Magic happens when people of passion congregate together. In light of Sole Superior’s raging success, the initial spark occurred when sneaker aficionados Dexter Tan and Jonathan Fong struck up a conversation while queuing for sneakers. What started as an ordinary chit-chat escalated into the talk of the street. The birth of Singapore’s premier sneaker and streetwear convention, Sole Superior, marked a momentous milestone for the street culture scene in Singapore. Unsuspectingly, the founders have become sneaker heroes in their own rights.
In collaboration with Converse, we interviewed Dexter and brought him a new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Combats Boots from the Holiday 2014 collection. Articulate and easy-going. Dexter speaks about what exclusives to look out for at the upcoming Sole Superior Singapore 2014, his take on the local street scene and his affection for Chuck Taylors.
Nookmag (N): Hey Dexter, how big is your current sneaker collection?
Dexter (D): As of now, I have about 156 pairs of sneakers, give or take 10 pairs.
N: How do you keep track of them?
D: I used to work in a shoe shop when I was younger, so I actually organise them by brand, model size. And for some reason, I somehow know where everything is but once in a while, I would dig out something I haven’t seen for a long time and go “Oh, I should wear it today”. I would say 20-30% of my room is filled with shoes boxes now. I can find them everywhere, be it under my computer table, under my bed. I’ll probably have to remodel my room soon to fit everything in.
N: What’s your current sneaker muse?
D: That’s tough. I tend to flip between styles. Younger days, it was all hip-hop with Run-D.M.C. Right now, I would like to call it ‘grown man’ sneakers. I wear more muted colours, more cut and sewn pieces. Nick Wooster – New York’s finest gent – wears sneakers all the time and he’s one of my influences.
N: I noticed that your shoelaces are tied really interestingly. Is that how you individualise your style?
D: Yeah I tend to get bored of how things look once in a while. So I switch it up. I love Chucks as they are but I added in a zip for this pair because I wanted a more high fashion look. And for functionality as well – I hate untying my shoelaces. I just unzip, the shoes comes off and I can walk into the house. I tend to deconstruct my own shoes whenever I can, only if I have time.
If I feel like Converse doesn’t have shoes with a band I like or if the shoes with the band that I wanted like Nirvana were sold out, I just make my own. Throw in my fabric from old Nirvana t-shirts or even basketball jerseys and integrate them into my Converses. The possibilities are endless if you learn how to spice up your own kicks.
N: We’re hearing a lot of exciting news about the upcoming Sole Superior. And loving the FIN collaboration bag that has been sold out – congrats! What are some exclusive highlights we can look forward to this Saturday?
D: Last year, the brands mainly took small areas. This year, they are upping the ante by taking up bigger spaces, promising a bigger visual spectacle. And let’s just say that certain shoes that sneakerheads want will be released on that day and not anywhere else. Not sure how we managed to wrangle that out but there will be stuff that will not be available to the public. If you’re not at Sole Superior, you’re going to miss out.
N: Being a co-organiser for Sole Superior, you’re like a sneaker hero. Tell us more about your day job as a teacher.
D: Okay I’m not actually a sneaker hero, I’m just a guy who happened to organise an event that happened to grow bigger and it’s the first in Singapore. Currently, I’m completing a course in NIE. Next year I’ll probably start full-time. I teach English and art. I try to integrate street culture such as graffiti and bag customisation into my art lessons as well.
N: What do you think about the current sneaker scene?
D: In general, I think we’re in a revival now. I have been collecting for close to 10 years. When I first started out, the scene was huge. There were a lot of what we call ‘OG heads’ who were here since the scene started. Now we’re seeing a younger wave coming up, especially with the influence of Korean and American hip-hop culture. People like Kanye West and G-Dragon are influencing the younger generation in Singapore and that translates in the sneaker streetwear scene. You see trends coming here very quickly and more so than ever, people are buying sneakers. You’ll see anybody on Orchard Road rocking some form of sneakers, be it a Converse or New Balance.
N: Is there anything you’ll like to see happening in the scene?
D: What I would like to see is people talking to each other. You know, if you see a nice pair of shoes on the road, go up to the person and say, “Hi, those are really nice kicks. Where do you get them from? What’s the story behind them?”
That’s the thing about Singaporeans or generally the scene here, we’re a bit scared of each other. Only after a few meet-ups or a few events like Sole Superior, we’ll be like, “Oh, this guy is actually pretty cool.” This is actually how I met my co-organiser, Jonathan. We were queuing up for sneakers and no one wanted to talk to each other. Only me and him were talking like, “Nice kicks!” “Yours are nice too.” This is how we became close friends in the sneaker circle. So I would love for people to interact more. I think that’s how the scene can grow.
N: It’s been a while that luxury labels are using street elements in their designs/collections and vice versa. What do you think about that?
D: I think it’s a natural progression. Fashion was born from the streets. It’s not born in some Beverly Hills mansion. The designers who designed the clothes usually started from a humble beginning. So when designers draw influences from their background, it generally evolved from the streets that they grew from. You see brands like Louboutin and Louis Vuitton taking on a lot of street influences. They’re coming up with sneakers now! Fancy sneakers but they are sneakers nonetheless. Since it’s a vice versa kind of relationship, we see street brands taking up high fashion as well with Converse having John Varvatos on board. A lot of sneakers are being integrated into fashion shows and such too. So I think eventually everything is going to meld together.
N: What do you like about Chucks?
D: My love for Chucks actually began from a very young age, after my very forgettable stint with Bata shoes as a primary school kid. My parents wanted something more durable and at that time, I was starting out for my primary school basketball team. At the same time, Chuck Taylors were the versatile rugged shoes that any kid would wear. You can wear them for three years and they will only show a bit of wear and tear. So I wore high top Chucks to school all the time when I was a kid and it was so comfortable. And during secondary school, I didn’t like my ankles, so my high tops were able to hide them. Chucks pair well with anything. Basic colours are the best. They can look good with a vintage look or high fashion. I could even wear them to the beach and no one is going to bat an eyelid.
N: These Converse combat boots that you’re wearing now are for the new Holiday season. How do you like them?
D: I love them – the shoes got the whole grungy look with the zips, as well as the all black and tumbled leather. I have a thing for zips on shoes. I mean, having bought sneakers for so long, I tend to look at details more than the shoes. Even though the shoes may look very normal but the material is on point like the 1970s Chuck Taylors that I have. And that’s what draw me to certain shoes, like these combat boots. It looks durable and I’m going to put it through a road test when I go on a trekking trip in December.
N: What collaborations or designs do you hope to see out in the market?
D: I want to see more local Singaporean collabs, be it with a local shop or local retailer like Limited Edt. Or maybe even a Sole Superior collaboration. The first brand who’s going to give me a collaboration, I would love you forever. That’s my dream too – to have a collaboration shoe. Behind that, I’d like to see Singapore street culture being put in a model that’s released all over the world. That’ll be awesome.
N: Besides sneakers, what else excites you?
D: Art. I just got into collecting art by local artists, more specifically, street artists. I buy a lot of prints from up-and-coming designers and even established ones. I hope in the future when I get married, I could hang up all these prints on the wall like a little museum in my new house. Art really interests me, as I come from an art background and I am an art teacher too. Just like sneakers, art has a long history and culture.
N: Lastly, how do you unleash your creativity on a daily basis?
D: Finding little things to do with my outfits is one way to express myself without being all out there. Little things like, putting pins on a jacket or maybe a patch. Just mix and match. As a teacher, I would try to spice up my outfit by wearing sneakers and pants of different material. That’s how I express my creativity. Other than that, I pimp my own shoes.
Sole Superior is happening on 22 November 2014, 1pm to 7pm at Zouk. Admission tickets can be purchased online or at any Limited Edt stores, [email protected] (231 Upp Thomson Road) and Little Drom Store.
Conversation seeks out inspiring individuals who possess a creative spirit and brim with passion. It offers an insight into the lives of these individuals and the things that drives them. This edition is proudly sponsored by Converse.
Photo Credits to Chee BP