The sneaker, which originated from the word "sneak" meaning to infiltrate, has become an item that has infiltrated all aspects of culture, from fashion to social economy. The legendary Air Jordan 1, which kickstarted the sneaker culture, has a special connection to Busan-based shoe manufacturers, 'Kookje Sangsa' and 'Dongyang Rubber'. In fact, some of the Air Jordan 1 models produced in Busan in 1985 feature a Korean script, "Of the Highest Quality.!" engraved on the bottom of the midsole, which speaks to the pride in the craftsmanship of the producers and the high standards they upheld. This unique aspect adds a layer of history and cultural significance to the already legendary Air Jordan 1.
Foxtrot Uniform, a Singapore-based brand that produces sneaker accessories, is set to launch an exclusive collection of "Of the Highest Quality.!" with HBX. This collection draws inspiration from the history of sneakers, including the story of the Busan-based manufacturer who produced the Air Jordan 1 in 1985. In an interview with the Foxtrot Uniform team, they shared their interest in the shoe manufacturers in Busan during the 1980s and the sneaker culture of Singapore. This vast archive, from the origin of sneakers to the story of the Busan-based Air Jordan 1 manufacturer, is captured in this collection, creating a cool and unique collection that pays homage to the rich history and culture of sneakers.
Yo Fox! Hi. Please introduce us to Foxtrot Uniform.
Yo Fox! That's what we call everyone too! We are a community solutions company that manufactures original hardware, tools and accessories. We are best known for breaking down and reverse engineering the elements of a vintage sneaker and inventing tools to help people customize their own new pairs with a Neo-vintage look. We feel that we help create a world of fictional archives.
How did you get into sneakers?
Michael Jordan. It was his poetry in motion, his movement in the air made me just enjoy looking at him. Being a skateboarder had me correlate the bones brigade flying in the air and MJ was no different. Most of the Powell team wore Jordans too so I put the 2 together and we have this life long passion for sneakers.
I can sense how much you guys love sneakers. Can you tell us about the sneakers culture in Singapore and how it grew up?
I grew up thrashing my sneakers as a skateboarder so naturally I always needed shoes. I, too, grew up in an era with no internet so it was a lot of browsing Japanese magazines like Boon drooling over all the original basketball sneakers. I believe it was the 96-97 period and it slowly took off from there. During that time, there were only a handful of enthusiasts and there was even a flea market scene selling vintage. I remember even approaching strangers on the street to buy air max 95s off their feet and going to old mom n pop stores hoping to find some older heat. It was fun. I also remember there was a parallel import store run by a bunch of air stewards who would bring back overseas models like Air Shake, Air Bakin, Air Worm and everything from that era... so cool.
Yes. Nothing can be perfect when you buy industrial goods but Foxtrot Uniform allows sneaker lovers to make it their own easier. What is the goal of your brand?
My favorite era for sneakers is the 80s and during the Covid days, I had time to spend time with my archive and go hunt down more pairs. I noticed a lot of them didn't have the right laces. I was always fascinated by how a 35 year royal blue lace would fade into purple so I decided to experiment with dyes and even study the weave of 80s sport laces...I succeeded in making them and was able to instruct a factory to make them. I thought that vintage lovers would jump on them but an unexpected vintage wave came through. Demand was high and that allowed us to develop more products like the sneaker stainer and the rest of the tools. Like I said earlier, we are here to provide tools for the community to create a Neo-vintage world.
I like how you create social contents. Impressive! All Nike's advertisements on local newspapers from the 80s and also their TV commercials, too. It is true that we can search almost anything on the Internet but not everything. How do you find all those archives and what is your purpose behind?
I grew up in the 80s so I already have a good sense of what the vibe of infomercials were like. It's so cheesy and fun. I loved that as I didn't want the brand to have too much of a serious tone to it. And regarding the old newspaper clippings, we gotta give props to @goodbirger. He has many sources and painstakingly tracks them down from newspaper scans in library archives. He calls it digital thrifting.
You have recently teamed up with HBX for the new ‘Of the Highest Quality.!’. Please tell us about it.
It all happened when we were sole swapping a pair of vintage Jordan 1s. I've seen the Korean script from another restorer before and was very shocked to have found one myself. We then posted a picture and the Korean community was so helpful and even helped with the typeface and translation. It became a hot topic for a while. We were fascinated by this discovery and wanted to share it with the community. At first we thought of insoles but then we went with socks as it was more visible. The version we made paid homage to the old block' ish AIR JORDAN sock but with HBX we are making a new version with the original script font found in the last board.
Speaking of the original script, what made you engage your interest about the manufacturers in Busan which produced the original script ‘Of the Highest Quality!.’ on the Jordan 1s that are now controversial sneakers traded on various resell platforms?
They are from the 80s - 90s and I consider them as part of history. It's really funny remembering buying a pair of SANGS in the early 2000s as a joke. There were full size runs on eBay selling for $70 and recently , Lil Yacthy made them famous and prices went crazy. I wanna say they are not worth it because the materials were very cheap and they are rock hard ,lol. But I do like looking at them and having them in my collection as part of history.
Tell us about your upcoming future plans.
Dive deeper into topics outside of just sneakers and create more fictional archives.
This collection will be launching exclusively on March 23 at 9AM EST.