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SELECT 1 on 1: Nigel Sylvester on his S.O.M.P. SB Dunk High & More

February 28, 2014by Aaron Kr.

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When most people think of action sports as they pertain to the sneakerhead world, it will most likely be skateboarding that first comes to mind, and rightfully so. The mid 2000s SB Dunk craze helped to popularize skateboarding shoes with skaters and non-skaters alike, and in turn, helped other elements of the culture to spill out into the mainstream and become a big money business. Roughly a decade later, skate style has worked its way into the very core of streetwear and hip-hop fashion in a seamless way where the pre-conceived lines that dictate who can wear what have become completely blurred.

During the same stretch that Nike SB and the skate aesthetic were infiltrating pop culture on a mass scale, so were action sports in general. Thanks to the X-Games and other budding venues, skateboarders, snowboarders and BMX riders were quickly going from names and faces usually limited to magazines and team videos to highly visible personalities that were not only regularly featured competing on primetime television, but also getting their own reality shows and non-sports-related product endorsement deals. With that, a new breed of counterculture stars were born and the world has been a more colorful place ever since.

To accommodate the large non-skateboarding segment of the quickly growing action sports market, Nike introduced the 6.0 category in 2005. It wasn’t long before rising star BMX rider, Nigel Sylvester, essentially became the face of Nike 6.0 and helped bring some excitement and street cred to the fledgling imprint. While he

never received a signature model during his tenure there, he helped shape the identity of the 6.0 line and repped it with style right up until the end of its run. A few years back, Nike re-organized their action sports categories, and while the 6.0 designation met its demise, the Swoosh was smart enough to hang onto Nigel as a member of the family.

Today, the walls between the different Nike Action segments aren’t nearly as impermeable and it’s pretty plain to see that many of the footwear needs are quite similar. Nigel Sylvester has been riding in SB Dunks for the past few years and it’s not a stretch to understand why the shoe would be a good fit for the BMX crowd as well. Now, these two worlds officially come together as BMX meets Nike Skateboarding courtesy of the Nigel Sylvester SB Dunk High.

Dubbed the S.O.M.P. edition, Nigel’s Dunk stylishly bridges the gap between skateboards and bikes and reminds us all that these two staples of action sports are not so different from each other. Slowly but surely, projects like this one are helping to put BMX in the limelight and there should be plenty of room for more like-minded organic-feeling crossovers moving forward thanks to the growing notoriety and engaging personalities of riders like Nigel Sylvester. The S.O.M.P. Dunk High will hit Nike SB accounts next Saturday, March 8th, but before it does, we caught up with Nigel to get the inside story on his first SB shoe and how it all came together, so read on for the full interview and an exclusive detailed look at the shoe.

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Sneaker News:   You’ve had your own shoes before through Nike 6.0, but why did it take so long for you to cross over into the SB category? Has this been in talks for a while and how did it all come about?

Nigel:  Well, the whole Nike program got changed. 6.0 dissolved and kinda turned into Nike Action and Nike SB, and it definitely took a minute, but you know, all good things… But it happened, and SB Dunks are the shoes I’m riding in all the time now, so it just made sense to do a Dunk. That’s the shoe I’m in all the time.

SN:  What was your design approach going into this project? Did you have a set idea or some kind of concept in mind or did you just start from scratch?

Nigel:  Nah, I definitely had a concept in mind. It was pretty much like – I wear the Dunk all the time, so what are all the things I would want on a Dunk. So the opportunity came up and they opened up the SB Dunk High for me and I sat down with DJ Clark Kent. Just him having his extensive knowledge and background in sneakers, it just made sense. It’s like how an artist wants to go to one of the top producers, because you know they have a good-ass product.

So Clark and I were working on my G-Shock at the time last year, and we started designing the shoe around the same time. It’s been designed for like a year-plus and it’s been done for a while now. Since we were doing the watch, we were like, why not go with the same color scheme. That’s what I feel like represents me, especially being a New York City bike rider. The color scheme just kinda makes sense, you know?

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SN:  How does the design process work for a project like this and how hands on are you along the way? Work with SB designers from the start or do you come in with an idea and hand it to them?

Nigel:  The conversation started in Portland with the SB designers, Jesse Leyva and Tony. It started there and then I brought it back to New York and me and Clark sat down with it. Like I said, we were designing my watch at the same time, so the colors were right there. It was pretty much just what materials we were gonna use and where we were gonna place those materials. So Clark and I, we headed out to the fabric district in New York City and went to a whole bunch of fabric stores, which was cool, because that was one of the first times I actually went out fabric shopping for a project in mind. I learned a lot about fabrics and materials, which was a cool process, because I was able to create and also learn at the same exact time. Once Clark and I locked the whole thing as far as what I wanted to use, then it was just what makes the most sense to put where and that whole process.

SN:  What is it about the Dunk that made you want to use it for your first SB collab shoe?

Nigel:  It was a no-brainer. The Dunk is such a classic shoe, you know? I started riding in it about two years ago and fell in love. It’s something that just makes sense to me. At the time, I was riding in the shoe and I’m currently still riding in the shoe. I wear it every single day. I connect with the shoe. It’s classic and it just made sense.

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SN: What were the materials you eventually went with and why were they chosen?

Nigel:  With this shoe, I feel like it’s the mesh of rugged and luxury. Me doing what I do, going outside and riding every single day, basically destroying everything in my path as far as handrails and ledges and things like that. I need something that’s durable rugged, but also like… Being a kid from New York City, I love to get fresh. That’s what we do. I wanted this shoe to represent that and I feel like Clark and I did a great job getting that point across. We used Euphoria nubuck for most of the upper, which a material they only use on Bespoke Air Force 1s. You know, those shoes start at like $800 a pop, so I took that material and put it on a Dunk that I’m gonna ride in and destroy every single day. It’s style and luxury versus functionality and durability.

Then we went with the Safari print, which is the same print I have on my G-Shock. It’s such a classic Nike print and to me it just represents New York City. NYC is this chaotic, intense, but beautiful concrete jungle, and I feel like the Safari print goes hand in hand with New York. This is where I learned to ride bikes and where I’ve created my past. This is my home.

And then we went with the sticky gum outsole, which is just another classic, super-dope outsole that so many people have connected with for so many years. But for me, on the other side of it, standing on my pedals, that gum sole is gonna stick so good to my pedals when I’m riding, which is so important to me, because I don’t wanna be slipping all around. I needed a good material and a good sole that sticks to my pedals so I’m straight when I’m riding and I’m comfortable.

Then we went with the metallic Swoosh to give it that pop. Growing up with BMX, you always think of chrome bikes. Chrome bikes were the dopest. So it was something on the nostalgia tip for me. I remember having the dope chromed out GT back in the day and I was like, yo, let me throw that in there just because. I feel like the Swoosh is so important. That’s one of the main parts of the shoe, so I wanted to make sure I had something that would stand out and grab people’s attention.

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SN:  For those who might not be familiar, what is S.O.M.P. all about?

Nigel:  S.O.M.P. is kinda like a movement I started. Not even a movement. Just something I kinda ran with. It stands for “Standing On My Pedals”. We had the S.O.M.P. event in Long Beach, California last year and I loved the reception it had. People accepted it right away. It just connected with me and connected with the bike world and it just made sense. When I was doing the shoe, it was like, what do I want to call this thing? Let’s call it S.O.M.P., because that’s what I’m gonna be doing with this shoe – I’m gonna be standing on my pedals! So that’s how the whole thing came about.

SN:  Skateboarding and BMX are similar worlds and linked together in a lot of ways, but skateboarding has made a bigger mainstream splash when it comes to selling product. Do you think projects like this one can help push BMX further into the spotlight?

Nigel:  Definitely. That’s what I’m all about. I’m about sharing my love for BMX, sharing my art, sharing my culture with the world. And now actually doing a product with Nike SB is like the next step. We always got comparisons between skateboarding and BMX, because they’re so similar. We dress the same, we ride the same spots. We deal with the same things as far as riding in the street – dealing with cops and dealing with all these people – all those things that happen when you’re out riding. The only thing that’s really different is the actual tool we’re using. So projects like this definitely help and I’ve got some things I want to do to put more light on BMX.

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SN:  Aside from the Dunk, what would be your dream Nike shoe to do a Nigel Sylvester edition of?

Nigel:  My favorite shoe of all time is the Jordan 1. That’s why I like the Dunk. It makes so much sense, because they’re so similar as far as silhouette and style and everything. I would definitely select the Jordan 1. Those are my two favorite shoes, the Dunk and the Jordan 1.

SN:  In that case, what do you think about the upcoming Nike SB version of the Air Jordan 1?

Nigel:  I think it’s dope, man. It’s just bringing action sports to a whole nother level. Skateboarding is doing it and hopefully BMX can do it soon as well. The Air Jordan 1 is one of those classic silhouettes that so many people across the world are connected to.

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SN:  After all these years riding for Nike, is it still a thrill to color up your own shoes and be involved with special projects like this or do you get de-sensitized to it?

Nigel:  Nah, man. It’s still a rush and it’s still like a dream come true. Especially with this shoe, because the last shoe I did was a friends & family situation, but this shoe’s actually going to retail, so it makes a complete difference, because people are gonna be able to go to the store and actually buy them and get the whole experience, which is really important to me. I’m looking forward to that and just looking forward to seeing what happens. Going through the whole process of seeing the photos come out, seeing people’s reception to it, having them go out and buy a pair. Just the whole experience, it’s still so exciting to me. I feel like a little kid right now.

SN:  What can we expect from you next on the product side? Are there any other footwear or apparel collaborations currently in the works with you or Brooklyn Machine Works?

Nigel:  For sure. You can definitely expect some Brooklyn Machine Works projects coming out spring or summertime this year. We’ve been working for a while to lock everything down and I’m super excited to be a part of a brand like Brooklyn Machine Works. Joe and everybody over there have been doing it for years, and then having someone like P (Pharrell) involved too. It’s so important to me just riding for a New York City brand. It’s like playing for your home team in the town you grew up in. It’s just awesome. And then beyond Brooklyn Machine Works, I’ve got my brand Pyradice and we’re gonna be putting out products and one-off projects real soon, so I’m excited about that too, man. Just getting my dreams out and getting my vision out to the world is so important to me and I’m lucky to be able to do it through these avenues.

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