Antonio “AA” Aguirre
The Complex Council best represents what Complex Philippines stands for—the culmination of youth culture in the Philippines. Whether in music, fashion, or sports, the Council commands respect, influences many, and lets their work speak for itself.
Claim to Fame: Founder of Sole Slam
A man of many hats, AA is equal parts entrepreneur, content creator and branding coach. But among his roles and responsibilities, nothing is as fun as the projects that bring him back to his deep love for sneakers.
A collector that truly appreciates the craftsmanship and art of the sneaker world with a regard and utmost respect for the community.
Before our interview with AA, he says, “Before we start with the questions, sabihin ko na… I’m not really supposed to be here. Because I wanna give or pay respect to the people who are the current flag bearers for sneakers here in the Philippines. DJ Bigboy Cheng, a good friend of mine. And another good friend of mine, Carlo Ople, who’s paved the way when it comes to sneakers and in terms of videos, like YouTube.”
What’s been the biggest shock to you in terms of how urban music has grown in the Philippines?
The diversity of communities. I would say not just on Facebook community or Instagram; there’s Telegram group chats. It’s so diverse now. There are niches already for sneakers.
I have a Messenger group chat that’s all about, you know, basketball shoes. Specifically, Jordans. And another group that’s all about just selling anything for about PHP25,000 sneakers. So, it’s very specific! I’m in groups that are also selling sneakers that are for thrift.
It’s very diverse in terms of how the community has grown.
What defines the sneaker culture in the Philippines, and what makes it unique from other countries?
It’s community based. The Philippines is like a hodgepodge and a culmination of different cultures. Like from Europe, the runner culture; basketball culture in the US; and then the K-pop vibes of Korea; and anime vibes of Japan; we have inspiration also from the outdoors in Australia; tech, as well. All those is a culmination of us.
We’re like a sponge when it comes to culture, you know? We like culture, we appreciate culture from all over the world. And there’s a twist of that…that’s Filipino. Which is great. It makes us very unique.
Why do you think Filipinos have such an interest in sneakers?
I used to think it’s really a “who’s who” thing. Like, “what are you wearing” type of thing. People tend to look from the feet up, really. Even me, I’m semi-retired from sneaker collecting, I still mostly look at the people that I meet from the feet up, unconsciously. Not intentionally.
Basketball is also a big influence on how the sneaker culture here in the Philippines is. Mainly in the 90s, a guy named Michael Jordan; I’m one of many millions who are Millennials who adored Michael Jordan, then Kobe Bryant, and now Lebron James, and Luka Doncic.
We admire them. Not just basketball, but the Philippines kasi, we follow players more than teams. So, wherever Lebron goes, they’re all there. And I think because of that, we watch what we actually wear. That’s influenced by the sneakers.
How do you think sneakers help define the Filipino identity outside of just sneakers?
It’s hard to define, eh. Because, like I said, we’re very adaptive. Adaptive to what we see in fashion, in art, in music, in sports, so…it branches out.
So, I go out to a certain event, and it’s a different group of sneakers being worn by people. I go to a community that’s into sports, and I see a different kind of collector of sneakers and what they wear. I look into fashion, I see something different, all kinds of shoes.
Like, my age, I’m 41 so I go to another community that’s the same age as me, and I see them more in running shoes—more comfort, right? Like, my friends who like traveling will prioritize comfort over wearing Jordan 1s, which are not comfortable at all to wear out of the country. It’s that. Very adaptive.
If you could have known how big the sneaker community would get, how would you have prepared for it differently?
Okay, I wanna talk about two things.
One, from the business side of things. If I knew sneakers would be this big, as a retail store owner, I would have focused on making my way into a tier zero. It means it’s the highest and most limited type of shoes. That’s the set for retail here in the Philippines. For example, there’s only 100 pairs of a model that ships to certain stores in the country. So, for basketball, you have Titan. For lifestyle shoes, you have Commonwealth.
So, as a business, I would’ve worked my way towards getting a tier zero as a retailer. As a reseller, I would focus more on getting shoes not available in the country, but are available in other countries and are highly demanded here, and bring them here. That’s what I would say, as a reseller.
The second thing, as a content creator now, I would have done so many freaking videos—more than photos. I only started making videos in 2018. It’s kinda late already; that’s why I wanna pay respect to Carlo Ople for that, because he paved the way for people in the sneaker community to be more open when sharing their sneakers or their lifestyle with a camera, [taking videos] instead of just taking photos.
Now, the great photographers of sneakers, they go into making reels. So I would say as a creator, I would make more videos in 2011, even if the camera that I used was probably an iPhone 4, I think? The interest in videos has never gone down, it’s only increased, and it’s getting better and better as the knowledge becomes even better.
Fill in the blanks for us: Youth culture in the Philippines is defined by ____ and kept alive by ___.
Youth culture in the Philippines is defined by diversity and kept alive by fashion, music, and sports! Those three. Those are my top things. It can’t be just one.
I think that’s the culmination of it. I think Complex targets that perfectly. You could say pop culture but that’s really music, street fashion, and sports. That’s it!
Here's another: It’s about time that Complex arrived in the Philippines because ____.
Because of how it brings [the Philippines’] cultural relevance to the world.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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