With 25 years in the game, Jeff Staple is a certified OG in streetwear. You may know him as the creator of the infamous STAPLE x Nike SB “Pigeon” Dunk, but that only scratches the surface of what Jeff has contributed to the culture. Prior to any sneaker collaborations, Staple did art direction for The Fader‘s earliest issues and was hired by Rawkus Records to design covers for artists such as Common, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli.

In the sneaker space, Staple is best known for his “Pigeon” sneakers, the most famous being the aforementioned 2005 “Pigeon” Dunks. A symbol representing the resilience and hustler mentality of NYC, the Pigeon logo has also appeared on the lateral heels of New Balance, PUMA, Clarks, and more footwear brand collaborations. There is also tons of work that Staple has done with Nike sans Pigeon, including the 2004 Navigation Pack, the 2006 Nordic Pack, as well as the naming, rollout, and writing the manifesto for Nike Considered.

Staple has had various collaborative projects over the years, and is now gearing up to launch a few more in partnership with NTWRK as part of STAPLE DAY 2022. The live-streamed in-app shopping festival returns for a second year, though this one is a bit more special as it coincides with the 25th anniversary of STAPLE, the streetwear brand Jeff Staple founded in 1997.

STAPLE DAY 2022 features the release of new collaborations with brands such as Cole Haan, Fossil, YEENJOY, Oakley, and more, as well as a restock of the STAPLE x Allbirds Dasher. To celebrate 25 years of STAPLE, a special in-person event will take place at the Shopify LA space in Downtown Los Angeles featuring a STAPLE retrospective that highlights key moments of Jeff’s legacy from the past 25 years. Full-page excerpts from his upcoming book with Rizzoli will also be on display.

But that’s not all. Jeff Staple and NTWRK have also teamed up on a mega sneaker giveaway that includes 26 of Jeff Staple’s favorite sneakers, one from every year between 1997 and 2022. The one lucky winner of the “Quarter Century of Classic Kicks” giveaway will receive all 26 pairs in a special package plus one of every item from the STAPLE DAY 2022 collection. The sneaker lineup includes the 2001 Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement,” the 2018 Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97, and 24 other classic pairs. The drawing for the giveaway is live now on the NTWRK app.

STAPLE DAY 2022 takes place this Sunday, June 12th on the NTWRK app and in-person at the Shopify LA space in Downtown Los Angeles. Check out the top drops from the event below, as well as our interview with Jeff Staple where he talks about his longevity in the streetwear game, what makes a good collab, and more.

 

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STAPLE x ToyQube x Astro Boy

STAPLE x Cole Haan 5.ZERØGRAND

 

STAPLE x Oakley Frogbirds

STAPLE x Allbirds Dasher

STAPLE x ZeeDog Collection

STAPLE x Fossil Watch

MN: So first, I want to say congrats on the 25th anniversary of STAPLE.

Jeff Staple: Thank you, man.

MN: 25 years is a crazy long time for a “streetwear” brand. What do you think the secret for longevity is in this space?

Jeff Staple: I mean, I think it’s mainly, to be honest, like, consistency is the word that comes to mind. It’s interesting. It’s almost like a contradiction, right? Because so much of our culture is built on quote unquote “hype.” But when you think of the word hype, you often don’t think of things that are timeless, they’re almost like literally the exact opposite to each other. But when I started the brand in 1997, I was always thinking about legacy and longevity, and trying to mix that in this culture of hype where there’s timely drops and exclusive collaborations and everything like that.

So, I think the secret is consistency, honestly. In the two and a half decades that I’ve been in this business now, there’s been so many amazingly talented people, talented brands, amazingly hype collaborations, retail stores, yada yada yada. And I think there’s been like, honestly, like probably people that are more creative than me, more prolific, more talented, more money, better looking [laughs]. But like, my whole thing was consistency. I’m just gonna keep going with this at a pace that I know can be maintained in the long run.

A lot of that also came because I knew that if I was going to do this right, I needed to have a team. I needed people and I wanted to protect my people. I want people who work for STAPLE to like, actually have a place that they can rest their head so to speak, and like really have trust and reliability in the place that they’re working at. So like, yeah, I think consistency is the number one thing.

MN: Let’s dive into these collabs for STAPLE DAY, starting with the ToyQube one. When we think about streetwear toys, obviously the first thing that comes to mind is the BE@RBRICK. But Astro Boy is high up there too. What is it about Astro Boy that makes him like the quintessential superhero of streetwear?

Jeff Staple: I think it just goes back to like, nostalgia, and things that remind you of your childhood. Being in streetwear, also known as like, sort of youth culture, I think we’re always reminded of these youthful things, whether it’s like video games or animation, Japanese animation. So Astro Boy I’ve been literally growing up with. I think when we work with these brands, like an Astro Boy or like a BE@RBRICK, they kind of have the backing to our youth which keeps us fresh and young. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you want to never grow up. I think that’s the key there.

It’s actually kind of incredible that in our 25 year history, we’ve never collaborated with Astro Boy and it’s fitting that it’s happening now for the first time in our 25th anniversary. So I’m really excited to finally like launch this one. We’ve actually done collaborations with a bunch of different toy companies, from Kidrobot to 3D Retro to Medicom of course. We appreciate the entire culture of people that make collectible toys for adults.

 

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MN: Can you explain where the name STAPLE came from?

Jeff Staple: As you know, I started STAPLE in 1997. March 7, 1997 was the first time I ever transacted a STAPLE tee, the first time somebody bought 12 shirts off my back. And March 7 just so happens to be my birthday too, so it’s a very sort of like, star-aligned day. But if you can imagine, I’ve been sort of baking that idea for years, right? Like, probably ’94, ’95, ’96 I was already kind of germinating on this idea. In the mid to early 90s, what was happening in youth fashion, there wasn’t streetwear yet per se, there was like skateboard brands like DC and Quiksilver and Etnies, and then there was like hip-hop slash quote unquote “urban” brands, which was like FUBU, Pelle Pelle, Phat Farm, you know, things like Mecca and Enyce, and there was no mix.

To me, streetwear is really just a mix of skate culture, hip-hop culture, and sneaker culture all rolled into one with a little bit of with a little bit of punk, punk rock mentality mixed in, that’s really what street culture is. And so when I was growing up in that era, I was really inspired by New York City hip-hop culture. I was in New York at the time, going to school, mid ’90s. And this was like the golden age of hip-hop culture. You had people like Blackstar, Mos Def, Kweli, Common, Sadat X, Company Flow, this was just an amazing era in hip-hop culture.

So part of the DNA for the brand I was gonna do was going to have this hip-hop culture, but if you look at the fashion that was coming out in hip-hop culture, it was very loud, ostentatious, gaudy, blingy kind of fashion. And the other half of my upbringing was like, true to graphic design. I was in Parsons School of Design for graphic design and so I also had this aesthetic that wanted to be very clean and properly trained and have a real technique and skill set that came from graphic design. So I didn’t want to make a brand that looked anything like FUBU, no disrespect to, you know, FUBU and Daymond John and the others, I just didn’t want didn’t want a brand that looked or felt like that, but I wanted it to come from hip-hop culture and be inspired by that.

This is a long way of saying why I named it STAPLE, but if you were really into this, sort of like core hip-hop culture, the four main elements of hip-hop culture are emceeing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti. Those are the four elements and anything above and beyond that is, people would say like, that’s like rap, that’s the industry of rap and not actually hip-hop. Not that I prescribe to that today, I’m just telling you how sort of two factions were thinking about it in the ’90s. To me, you couldn’t have the culture without those essential elements. So when I was creating my brand, I also wanted to create a brand that like, was the essential elements, the baseline, the foundation. And so I’m using the definition of the word staple, in the essence of like, something that is an essential element, kind of like how rice is like a staple food for Asian cultures, for example. So that’s the genesis of the name. It was like, no bling, no bullshit, just the true elements. And that’s what a staple is and that’s why I named it STAPLE.

MN: Wow.

Jeff Staple: Sorry for the long history. I needed to give the context. [laughs]

MN: No, I love it. So on your socials, you occasionally share these like sneaker appreciation posts. The most recent one you posted is the Hello Kitty Presto. What is it about the Hello Kitty Presto that made you want to post them up?

Jeff Staple: Great, great question only because I’ve thought about that a lot since I’ve posted it. You know in IG, right, there’s like the difference between posting something on your feed in your grid versus posting something in your stories that disappears, right? So the decision for me to put that on my grid, I even had to think about “wow, why do I feel compelled to put this on my grid?” and the reason why is because that collaboration and that project really takes me back to like, original OG sneakerhead days when the culture just began, and when collaborations that were coming out ticked off a lot important boxes to me.

So like, are the two partners different enough and unique enough so that it’s not sort of like same thing, like are you bringing in two different parties that bring their own equity to the table. Check. Then there’s is the execution of it good. Like sometimes, even when the first box was checked, sometimes they fuck up on the second box, and the shoe was not well executed. They didn’t do the right thing for the actual aesthetic of the shoe. And I feel like in that Hello Kitty Nike, check, they did that as well. I love that they took the heel counter and actually changed it from the original, sort of like standard Nike Air heel counter and then made it like Hello Kitty’s face. And then the all-over print of course. And then if you look on the midsole, they’ve got the five dots that represents the old Alpha Project, and they colored the inside of those five dots in Hello Kitty colors. You know, stuff like that. And then the third part to me is like, the packaging and the release of it. All those sort of outside elements outside of the shoe. I had to take a picture of the box. The box is so dope. I love it that they redid the whole box. I love that it’s just like the playful Hello Kitty style swoosh with the Hello Kitty bow. They redid the tissue paper inside the box. And then the other cool thing is that it wasn’t like 36 pairs at Union, you know what I mean? Like it was a proper release that people could actually get their hands on and not have to pay resell, which I appreciate as a sneakerhead too, even though I’m fully guilty of putting out releases that go crazy on the aftermarket. But I always appreciate a well-designed, well-executed release that is available to lots of people and it’s not like crazy expensive. So to me, that checked off the three boxes and I felt like, man, we need more of this type of collaboration from sneaker culture.

MN: Dope. Yeah, I agree 100%. In another recent post, you featured the Cole Haan atmos collab. Can you talk about your personal connection to Cole Haan and what the brand means to you?

Jeff Staple: Yeah. I’ve been a sort of design advisor/partner of Cole Haan since Cole Haan was owned by Nike back in the day with LunarGrand. I actually met Cole Haan because Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment was doing a Cole Haan collaboration. He did a launch in Soho at their flagship and he asked me to come along as just, you know, his homie. And I went and that’s when I met the Cole Haan team. And so since then, we’ve had this incredible relationship where we’ve just guided them on both in-line products, energy products, collaborations that they’ve done with other people, and when the time is right, STAPLE collaborations. So in that decade plus, I would say we probably collaborated directly on maybe like, five or six different styles. And it’s been just a great relationship.

Then we have a new shoe that they’re doing called the 5.ZERØGRAND (5.ZG), which is probably their most progressive sneaker to date. And we’re doing a collaboration on that for STAPLE DAY as well this weekend. But it’s really cool to me because I think that if you’re a sneakerhead, you’re gonna gravitate towards like Nike, or adidas, Converse, YEEZY, etc, etc. But I think there’s occasions where there’s other things that you want to wear, which is why you see these brands like Doc Martens, Hoka, Crocs that are bubbling up, because I think just people might get tired of wearing one brands seven days a week, 365 days a year. So I think Cole Haan fits into that world where like, there’s occasions where you just want to dress up and be a little bit more proper. And I think Cole Haan has the DNA for that.

 

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MN: The traditional 25th anniversary gift is silver. I saw that the YEENJOY incense holder collab is silver. Is that what influenced the design of that?

Jeff Staple: Yeah. So… yes, you nailed it basically. The YEENJOY is silver, you’ll notice the Astro Boy is also silver. We didn’t go all silver on everything but we tried to add it in. So we also have a TUMI collaboration between luggage, that’s not silver, but the luggage tags where you put your ID, that is silver. So it’s sort of hidden throughout the whole entire year’s collection, like the silver anniversary collection. So, it’s pretty dope.

I also, to be honest, I appreciate talking about the 25th anniversary and I have no issues hiding it at all, but I also didn’t want to make it where like, everything was silver, every shirt, because to me, it’s not really so much about the past. It’s more about the present and the future that I’m focused on. I didn’t want to be this brand that just like like an “old head” brand that all they cared about was like the history in the past. But at the same time, I do want to pay homage to what we’ve done, that’s important as well, to celebrate your wins. So it was kind of like a like a half half in my brain of like, think about the past sure, but let’s think about the future as well. But we also have a Rizzoli book coming out at the end of the year, which is a 300-page coffee table book to celebrate and just look at the last quarter century, which is going to be really dope.

 

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MN: Besides the Pigeon Dunk, is there something that you’ve designed in the past 25 years that is an outlier, that stands out and makes you go “man, I’m really proud of this”?

Jeff Staple: Yeah. I don’t know if you’re like keen on Web3 or crypto or NFTs yet. Do you know anything about that world?

MN: Yeah, for sure.

Jeff Staple: Okay, so I did a collaboration last year with a brand called RTFKT, and we did what’s called the Meta-Pigeon. And then we did two sneakers with the Meta-Pigeon. And that was really important for me in, in hindsight, looking at it now a year out, because now RTFKT is now an official division of Nike. They got acquired by Nike. And that Meta-Pigeon sneaker is worth nearly as much as the OG Pigeon. And that’s just for the NFT, like for the digital version. And so that’s also something that I’m really proud of, because it would have been easy for me to, after being in the game for 25 years to just like, hang my hat on the Pigeon dunk and just ride off into the sunset. But it takes a lot of effort to learn about this new world and Web3 and crypto and NFTs, and then not only to learn about it, but then to collaborate with best-in-class partners on it, like RTFKT, and then you know, actually execute on something. Like now we have the entire STAPLEVERSE, which is like our own whole community. That’s amazing. So it’s just cool that like, I can pivot into like a new world. It kind of reminds me of like pre e-comm and pre social media when I had to go from like trade shows and selling door to door to boutiques, and then the internet hit, and then it was like e-comm and then social media. Now I feel like this Web3 thing is like that monumental of a shift that’s happening again. And so it’s important for me that like I don’t miss the boat on this. And I definitely study it. So it’s cool. It’s like I’m a student all over again.

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