories now. There’s always classics — they get their just due and respect. There’s a new wave of [Nike] Flyknits, I like them, they’re very comfortable. My mom was never a big sneaker person because she didn’t like how heavy sneakers were. You know how 1990s sneakers, they were all heavy? My mom wasn’t with it, so now I’m about to introduce my mom to Flyknits and stuff, see if she could hang — these are the kind of shoes she would like. She would buy cheap shoes because they were cheaply made but light — she liked light shoes on her feet, she didn’t like a heavy bulky shoe.

How did you come up with your own personal style?

It’s really about comfort for me now, what I feel comfortable in, whatever vibe I wake up feeling like. I constantly change what look I’m wearing, what shoes I’m wearing T.day I’m wearing Filas; at the shoot, I wore Converse and Saucony. I like to be versatile; I like to be diverse [and] try to keep all the styles I’ve seen and liked or became accustom to and mix it up.

Are there any designers or labels you’re particularly fond of?

I grew up in the 1990s, so I like a lot of the styles that were going on then. The design of the shoes, to me, was truly ahead of their time — a lot of the classic Jordans and a lot of the retro stuff that’s coming back now is really all from that time period. Some of them were slept on — they were worn by living legends of the time or connected to people who were bigger-than-life stars, and they’ve moved on and new stars have appeared, but those shoes still have a connection with people. I like that ’90s era of style and swag.

Fabolous Ewing Athletics EclpseFabolous in the Eclipse by Ewing Athletics. Courtesy of Ewing Athletics.

Is there a Fabolous shoe coming out any time soon?

I did one with Ewing [Athletics], me and Teyana Taylor, we did a few hundred pairs and it sold out quickly — that was brought to me by my relationship with Mike Packer [of Packer Shoes]. We’re doing more things with them; I’ve liked the brand since the ’90s. I have a funny story about the brand: My mom took us shoe shopping, and my brother got the Ewings, and I ended up getting the Delta Force Nikes at the time. And when we came back all the kids were like, “You’ve got the Ewings” and paying me no attention. That was one of the first time I noticed the athlete being connected to the shoe.

I’m working on some collabs at the moment. I just loved shoes, so for me coming up it was never about having a shoe, it was just me having the shoes I liked. As we’ve grown and people appreciate my collection or the style I have, I want to brand that as well — as a designer, as a creator and curator. I don’t want to burn out the collab thing, but I think collabs are dope because it’s a mixture: It’s a piece of somebody’s idea and your idea, their brand and your brand, and see what you come up with.

And certain people are getting [collabs] because of popularity, too, that’s another thing that’s going on now. This Hypebeast generation, you could be anybody and have a certain amount of followers or kids see you get a certain amount of likes or views and they may not mean anything to the sneaker culture whatsoever, but it’s all about sales and popularity, and that’s something that alters who should have a shoe and who shouldn’t.

What’s your most fond sneaker memory?

My uncle buying me the [Nike] Air Max 1 — that was my first sneaker I had with the air bubble on it. That whole technology idea had first came out and at that time it was futuristic — now it’s nothing, but then it was futuristic, kids at school wanted to touch it. That was my first cool memory of having cool shoes.

What are your must-stop sneaker shops?

I definitely like Packer [Shoes]. It’s nostalgic, too; Mike [Packer] is a guy from a long line of sneakerdom — his father had a sneaker store and left him the sneaker store. That’s one of my favorite shops. I like a couple shops out of town, too. In Boston, there’s a store called Bodega — I like how dope it is that there’s a bodega out front. You go in and it’s go the refreshment, the juices and sodas, and there’s a counter where you pay for stuff, and you keep going in and there’s a sneaker store in the back. I like Major in [Washington] D.C.; I like Pusha T’s shop in [Virginia], Cream, and I like Sportie LA. I try to pop in a lot of shoe shops all over the country, I go there just to check them out and see what they’re holding. I went to 12AM:Run, the shop Nas is a partner with, and it was a cool shop as well.

I want to do a shop — next year sometime, I want to do a shop. How passionate I am about it and how much I like to wear shoes, different styles of shoes, that’s why a shop is coming into my mind. I like variation; I like different shoes. I’m going to start working on it soon, I’ve got to get some music out there first and let that run on autopilot. Brooklyn would be dope, that’s home base for me, [and] I like some areas in New Jersey, like the Hoboken type of vibe.