On the Nike React Element 87s, sneaker culture and life in between: a conversation with Jeggi Elinzano

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Hey everyone,

and hi from Berlin! As I am transitioning back into the student-life here in Germany, and taking a bunch of notes and observations, one of the many reasons why I decided to move away from New York, was to be able to create more. In any way possible, but also more content for the site, hoping the platform will be filled with more ideas, and more different kind of perspectives.

I have been meaning to speak to Jeggi Elinzano — dear training partner and friend — for a while but you know how life in New York can be — extremely busy and hectic at times — thus, it wasn’t until this past weekend when we made some time for a face-time session to speak about one of our favorite topics: sneakers. If you’re close to us, you might know about one of my favorite stories on how I got introduced to the NYC running community.

This was back in 2014 when I walked into Nike Running Flatiron to buy new running shoes… Jeggi was on site and helped me with a running analysis and then a pair of Zoom Structures. We then ended up talking and discussing sneakers, colors, running for another 2 hours and even shared the subway ride home back to Brooklyn. We became good friends and he introduced me to this incredible running community in New York. Wow, it’s been four years and so much has already happened!

I always admired Jeggi for his knowledge and ‘geekiness’ for product and specifically for running shoes and if I had any doubt, I would turn to him. In this moment and in the past few weeks, I was musing about the Nike React Element 87s and have to admit, I had my eye on the first drop with the white clear color way and then wanted to get my hands on the Undercoverlab ones, too. Unfortunately or fortunately, I wasn’t lucky — which was totally fine to me since I had this big move coming — and this is where I am going to drop this conversation here:

Jeggi, I wanted to speak to you about the Nike React Element 87s and before we start, who are you and what do you do?

I’m a manager at 21Mercer and I run and I DJ sometimes.

What’s your favorite distance and what’s your favorite sound right now?

My favorite distance is the marathon and then lately, it changes all the time, it depends on what I am doing. If I am Djing for a party, with my laptop, I am usually playing Afrobeats or Wizkid and Burner Boy and if I am playing records, lately it’s been a lot of Disco. And what I am trying to do right now is, like later I am going to a record swap today, I am trying to find Disco from other countries. Like I found a record when I was out in Chicago that was pan-African Disco from Paris, that’s incredible!

Amazing! So I have been just observing that the Element 87s have been coming out in different colors and didn’t really expect even more color ways with the Chicago Marathon a couple weeks back. What is your take on that shoe? Because wasn’t this initially a running shoe?

Well, in two areas. It was developed through running, but it was actually introduced as a basketball shoe first. And usually it comes through running and then into other sports. So it was the Hyper Dunk that used the React foam first and the running team — because in Basketball you need lateral support so the rubber had a casing around it to support lateral movement — so they took that down to reduce the weight since running is only forward and backward motion. Then, it moved its way into running and then, what Nike usually does, they want to expand the technology into day-to-day living which broadens the reach of the shoe, so they developed a lifestyle shoe and that is the React Element 87. Nevertheless, it is a performance shoe, not that we’re going to tell people to run in it but outwardly, it is a running silhouette and it has the old Nike running swoosh pattern that we used at a lot of our running applications on the tongue as a design element but it is a lifestyle shoe. Even the name is the 87th element in the periodic table and it’s Francium which is a highly volatile and combustible element. It’s a shoe that has a lot of energy but it’s a lifestyle shoe.. I mean if you have to run from the cops… you’re good money you know (laughs).

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How many pairs do you have?

I don’t like to have too many pairs of the same shoe, so I reign that in. I have the original white one and then I have one of the Undercover ones which is how we caught a glimpse of the shoe. Through a Undercover fashion week show in Paris.

So you knew that for the Chicago Marathon, they would be releasing more color ways?

Yeah, I had visibility on that and I also knew that they would be releasing it a week earlier than we did here in New York.

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From what I can see, I have the feeling it’s the most desired shoe of 2018, what do you think?

I think on Net, yeah maybe, but with the handful of OffWhite releases that have come out throughout the year, them as being the most coveted shoes by the most people… but I think — and I am speaking from real life market — the first drop of React Element 87 were really really coveted. I think over the course of time, it lost a little bit of that energy and in that initial release, the Undercover was strong, too, but I think by the time we got to the Undercover, it kind of ran its course like every shoe does, but I think that first set is one of the shoes that not only sneaker heads, hype beasts but also fashion people and normal people got access to. I think the 87s had the widest reach because OffWhite has a specific market and a specific group of people. Anyone from someone looking to have cozy shoes from the street, down to like the hype beast or sneaker head wanted, I think this shoe had the most universal appeal.

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What is your take on the transition from this hype industry moving more towards the mainstream?

I think its twofolds. We see it at Nikelab where they release usable technology like the Lunar Epic and the VaporMax early and that kind of connected the worlds you know. Like our world is very specific at Lab vs the rest of the Nike stores but in all honesty, I think it was all the heavy collaborations with a lot of those people that aren’t part of the usual Nike sphere. I think that really started with OffWhite and Virgil Abloh. I think what it was before was specific silhouettes and certain models of the Air Max that people were hyping on or certain Jordans that were very specific to the community, but I think it was the specific kind of collaborations that brought different people into our world. Or even like Patta, it’s very specific to its community, but once we started doing Acronym and then most heavily, OffWhite and obviously Undercover and Matthew Williams, we started bringing different people into the fold a little bit more.

I think the way we were marketing the Element 87s, we made a shoe that you know, really anyone could have and wear every day. The breadth of the collaborations brought in a wider community into Nike but also Nikelab.

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Where do you think the sneaker culture is headed?

I think we’re moving away from the traditional definition and we’re looking at collaborations that are much more fashion focused and a lot of the collaborations we’re working with now is with for example: A Cold Wall or Fear of God, and it’s not even traditional fashion. It’s just more like younger, hipper, cooler fashion brands. I mean you saw the track inspired fashion show by OffWhite where they had Vaporfly Elites in the show and track spike Vaporflys. I think that’s the direction that sneakers are going because a lot of people that are getting into it now are young, fashion forward kids with money. We’re looking at the fashionizing, fashionization — obviously I made this word up — but like the elevation of sneakers into a higher brow crowd. It’s kind of where I like to see it move towards, to see sneakers less as hype or sell-through but as a tangible entry point for a higher-brow culture because we can afford the sneakers. For example, I won’t afford an OffWhite shoe, they are really expensive, but I have multiple pairs of OffWhite Nikes. Kind of like what Gyakusou did with Undercover which is very specific to running, but we’re getting to a point where we make it available.

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It’s so interesting to see the industries merging more and more right now. Sports wanting to be fashion. Fashion wanting to be sports. I was just talking to a friend earlier about this, but do you think anyone can be a sneaker head? Or what defines a sneaker head to you?

Yeah, I think anyone can be a sneaker head. If you have an appreciation for sneakers and know what you want and have a specific understanding of the sneakers you’re into, that could be running — you can geek out on 4%s all day — or it can be the people I deal with a lot, the ones that want every single OffWhite collab on demand or it can be the oldschool head that collects all the Jordans, like the ones I cant even touch, like Geb or Kenia, people who have been collecting this stuff for a very long time and very specific models and shoes. It varies and it is unique to every individual, but if you know what you like when it comes to sneakers and you have an awareness of the history of it, I think you’re looking at a sneakerhead, because people who don’t care will just buy sneakers! But you buy a specific set of sneakers and I buy a specific set of sneakers and we’re cognizant of the history of the shoe or where it comes from or who designed it or who worked on it or what it represents… if you have a collection as big as Geb’s or mine, I’d say we’re a little bit obsessed with it you know.

Ok so how many pairs do you have?

I am looking at like 200 something pairs of shoes.

Damn Jeggi, where do you store them? In boxes? And lol, do you actually wear them?

I have a closet, piles and piles of shoes. Some of them are in boxes, stacked next to my bed, and then the key ones are under my bed. I really only wear 5 or 6 pairs of shoes which is appalling.

The rest just sits in my closet stacked on top of each other.

Waiting for the right moment?

Maybe. Some of them are just like old shoes that I haven’t gotten rid of or archived pieces. Like I have a pair of HTM Air Maxes that I don’t really wanna get rid of, because they are part of my archive you know.

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What do you think of sustainability? Do you give your shoes away? Do you buy used shoes?

Well, I am a hoarder (laughs). I just have them and for example, I have a rare black pair of Janofskis and I haven’t worn them in years. The other day I put them on and skated you know. I personally like the recycling of shoes amongst friends. I am really keen on that so that you pass a shoe forward or give it to someone you like, or you gift it to them because they might like it. I am not a really big fan of leaving shoes out on the street and taking a picture for Instagram and being like: these lived a good life, okay bye! There are tons of recycling stations throughout the city, use them. Sell it to Buffalo Exchange, but keep them in the cycle you know. I am a firm believer of keeping shoes in the rotation somewhere in this world. I wouldn’t want to see a pair of HTM Air Maxes in the dump.

Do you have any last words to the younger sneaker heads or the ones still somewhat new to this culture?

There’s a lot of ups and downs, ebbs and flows that the culture has, but I think it’s a cool thing as a whole and the way people talk about it with so much passion, about the story behind it and what it means to them. Whether it’s an individual story or a special collaboration, what it means to them and their specific point in life, I think it’s an incredible thing. So if you have that and you want to create stories in your life with a pair of sneakers, then do it and enjoy it. Inevitably, you will look back one day and realize you have far too many sneakers and this is disgusting and you have no space. Until you reach that point of logic and reasoning, enjoy it while you can. It’s a cool and emotional, meaningful thing.

How did You get involved in all of it?

One part, it’s my character. I used to work on racing carts and I used to skateboard. I have always been very technical about things. Once I got into running and shoes, I started to geek out on the technology of our shoes. My dad is kind of a head, too. He likes Stan Smiths, Court Classics, Chuck Taylor, but he gets them in quantities and geeks out on them. Also being Filipino, we just like shoes, so I think inevitably I was just exposed to it in different ways. Growing up I just knew what I wanted and I could name key shoes throughout my life that I needed to have. What they meant to me.

And then when I was in London, I hung out around a lot of really like heavy sneaker dudes. Mubi now works at Sneakersnstuff and Gary Warnett was always around, he was like a legend in sneaker culture, being an intellectual and writer about it. Dudes from Patta — this was from living in London but also just being a part of urban running culture in Europe — so like I became friends with Edson Sabajo who is one of the founders of Patta and G — and all of those guys, I immersed myself into the culture whether I wanted to or not you know, and also like, there it was. I was around sneakers and geeked out on sneakers. Charlie Dark has a massive sneaker collection that he started giving away. I am a fortunate recipient of some of those shoes and so is Geb. I was exposed to it and when I moved to New York, when I moved to Nikelab, inevitably it’s over for me now. It got to a point where I just have access to those shoes and it just exploded from there you know.

But learning about the culture, it started in London you know, being around Patta bros, Carhartt WIP bros, Supreme bros, I used to go skating with a bunch of those dudes before I wrecked my knee doing that and then RunDemCrew specifically. They were really connected to East London cool kids back then. It came from that.

It was part of who I was, growing up seeing my dad being very specific about shoes, and it was also me growing up when I was skating, wanting specific Vans, shoes to skate and then it was London. London brought it together into a point of view.

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Imagery by Jeggi Elinzano.

Follow him here and on the streets of New York City or even better, go visit him at 21Mercer!