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.
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.
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.”