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SELECT 1 on 1: Mike Packer on the Saucony Grid 9000 “Snow Beach”

August 4, 2014by Aaron Kr.
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Back in the early ’90s when stylists and personal shoppers didn’t necessarily dress your favorite rappers, certain fashion statements managed to organically permeate pop culture on their own merits and without any kind of underlying corporate agenda. It’s safe to say that on the morning of Wu-Tang’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video shoot, Raekwon probably could have never imagined that the jacket he put on that day would take on a life of its own as a milestone moment for an already legendary brand and an iconic slice of hip-hop style to be revered for years to come.

Polo apparel had been present in hip-hop culture long before Raekwon stunted in the Snow Beach pullover, but it’s hard to name another singular item from the brand’s rich history that has made such a distinct and lasting impact. While the OG Lo connoisseurs have been hunting for this stuff for years, the Snow Beach jacket has transcended the Polo-centric subculture to become a holy grail for a much wider spectrum of appreciators.

While the original jacket itself has become an unattainable enigma for most, its color scheme and design cues have found their way onto a variety of homage products over the years. We’ve seen jackets, hats, shirts, and more that conjure the Snow Beach spirit, and now, thanks to Packer Shoes, we finally get a shoe that bridges the gap between classic Polo gear and sneaker culture in an authentic way.

Packer Shoes is well known for making cultural and historical references through their footwear collaborations and their upcoming Saucony Grid 9000 certainly sticks to that script, although this time venturing into a niche area near and dear to the store’s crew and a large contingent of their loyal customers. Fellow Polo fanatic Just Blaze has already given his co-sign and there are more surprises still to come before the Friday, August 8th release. Continue on as Mike Packer gives us the full scoop on the eagerly anticipated shoe, and stay tuned to our Instagram to win yourself a free pair.

SN:  What made you want to do a Snow Beach-inspired shoe and how long has this project been in the works?

Mike Packer:  This project came about differently than a lot of the others that we’ve done, but we always want to have some kind of continuity that’s natural and based in something that’s solid. This is probably the longest project that we’ve had  in the works just from cradle to grave. At the end of the day, it’s kinda easy to look at this and get the colors and the blocking done, but we had a couple

versions of it. Then once we got the actual jacket in hand, we went through a couple of other iterations of the shoe. This is probably the most samples we’ve ever done of a shoe, and when that last one came back, we knew it was ready to go. This isn’t the kind of project you want to bring out and short shrift it, not in the least bit.

SN: What do you think it is about Polo that resonates so much in the sneaker world? Why do those two things go hand in hand so well?

Mike:  I think not just the customers, but the owners of the stores, that really can relate to the colors and materials and even what Polo represents and is about. Not just admiration and respect for the brand, but I think when you look for things to take inspiration from, Polo is the top of the food chain when it comes to brands

that have inspired culture all the way through. I would say 85-90% of the people walking through our door on any given day have Polo in their wardrobe and can go back and recite a piece in Polo history that’s one of their favorites. When it comes to apparel, that’s the one.

SN: What made the Grid 9000 the right shoe to bring this concept to life?

Mike: This project came about differently than a lot of the others that we’ve done. This really came from someone who’s been close to the store and has helped us bring a lot of projects to life, going back to the first Grid 9000 project that we did which is now going back a few years ago. This is back when nobody, aside from Bodega, had really messed with the 9000 and it was a pet project of ours when we did the Trail and Tech packs.

This one came from us working on another project and then the laptop just flipped open with this Snow Beach idea at its inception and we all just looked at it and said holy shit! With Ghostlife

working with us to bring this all together, it was something that we knew had to come correct in terms of materials and the way it all laid out.

Getting the Snow Beach jacket in hand made this a lot easier. We had a longtime customer, Sege, who we reached out to to borrow the piece and he’s let us hold onto it for a while through getting it to the factory and going through material rooms and stuff like that. And things like that just build off of years of having those customer/store relationships and it transcends that and we’re so appreciative of it from day to day too.

SN: Can you give us a rundown of the materials used and why they were chosen?

Mike:  It’s not just materials on this one. Everything from the lining to every other part of the shoe right down to the hangtags is there for a very specific reason. Whether it’s from the pull tab on the tongue that relates back to the pull tab on the jacket pocket, or the hangtags inspired by the original rubber zipper tabs, or the inside polar fleece lining and the shoe itself, everything was thought out.

The hardest piece, and this is why it took so many rounds of sampling, was trying to get something close to the exact material of the jacket which is throughout the yellow areas of the upper. That’s

really the thing we were the most happy with when we got the last sample back.

As far as the premium suede we used, that’s obviously not on the jacket, but it’s taking the navy of the jacket and putting a nice premium material on a shoe that really needed it. We actually tried doing an all canvas version of the shoe, but it just wasn’t looking right. Even the patches on the back and the Packer branding take cues from the jacket and try to keep the same type of colorways and placements as the jacket itself.

SN: How did Just Blaze get involved with the project?

Mike:  When we thought about the project, you can take the shoe and put it next to the jacket and the box, which Saucony gave us a lot of leeway with, and take great pictures, and the shoe will sell itself. But at the end of the day, it wouldn’t feel right on our end not to at least try to reach out to the two guys, who when you mention the Snow Beach apparel, people instantly think of.

One is obviously Raekwon, who we fortunately have a relationship with and that’s how he got involved a bit, and the other is Just Blaze, who had shopped at the store a few times, but we got re-connected through Operator Emz, who in his own right is one of the best and brightest collectors out there and has been a customer since my parents’ store in Yonkers and we have a relationship from way back then.

We showed him the shoe and on a whim asked him if he thought Just would appreciate it, just because we wanted to get them some

shoes and show them the project. So we went down and showed Just the shoes at one of Emz’ Mobile Mondays shows and we really didn’t think we’d get the reaction that we did, but Just saw this for what it was and when you see somebody react like he did when he first saw the shoe, that’s the reaction that we want our customers to have when they first see the shoe.

And everything just flowed from there and Just has been a gentleman every step of the way and has lent more to this than we really ever thought we could ask for. It’s turned into something where his involvement in helping introduce the shoe has been a testament to the type of person that he is and it’s all come very naturally. Now that we have this nice little vibe together, you never know, but I’d bet there will be more stuff just because of the way that we’ve got along so well with this and there are obviously other opportunities that can follow.

SN: It seems like there’s some extra buzz in the air over this shoe. What kind of reaction have you guys gotten since first revealing them?

Mike:  Thankfully over time, we’ve been able to do a bunch of projects and I would say that, from our perspective, they’ve all been successful in their own right. It’s kind of ironic that it was about a year ago, we had a project, the Kamikaze “Alamo” with Reebok,

where we had that perfect storm of everything come together and this sorta feels like that again. You can’t create a perfect storm. You can only hope for one, and hopefully that’s what will come along with this.

SN: Your shop has been a champion of Saucony for a while now. What’s your take on their surge in popularity in recent years?

Mike:  It’s a small but very creative and knowledgeable group of people and Mike Hughes is the one who leads that pack over at Saucony. From the first time that Mike came into the shop, we have had more than just a vendor/manufacturer relationship. It behooves us as a store and with what we do day to day to be involved with brands as much as we can and there’s that give and take with Saucony and a lot of the other companies that we’re fortunate enough to do projects with.

The folks at Saucony have been nothing but accommodating and we try to bring things to life that will benefit us and benefit their brand. Thankfully it’s been nothing but smooth sailing and building over time. I can’t say it’s just us. All of the other projects that they’ve had their hands in with a lot of the other stores have been the best of the best breed that they’ve kept doing projects with. And it’s not just doing the projects. It’s also the inline product and other limited shoes that they put out to the market to a group of retailers that they know appreciate it, and that’s really all you can ask for.

SN: What else does Packer Shoes have lined up for 2014? Can you give us any hints about what’s coming next?

Mike:  We’re fortunate enough that we have a lot of opportunities that come our way and the one thing we always try to balance is having product from companies that represent what we want to do as a store and that can benefit the store while working with these companies. Hence, all these projects and collaborative releases that we have it.

You can overdo it at some point, but I don’t think we’re at that point, and I think that thankfully the reputation and customer base of the store has stayed loyal to us for the ten years we’ve been in Teaneck and has fortunately grown. Not just Saucony, but with all the other brands that we have great relationships and opportunities

with, we don’t really want to shy away from it as long as there’s a good working relationship there.

So the simple answer is yeah, we have a bunch of stuff coming. What that’s gonna be, I’ll leave to the guys that work in the shop to reveal. They’ve all been with the store for a long time – from Ryan to Jason to Carl to Olu – they all do a great job of getting the word out there. With the blog and the social media side, we’ve had a real good run, that will hopefully continue, of getting it out there in a way that still keeps the customer coming back and intrigued and looking for what we’re doing next.