This Male Ballet Dancer Has a Luxury Sneaker Inspired By His Fancy Footwork

James Whiteside
James Whiteside of the American Ballet Theatre for Koio.
Courtesy of brand

Luxury sneaker brand Koio is doing some fancy footwork these days. As part of its Collective series of collaborations with artists and changemakers, the company is launching a limited-edition series with American Ballet Theatre principal dancer James Whiteside.

The single unisex lace-up sneaker, made in Italy, is inspired by Whiteside’s dance background. Available for sale online starting today, it will also be available in Koio’s New York store on Dec. 9. The sneaker retails for $298.

Here, Whiteside talks about his new role as shoe designer, his personal style and his favorite dance moments.

Why the decision to partner with Koio?

“I wear sneakers pretty much every day. They approached me to collaborate, and I was excited [since] they do such beautiful work. They were [also] open to hearing what I thought.”

How involved were you in the shoes’ design?

“I went to [Koio’s] New York store and chatted [with its team]. I needed to reference ballet, and old ballet shoes are made of satin. Originally, I thought [a light color] would be beautiful, but it would get destroyed quickly. So I thought of a practical choice and came up with a hearty burgundy. To add a bit more personal flair, we adapted my tattoo — four [claw] scratch marks on my ribcage. They’re embroidered on the side of the shoe.”

What footwear brands do you typically wear?

“For sneakers, I usually go for very classic looks, so I do Chuck Taylors, Reebok Classics and Vans. I’ve stuck with the same styles my whole life. [They] tend to be very simple. For Koio, I wanted to do something that was not too noisy and something [people] would not be afraid to wear. I [also] have dress shoes [that include] a bunch of old Marc Jacobs that I wear a lot. Once I find something I like, I stick with it.”

How do you define your personal style?

“I don’t wear terribly expensive clothes, and I wear jeans a lot. I have a timeless casual look focused on comfort. Every day, I wear ballet clothes. So when I finish work and I’m ready to go home, I don’t want to work to put on my clothes. I [don’t have] a fussy style.”

Koio x James Whiteside sneaker Koio x James Whiteside sneaker. Courtesy of brand.

Do you get involved in the design of your costumes?

“I’m in direct conversation with the costume designer, but I have also designed costumes myself. The most fun for me is getting the first prototype.”

How important is comfort in your apparel and shoes?

“If I’m not comfortable in something, there’s no way I’m going to wear it. I’ve worn so many ballet costumes that are restricting, I know the importance of a comfortable sneaker as well as the rest of my wardrobe.”

What ballet is your favorite to perform?

“My favorite classical ballet is “Giselle.” I performed it in New York, Boston and other countries. The ballet’s prince [role] has more emotional depth than a lot of other characters.”

Are you working on any other projects?

“I’d love to get more involved and create something for the casual dancer, something to bridge the world of fashion and dance.”

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