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Martin David on Filipino Sneaker Culture, Then and Now

Martin David on Sneaker Culture, Then and Now
James Francisco

Long before Filipinos threw themselves at chaotic sneaker releases, there was Martin David. The longtime sneaker curator behind Sole Movement saw the culture grow from Cartimar and Greenhills stalls to the hype encompassing celebrities, resellers, and high-profile collaborations. Martin himself has gone from canvassing Internet forums to becoming a frequent collaborator of Nike, Jordan Brand, and more.

Martin started Sole Movement to fill the lack of news about sneaker drops in the early 2000s, like NikeTalk and Sole Collector in the US. And through years of content, Martin has had hot takes, some that have ruffled feathers and others too controversial to write about. But it’s the intensity you’d expect from someone who genuinely cares about a once-innocent hobby before all the fluff.

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Martin David / Complex PH

“I remember one kid on YouTube who went, “Oh, I got a steal on these Travis Scotts, Php 70,000 lang. Lang?” he said incredulously during our lengthy talk about the resell market.

“Let’s be real, third-world country tayo. Not everyone can afford a price that can feed three families. So let’s be more conscientious of others and put things in perspective.”

But the years have also granted Martin just that: Perspective. He sees how reselling dictates sneaker culture, a “sick but necessary cycle” that lets brands understand what’s hot while depriving those who can’t afford the sky-high resell prices.

It’s these kinds of contentious takes that make conversations with Martin David fun. It’s a given that not everyone agrees, but his passion and appreciation for sneakers are infectious. Peep the rest of his talk with Complex Philippines, as he shares his thoughts on sneaker culture, then and now.

How did you get into sneakers? How was the hype back then?

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Martin David / Complex PH

My roots were in basketball. I love the sport, so Jordan was the end-all-be-all talaga. But growing up, I could never afford a pair, kahit mura pa sapatos noon.

[As for the hype] obviously in the States it was happening, but here, very minimal. If ever we would get sneakers locally, [it would be at] Cartimar, Cash and Carry, and Greenhills. It was hard to get pairs you saw on TV and magazines.

When Nike and adidas set up shop in the Philippines in the early 2000s, everyone realized there was more to this culture. But there wasn’t a lot [of information] aside from forums, so I realized that people needed to know these sneakers were available locally.  I always wanted to work for Nike, so the next best thing was to write and share my thoughts about the culture.

In one of your past features, you said audiences need to be “smarter.” Were you talking about the resellers and hype?

[Reselling] became more commonplace around 2015, with the Yeezys, NMD, and Ultraboost phases. People realized na, “uy, there’s money here.” There were resellers even in the early 2000s, but not to the extent everybody thought they could be. 

When I said that statement, people were buying sneakers you can get from the outlet or are still in the store. Just because you have an Ultraboost doesn’t mean you can sell double the price.

If you want to make money from this, you control the supply or bring in products no one can get. So make money from that instead of getting all the supplies of ‘Panda’ dunks.

What are your thoughts on Filipino-inspired sneaker collabs?

Commonwealth Asics Kultura Lyte V

I’ve had this conversation before. Like, how should we move forward and create something more meaningful? 

Before, [collaborations] were “The Philippine Shoe”, red, white, and blue. Flag-based, you’ve seen it done a hundred different ways. Very paso na.

For me, there has to be that sense of… “self” on the shoe. Like Chii [Gibbs] and the Jordan 2. I always go back to that project with Asics and Commonwealth. They worked with Whang-od to do a ‘Kultura’ concept. It’s not your usual Pinoy shoe, but it has a Pinoy call.

There are two ways to go about it: you get something very familiar with Filipinos, like the Kobe 9 ‘Tsinelas’, or something that we can only understand or appreciate. People sometimes create collabs as a cash grab. “Partner tayo para makabenta tayo ng marami”

Collabs have to be more meaningful and have more depth to them to move the culture forward.

Do you have an overall wishlist for the local sneaker community?

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Manila Sneaker Expo / Tatler Asia

If you follow the sneaker history of Japan and the U.S., how it became what it is right now, the Philippines jumped. Wala tayong progression in terms of appreciation of the product. 

I’m a firm believer in innovation; it’s what got me into sneakers in the first place. It changes the status quo. 

For sneaker culture to grow, we have to appreciate every single market: the Titos, the Mommies, and the kids that are getting into it. Brands have something for everyone, and they’ve made so many innovations across that it’s not just about creating that hyped culture but a general culture of loving sneakers.

I guess that’s what I want to see. Kasi right now, it’s all about the hype. [Sneakers] are great, but not everyone can have them. Kawawa naman yung iba who can’t afford it or who can’t line up when they can.

If there's a thing that I want to push-on further, it’s really the appreciation of the product, of the shoe. Whether it’s hyped or not hyped, [the focus should be what] it really means to everyone.

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