It’s hard to believe but last week I celebrated ten years of DeFY. New York. To commemorate the occasion (at the advice of Jordan Hagedorn) I decided to list my ten most memorable moment’s over the years. Before that though I’d like to go back to the beginning, before the blog. As a kid I was always into sneakers. I’m not quite sure what triggered this obsession but it started back around 1987. I vividly remember the first pair of shoes I really sweated, a pair of Reebok BB4600’s. If you remember (or maybe you don’t or weren’t alive then) during that time Reebok’s popularity was just straight up through the roof. When my family and I would come out of church and hit the bagel spot the first thing I would do is just stare at everyone’s feet hoping for a glimpse of those beloved BB4600’s. The next important shoe as far as my obsession goes is the Nike Alpha Force low. My mother wouldn’t buy them for me and instead opted for the knock off Olympian version. At that age, I was satisfied. While I knew deep down they weren’t the real deal I loved them just the same – I would run and simultaneously stare at my feet to see them in motion lol-. Then came the obsession with the Jordan III (for which I had the Olympian Version of that shoe too! SMH (pic for your amusement below- I think my facial expression sums up my feelings on that haha!))
Reebok Pumps, Jordan IV’s, Trainer SC II 3/4’s and many many more. The defining moment for me however, came when my grandmother purchased me a pair of Nike Air Tech Challenge II 3/4. This was a really expensive shoe for the time and my first shoe with visible Air. I was in awe of those things and made my mother keep them for years -even after they were trashed and I had long since grown out of them.
Then came the Solo Flights, another one of my all time favorites.
Then Twilight Zone Pumps
Trainer Max 91’s, Flight 91’s, FILA Cages, FX 100’s, PUMA Suedes, Converse Pro Leather’s Vans Lampin’s and so on and so forth.
Once I started working in 1997 came the trips into the city to find the old gems and a spot right out here on Long Island, the Busy Bee Mall. This was a place that up until 1999 had a TON of shoes from the 80’s and early 90’s everything from Jordan’s to Akeem Etonic’s and everything in between. It was also around early 97 where I first encountered a small group of sneaker addicts like myself on the Internet. Sites like Al Bundy Society and Nike Park followed by Tomahawk chop, Shoe Trends and a host of others. By the time I was ending high school and entering college the IV’s came back for the first time and it was the beginning of the end for our bank accounts lol.
Then came the discovery of Niketalk in early 2000. At first I had no inclination to join or take photo’s of my collection to show them off. A good friend of mine at the time did wind up joining around 2000 and in 2001 and 2002 I tried several times to join only to see my application disappear into limbo lol (during those days you couldn’t just sign up and go). Eventually I would finally be granted an account in 2003 and that really became my home for sharing this passion. I would also join forums like Sole Collector, Hypebeast, Sneaker Freaker, Sneakerplay, Crooked Tongues, Kaskus, the early days of TSG and many others. It wasn’t until 2005 that I toyed with the idea of maybe starting my own site but at that time I felt if I was going to create my own site I would do the coding myself (which as you might know can be a tad involved). As the next two years unraveled I begun noticing some of my photo’s showing up on sites like NiceKicks and KicksOnFire and so in 2007 I decided that it was time to take years of old magazine’s, ad’s, catalog’s and personal photo’s and share this excessive passion with the rest of the community. Before I could start however I had to choose a name and because I knew that I didn’t want to solely focus on footwear it had to be something that wasn’t a sneaker reference. As I sat trying to figure out a name I noticed the word ‘defy’ on the Jordan IV Poster I had hanging up. It was motivational, it was simple and it was easy to remember. Of course I live in New York and so a New York vibe would be ingrained in the site’s pages and DeFY. New York was born. Did I think I’d be here 10 years later talking about 10 years of moments to celebrate, no. But here we are and here we go. Scroll below as I share my 10 most memorable moments.
#10 WE ARE LIVE.
Love him or hate him you gotta respect him. I met Chris back in 2005 when Flight Club opened their doors as he was the head of the original crew and went on to do tons of stuff for the organization. Whenever I slid through that first location though it was always love (except for that one time he said my OG Ewing’s wouldn’t sell and not only did they sell they were gone in less than 24 hours! lol). From the conversations we had about old sneakers to the conversations we had about life to the times Chris would try to hold off the cops so we could move our cars and avoid tickets it was something special. By 2008 DeFY. New York was around for a little over a year and I wasn’t really posting much in the way of content nor was I really promoting it. Somehow though he found the site not even knowing really who was behind it and was the first person to drop a comment. The post was a throwback about the Fresh Out The Box event from 2003 where tons of OG’s including Retro Kid, Air Rev and Just Blaze slid through. That was the official moment where interaction on the site happened and I knew that this thing was real.
#9 THE FIRST TIME I WAS GIFTED A PAIR OF SNEAKERS
When it comes to footwear whether its in Payless or KITH if its something I like I’ll wear it and support it. That led me to a post on Niketalk sometime back in 2010/11 about how I had discovered this dope running shoe from Champion. Champion footwear has always held a special place in the hearts of die hard shoe heads like myself and so when I surprisingly found something that didn’t look and feel like it was made out of paper in Payless I wanted to cop. The only problem? They had sold out of my size. I took some photo’s did a write up about them and to my surprise the shoes designer reached out to me. He was a fan of Niketalk and an avid shoe collector himself -which is probably why the shoe was dope- and he was appreciative of the post I had made about his design. Although it wasn’t easy he managed to track down a pair for me and sent them on over. Since then we’ve kept in touch through email and IG and he has since landed a dream position at Jordan Brand. This let me know that the industry was always watching and that Karma was real.
#8 SHOWCASING TALENT
When I started this blog I knew I wanted to showcase up and coming talent from all walks of life including designers and unsigned artists. I also knew I didn’t want to wait around for some publicist that probably didn’t even know my site existed to send me a press kit -this led me to start searching out artists on YouTube-. While there has been a good amount of young talent featured on the site (not as much as I would like) Barbare Mchedlishvili will forever be a stand out. It was still fairly early on in the sites existence when I stumbled upon a video titled ‘Kreyshawn Got Competition‘ (which was changed to Iggy Azalea Got Competition). By that point there was only 900 views (it eventually exploded to over a million) but this girl who could rhyme, sing like Amy Winehouse and appeared to have a great personality blew me away and I knew I had to search her out.
I don’t quite remember how I was able to track her down but I did and we did a telephone interview. I could tell just by our phone conversation that she had the potential to be a star but of course she had to be ready. Eventually we met up in Brighton Beach while she was visiting friends and we talked and did a couple of photo’s. It wasn’t long after that interview that I had Warner and Sony Music as well as managers blowing up my email looking to track down Barbare and it was at that moment where I realized that not only what I intended for this site was coming to fruition but that it was the real deal.
#7 MEMORABLE INTERVIEWS
Ok, so this is like five moments in one but I wanted to keep it to ten so I bunched my most memorable interviews into one post, F it. Over the years I’ve had several interviews but Five in particular truly stand out from the rest.
My first most notable interview was my first interview on the site with non other than Sean Williams co-founder of OSD.. Sean was a supporter from the days of Sneakerplay and when we set up an interview I took it super seriously because although I knew him, I also knew it would set the tone for future interviews.
Steven Smith: I don’t quite remember how Steven and I linked up but I’m 99.9% sure I was the first on the block to score an interview with him. We spoke for a long time about everything from his days of collecting vintage sneakers to his career which included long stints at Reebok, New Balance, Nike, adidas and more to his friendships which include Steven Tyler, Tinker Hatfield and Paul Litchfield to name a few. Since that interview he has gone on to also provide insight on topics ranging from quality changes in sneakers to comparisons between tanneries both past and present. Oh yea, and Kanye West reached out to him to join his private team of designers. BOOM.
Aaron Hernandez: When PUMA announced they had signed a young star named Aaron Hernandez to an endorsement deal there was real promise for the duo. It wasn’t long after that PUMA reached out to me and asked if I wanted to interview him via telephone which of course I did. It wasn’t a ground-breaking moment in journalism but it was a pretty decent interview nonetheless. We touched on his tat’s, how he partnered with PUMA and so on and so forth. We ended the conversation with well wishes but no one on the line that day could have ever predicted what the next few months would hold for him let a lone the next few years.
Roy Yun: Roy was a guy that I didn’t think anyone would ever track down for an interview let a lone myself. With the help of David Goldberg I was able to track down Roy and get him on the phone for an epic discussion about his career, the golden years of footwear design and of course insight on all those mysterious designs from Ewing Athletics. I bugged out hearing it so I knew everyone would bug out reading it.
Rich Colon aka “Crazy Legs”: Over the past few years I’ve had a good relationship with the fine people at Summer Stage and when they asked me last minute if I wanted to do an interview with New York’s own and world wide legend Rich “Crazy Legs” Colon there was zero hesitation. What was supposed to be a fairly brief interview rolled into a conversation that could have gone on forever and what I took away from it was a relationship that will continue on past that interview and support on my end in any project Legs is involved in.
#6 MEETING TINKER HATFIELD
By this point I don’t think Tinker Hatfield needs an introduction. Aside from designing a boat load of my all time favorite Nike’s he will go down as one of the greatest designers and most important people in the history of Nike and so meeting the person that designed your all time favorite shoe (the Nike Air Tech Challenge II) is pretty big for sneaker obsessed individual like myself. The real pleasure was in knowing that despite all of his success he was one of the most grounded and friendly individuals I’ve ever met in the footwear industry. Easy to approach he was open to all questions, attentive and eager to show off some custom laser etched boots. While there are many super talented footwear designers (I’m looking at you Steven Smith and Dwayne Edwards) Tinker will undoubtedly remain the leader of the pack-for now.
#5 STEPPING OUTSIDE OF SNEAKERS
As I stated previously, when I chose a name for this blog it was to be motivational, represent where I’m from and purposely non specific to footwear for the fact that I wanted to cover way more than just sneakers. This diversity on the sites pages have led to unique opportunities and meetings I may not have had otherwise. One such opportunity was an invite to Sixty SOHO to tag up their walls in collaboration with the Smart Crew before renovation. Somehow it landed me the lead off pic on the Art + Design page for Complex tagging DeFY. in my vintage Hilfiger Rugby which was pretty dope.
#4 MEETING NEW YORK RADIO ROYALTY
Growing up in Freeport New York in the 80’s and 90’s was something special. Home to Flavor Flav and next door to Chuck D & Terminator X in Roosevelt,Hip Hop was all around us -the video for ‘Can’t Do Nuttin For You Man‘ was shot literally around the block from where I grew up. During the 80’s and very early 90’s if you wanted to listen to Hip Hop on the radio then 98.7 was where it was at, that was until Hot 97 changed over from Freestyle & Dance to Hip Hop. Since I listened to all genre’s of music I was there for the transition and always had my tape deck ready to record which introduced me to a new young voice, Angie Martinez. At 11 years old I didn’t know much about her other than I instantly connected with her personality (and of course once I saw photo’s thought she looked pretty good too). She was there for Hip Hop’s infancy into the mainstream in arguably the biggest market on the planet and there for all the high’s and low’s we all experienced. From Pac & Biggie’s rise and fall She offered a voice of reason when there was none, predictability when we needed it and a true insiders opinion. She put herself out there always evolving and has become one of the most noteworthy individuals in the industry -a true inspiration. With that said when the opportunity arose to cover a children’s fashion show for Converse that Angie – amongst others would be at- I had to jump on it. When I finally ran into her she was a class act all the way and although she was on schedule to leave it didn’t stop her from a quick meet and greet which just added to the admiration I already had for her (oh yea, and even better looking in person).
Then of course came my other run in with more radio greatness. I had chopped it up with Bobbito before but never Stretch and certainly not both in the same spot and so when the opportunity presented itself it was beyond dope. These were guys that I had discovered one day while rolling through the radio dial and became hooked instantly. Profanity on the radio?! What?! My favorite artists that didn’t get much mainstream play in constant rotation? New artists I had never heard of? Dope mixes? You already know, it was a legendary show. With that said as a fan of Hip Hop and being a huge fan of the show, being able to chop it up with these two was monumental -word to Lauren Peteroy who hooked this up-.
#3 FULL CIRCLE: APPEARANCE ON FUSE & MEETING PATRICK EWING
Since childhood I’ve been a Knicks fan and a big fan of Patrick’s footwear. For years I waited for someone to retro his beloved line but it seemed like it would never happen. Fast forward to 2007 when there was talk of the brand possibly returning and I was HYPED. I had a few OG pairs that were no longer wearable and just the thought of having a wearable pair of 33 Hi’s was incredible. Much to my dismay though nothing came of the sample that had surfaced and so, armed with a new website, YouTube account and a 6 year membership on Niketalk I created a thread petitioning for the return of the Ewing brand, and a video Pushing for the return of the Ewing Brand. Thank’s to catalog scans from Flattophightop and photo’s from my own personal stash with an ONRA instrumental the video (a long with the Niketalk thread) caught the attention of the man behind the return of the brand, David Goldberg. It lead to new friendships, an incredible relationship with a brand that truly loves and respects the shoe community as well as this appearance on FUSE’s first episode of Sole Searching to talk about the return of the Ewing brand.
By this point I knew a lot about the history of the brand and where it was going but didn’t know what I should say and shouldn’t but it was an incredible experience and Esteban Serrano and his team did a great job of editing.
Fast forward some 4 years later and eventually everything would come full cycle when I was able to sit down and share a few laughs with the man himself Patrick Ewing. We talked about the earliest days of the brands return, how he was convinced to do it and some inside jokes making for a truly memorable moment.
While I never started the site with the idea that I would be recognized for it in the media, being recognized for the time put in feels good especially when its a passion project that reflects me and my upbringing. Of course the first site to ever really acknowledge DeFY. New York was the OSD Crew headed by Sean Williams and Dee Wells, then came my first interview with Zack Schlemmer -when he was at Sole Collector –
followed by Russ Bengston, Brandon Edler, Matt Welty and Nick Engvall giving DeFY. New York a shout out over at Complex
followed by an interview with Sneakers Mag. It let me know that there were people out there that cared just as much as I did in preserving the history of footwear as well as meshing the past with the present and forecasting into the future. It was also nice to know that they enjoyed the coverage of the non footwear content too.
#1 THE TRAIN BANNER.
In the earliest days of DeFY. New York you would be greeted by this. A of sort creepy scrap bookish type of banner (if you could call it that) which included Homey The Clown & a Ferrari Daytona from Miami Vice. It was weird, it was definitely throwback and um, I’ll let you fill in the blank. Eventually, this banner would change into the Train banner.
This was a photo taken by my wife sometime in 2009 while we were dating. We had left a spot I always hit up for old shoes in Flatbush and we were coming back and just sitting in traffic. I remember seeing the train coming by and telling her to stick the camera out of the window and shoot away and so she did. The Trains in New York are just so important to our every day way of life. They are the life blood of the city and something I wanted to integrate into DeFY. New York. When I got home and saw this photo it was just perfect to me and I used it and have been using it for the site ever since.