I was in high school during the rise of Hyphy, which meant that along with over-sized airbrushed t-shirts, a lot of dudes got matching kicks with custom paint jobs. Air Force 1s and Vans seemed to be the shoes most likely to get tricked out in bright colors, logos, faces, and whatever other designs struck folks’ fancy.
Aaron Firestein was one such shoe artist. The Berkeley kid started making one-off artsy kicks for his friends while at the University or Oregon in 2007. Since those days, many have abandoned the DIY shoe art movement, but Firestein and his business partner Raaja Nemani evolved and institutionalized it. Their resulting Bucketfeet brand remixes the classic Vans structure, is designed by a variety of buzz-worthy international artists, and helps fund non-profit organizations around the globe.
We wrote about their mission when they first launched the brand two years ago, and conducted an interview with Oakland artist Meryl Phillips, who designed a shoe for last season’s collection. This time we wanted to share info from their latest launch, some local shops to buy them at, and a shoe designed by local artist Benny Diar.
Their latest release features shoes designed in London (UK), Lagos (Nigeria), Berkeley (USA), Barcelona (Spain), Bogota (Colombia), Odense (Denmark), Chicago (USA), and San Jose (USA). Bucketfeet is simultaneously curating borderless wearable art, and creating glocal demand in countries around the world. How many shoe companies can say that there are people in Nigeria and Denmark buzzing about their product because someone’s homie designed a shoe!? It’s at once a distinct honor, and a democratizing approach to shoe design.
Some of our favorites are these imaginative Paisley joints from Chicago’s Dhougan Kim (above), and the Happy Colors kicks by Barcelona artist Pez (top), but there’s something for everyone in this latest drop.
San Jose’s Benny Diar is another one of the dynamic artists featured this time around. He’s noteworthy not just because of his local roots, but because he’s paralyzed from the neck down. While he spent much of his youth getting up pieces and tagging around the Bay, a tragic car accident stripped him of his mobility in 2008. That hasn’t sapped his will to create however, and so he now paints using his mouth. The shoes he designed (below) are called the Boxcars, presumably after the trains he can no longer paint. Fittingly, the shoes have an abstract text-based aesthetic.
Locally you can find Bucketfeet shoes at Show & Tell and SoleSpace, two cool shops in downtown Oakland worthy of your attention. Of course you can also peruse their entire collection at bucketfeet.com, ‘Like’ them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @BucketFeet.
Where you can buy Bucketfeet in the Bay Area:
Show And Tell
1300 Clay St. Oakland, CA + Phone: 510-463-4964 + www.showandtelloakland.com
39 Randwick Avenue Oakland, CA + Phone: 415-225-6673