Q&A: Talking Shoes With The Man Behind @NikeStories
There’s nothing quite like a good throwback. Ask Drew Hammell, the man behind the popular @NikeStories Instagram account, and he’ll say the same thing. There’s just something special about the old school stuff.
According to the accounts bio, @NikeStories offers commentary on Nike kicks and culture. From everybody’s favorite classics to forgotten gems, @NikeStories uses throwback catalogs, ads, and iconic images to bring out the history behind sneakers and sneaker culture.
A Sneaker Historian: Drew Hammell has turned his love for sneakers into the popular @NikeStories IG account.
We chatted with Hammell to get the inside scoop on @NikeStories, how he started the account, his favorite shoes, what shoes he wants to see make a comeback, and more in our Q&A.
Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you first get into shoes?
“I grew up in the ’90s and I remember kids in elementary school walking around with Jordan 5’s, 6’s, 7’s. And I just really admired the design of the sneakers. The Jordan line was totally different from any other sneaker I’d ever seen and Nike was too. Whenever a kid walked in the classroom with a visible air bubble, I just thought that was the coolest thing ever.”
Did you start rocking those shoes then as well?
“At the same time, my parents didn’t have much money, so I really couldn’t afford the Jordan models or even Nikes with visible air. It created this fascination with the desire to get them, but I just couldn’t afford them at the time growing up. I was really into sports and I played everything, so I really needed sneakers that would work for me on the court, and that’s where Eastbay started to fit in for me.”
Yeah, so you racked up a pretty serious collection of Eastbay catalogs, right? How did that happen?
“Yeah, I definitely remember in 8th grade, it was the age of Nike Basketball sneakers. Air Max technology was taking off and my friends would all be in the lunchroom looking at these amazing shoes from an Eastbay catalog. I’d never seem them before. I was like, ‘Wow, here’s a catalog with everything in it.’ I would sit in the lunch room and study them. I always wanted all of these shoes. Then we’d talk about sneakers all the time in high school. The minute I turned 16, I got a job at a shoe store so I could start buying shoes at a discount.
A Serious Collector: You name the classic Eastbay catalog, Drew Hammell probably has it.
At the same time, I collected every Eastbay catalog. I would keep them in my room and study them. It really helped for work, because then I knew what I was talking about in the store. I could provide specific information on Air Max, which shoes had Zoom Air, and things like that.”
Let’s fast forward a little bit to when you decided to create @NikeStories and how that happened.
“I figured over the years that my sneaker obsession would just kind of go away. I got married, I have a daughter, I don’t work in retail anymore, I’m not in the sneaker industry, so I was pretty detached from the sneaker world. But the fascination has just never gone away. And I am a collector, so I still had all these Eastbay catalogs and magazines and all of my shoes that I just never threw away. My mom kept them in my bedroom even after I moved out.
Eventually, I saw how easy it was to post a picture on social media, give a quick description, get feedback from people, and I saw how quickly other people’s accounts could grow, so that’s when I decided to start @NikeStories. People were using Instagram to post their own sneakers, but not really saying much about them. And honestly, kids in their teens or early twenties didn’t even realize the history behind their shoes. So I would go through some of my old magazines and started posting pictures. People pretty early on would start commenting and liking when I would post throw-back Eastbay pictures and ask where I found them. I realized nobody really saved these catalogs from the ’90s, so I thought I was really onto something and just kept posting for fun and to share this history.”
Did you think @NikeStories would grow to be this popular?
“I’m definitely surprised. I thought if I could get to 5,000 followers, that would be quite an accomplishment. I’m approaching 50,000 now, so it’s just been really fun. I thought in the three years since I started it that I would for sure be out of information, but I definitely have plenty more. It’s been really fun and it’s given me a lot of opportunities. I’ve gotten to write for a few magazines. I’ve written pieces about Eastbay and ’90s shoes and ’90s culture and music. I just contacted Scoop Jackson this week, who wrote the book Sole Provider, and I’m writing a piece about him. So it seems like every week I’m talking to someone who influenced the culture and is a personal hero of mine.”
It sounds like you get a lot out of running the account. What do you hope everyone gets out of following the account and seeing the stuff you post?
“I just want it to be a place where people can talk about some of the old school stuff that they really love.”
The account is a place where people can talk about their memories of growing up and the shoes they purchased or didn’t have a chance to buy and wish they could have. There’s so much negativity on social media, so it’s kind of a breath of fresh air for people to just talk about stuff they love.
Drew Hammell on his @NikeStories Account
“It’s also given me a lot of ideas on where to go with @NikeStories. I post some of the classic Nike ads, and that stuff really belongs in an art gallery. There’s been so many great Nike campaigns. I’d love to get some of these original ads, frame them, and get them placed in a gallery in New York. I just think there’s a lot more out there that people want to know about and need to know about in regards to sneaker culture.”
That’s awesome. Let’s go to the classic sneakerhead question: What’s your all-time favorite shoe?
The GOAT: In Drew’s opinion, the Air Jordan 11 ‘Concord’ is the best shoe ever made.
“The logo of my account is the Air Jordan 11 ‘Concord.’ It’s such a groundbreaking sneaker. Jordan wore it in the playoffs versus Orlando and actually lost – then he had a vendetta for the next season, 1995-95, when they went 72-10. In my opinion, that’s the greatest team of all time and he was wearing these Jordans the whole season. Obviously he wore some black colorways, but that’s definitely my favorite. I wasn’t able to pick them up when they originally released, but I was able to get them when they retro’d for the first time in the fall of 2000.”
We all know that shoes are more than just shoes. As someone who has such an appreciation for sneakers, could you just describe what shoes have meant to you?
“They’re works of art. All that goes into them, the thoughtfulness, the whole operation that goes on behind the scenes, that’s what really attracts me to them. I always struggle with that when I get a pair that I’ve always wanted like the OG Foamposite Royal. I picked them up when they came out and I still haven’t worn them yet, because they are a work of art to me. I can’t wear them around and get them dirty. But at the same time, I love wearing sneakers. What’s on your feet can define who you are. That’s why I think this stuff belongs in a museum or an art gallery, just so people can appreciate all this stuff the way I do. It needs to be revered and respected and showcased.”
As someone who is a big fan of old school shoes, what are a few shoes you really want to see Nike bring back now or in 2018?
“In high school, I was pretty good at tennis. That was my primary sport, so I really became fascinated with Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras in the late ’90s. So for me, it’d be bringing back the old Agassi models that Nike’s not really paying attention to anymore. I totally understand that tennis is not their most popular sport, but I would really like to see some of those models like the Air Zoom Pounce and the Air Zoom Ablaze come back.
Time for a comeback? Drew thinks these classic tennis shoes would be perfect for modern times.
These were radically colorful, wild shoes. I actually own two pairs of the Air Zoom Pounce, because they were tennis shoes, but they look so cool. They had bright neon, blue, and yellow colorways. Zoom Air technology in the heel and forefoot. In my opinion, they would do pretty well today as a lifestyle model. Not necessarily tennis shoes, but you can wear them on the streets of New York or other major cities, and I think they’d be unlike any other models that people wear. So I’m kind of surprised that Nike hasn’t done that yet, but the Nike Air Zoom Ablaze and Air Zoom Pounce are two that I would love to see come back.”
*Big thanks to Drew Hammell for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to check out his Instagram account @NikeStories.