Kris ‘Dozign’ Balerite, 26, from the Philippines, grew up in Dubai and found himself disappointed by the lack of sneaks available here. As a result, Kris and fellow sole enthusiasts Joshua Cox and Hussain Moloobhoy have put together an initiative to bring together Dubai’s sneakerheads and street culture enthusiasts: Sole DXB.
So, Kris, tell us more about sneaker culture.
It’s all about loving the hunt for sneakers. It’s something that’s been growing since the ’80s. For kids like me who grew up in the ’90s – especially here among the Filipino community, in which basketball’s so huge – we always wanted to wear whatever Michael Jordan was wearing. We always needed a new pair for every season of basketball.
What defines a sneakerhead?
They always have to have at least 100 pairs of shoes, but it’s mostly about quality over quantity, and a true sneakerhead will hardly ever wear them. I can always spot one in Dubai because they’ll walk past me and check out my Jordans – that’s why I call great sneakers ‘neckbreakers’. Also, when a sneakerhead gets new shoes, they’ll rip open the box and smell the sole, and they’ll always clean their shoes after wearing them.
Is there rivalry between collectors?
‘Not really, although Nike-heads do hate every brand but Nike, and Adidas-heads think Nike has never come up with anything new.’
Which are your favourite pair of sneakers?
My 1985 Nike Jordan 1s – the first run of Jordan sneakers ever. They’d cost about Dhs15,000 now, but I’ll never sell them. I want to give them to my son one day. I also love my 1992 re-release Jordan reds and Jordan blues – I have two pairs of each, one for bashing and one for rainy days. Jordans are the top sneaker of all time – they’re the basis for a lot of sneaker technology, such as air technology. It also changed how people think about sneaker colours. Black and red shoes were banned in the NBA when Jordans first came out, but Nike paid the fine for Michael Jordan every time he wore them – about Dhs30,000 each time – because they knew it would create hype.’
Where do you buy your sneakers?
It’s tough here – the range isn’t good, but we’re launching a blog in March that will eventually be a place where people can buy sneakers. For now, there’s City Shoes in Karama (04 337 8010) – they sell Jordans and yes, they’re genuine. There’s also Sun and Sand Sports in Deira City Centre for Vans, Timberlands and Nikes, and Harvey Nichols at MOE for luxe brands such as YSL.
Sole DXB attractions
Sneaker culture isn’t just about shoes. It’s an intersection where hip hop, skate and street cultures all meet, and there’ll be plenty of that at the event. Here are some highlights…
• A chance to see the rare sneakers that spend most of their time in collectors’ closets. Kris will be showing off his custom ostrich leather Nike Dunks, a collector called Nate will have his amazing range of Nike Jordans on show, and rare sneaker tie-ups with Dave Grohl, Andre Aggasi and Michael Chang will also be on display.
• The Puma social club will honour the ‘after-hours athlete’ – aka any sport you can play with a drink in your hand (think foosball, ping pong and darts). Puma will also have iPads at the event for you to design your own sneaker.
• Handmade art screen prints for sale from artists such as Jp Cuison, Mad Ink, Ubiq and The Brown Monkeys.
• Adidas, Puma, Nike, DC and Vans will all have a presence at the event, showcasing the best of what they’ve got for a discerning audience.
• A first-time UAE screening of The Mystery of Flying Kicks, a film that explores the story behind sneakers hanging on telephone lines.
• Musical performances from Beat Antenna, Abri, DJ Libido and Noush Like Sploush.
How to get there
Due to limited capacity, you’ll need an invite. Email the night’s hosts at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP, and an invite will be sent to you (if you reply in time). Kris has just one request: ‘Wear your favourite kicks. This is the time to wear those sneakers that have been sitting in the closet.’
Sole DXB takes place on February 24 at 8pm at thejamjar, Al Quoz (04 341 7303). For more info, see www.thejamjardubai.com or search for ‘soledxb’ on Facebook.