It’s poignant to look back and see how far the Filipino sneaker scene has come. For years, the local sneaker community had been gestating as a relatively contained subculture, before it finally exploded into a full-blown, mainstream phenomenon in the 2010s. Now, every guy and his cousin seems bent on convincing everyone else that he’s a sneakerhead, with some sort of authority on the matter, or some influence—all because he can take a decent photo of his shoes and post it on Instagram with a dozen fire emojis. It becomes harder to keep track of who’s who.
But no number of fire emojis can stand for real work, real influence, and a real hand on the way things go. So don’t be fooled by all the self-important would-be Instagram sneakerheads who are out to snatch up some likes from unassuming beginners. Get to know some of the Pinoys who have really played a part in shaping the world of sneakers as we know it today.
Jian de Leon (@jiandeleon)
Editorial Director, Highsnobiety.com
How many sneakerheads you know would kill to work for Highsnobiety? Such is the enviable post of Filipino-American lifestyle writer and editor Jian de Leon, who is currently an editorial director at the international streetwear and lifestyle site we all know and love. Highsnob is a source for all the latest and best in style, including sneakers—which means that it’s his job to steer the content in the right direction, to the right pulse. Of course, this means he has a pretty great deal of influence on the trends and goings-on in streetwear and sneaker culture at large. As a lifestyle writer, Jian has also written for publications like Complex, Four-Pins, GQ, and Business of Fashion, which is a testament to his grip of menswear culture.
Gerald Flores (@imgerald)
When it comes to sneakers, it doesn’t get more legit than Sole Collector. It’s one of the world’s most prominent dedicated sneaker sites, with daily updates on all the newest and best shoes. That in itself makes Gerald Flores, Sole Collector’s EIC, an influential figure in the world of sneakers. Before joining Sole Collector in 2013, Gerald worked with Footwear News. This allowed him to infuse a journalistic background to Sole Collector’s content line-up, including feature stories like like the "Sneakerhead of Wall Street" and the "Interview with Matt Ferber, the Man Who Didn't Let Losing His Legs Stop Him From Collecting Sneakers." It’s these kinds of stories, and the kind of vigilant lookout for sneaker-related news, that keeps Sole Collector at the top of its game.
Erick Goto (@e_gotosan)
Design Director of Special Projects Nike Running
Remember the Kobe 9 “Philippines” colorway? That was the work of Erick Goto, a Filipino-American designer who’s worked with Nike Basketball and Nike Running, most notably for the Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, and Lebron James signature platforms. How can you get any more influential than doing the graphics for the All-Star Game shoes, the Galaxy pack, BHM colorways, or the Kobe “Fade to Black” collection? Most recently, Erick has been the Design Director of Special Projects at Nike Running, which, based on his work with the Flyknit Racer “Indigo,” bodes well for the division.
Dennis Tan, Raoul Reinoso, and Jeffrey Cariaso (@titan_22)
Filipinos love basketball before they love sneakers—that much holds true. And while Titan may have been among the many upstart sneaker sources back when they set up shop in 2010, it was always about basketball first. And because they’ve been so dedicated to that premium basketball lifestyle concept, which of course includes providing the latest basketball kicks, they’ve managed to capture a great deal of sports enthusiasts, who also happen to be sneakerheads. You’d be hard-pressed to pick a sneaker shop that’s more respectable and better-established than Titan—and perhaps that’s because it really isn’t a sneaker shop at all.
Michael Concepcion, Omar Quiambao (@commonwealth_ph)
It’s hard to overstate the importance of having a streetwear boutique like Commonwealth in our local retail assortment. Now that sneakers are getting more popular and easier to come by, it’s refreshing to know that someone still stocks the gems, like the recently launched Kultura Gel Lyte Vs, which was another move to put the Philippines on the map of global sneaker culture. While Omar Quiambao co-founded Commonwealth in the States with stores in Washington, DC and Virginia Beach, the decision to bring it home to the Philippines was significant. Commonwealth became one of the foremost sources of good sneakers in Metro Manila, not to mention one of the most well-curated.
Bigboy Cheng (@bigboy_secretfresh)
You may remember him from our video feature a while back, but you should also know that apart from having his own incredible collection, Bigboy Cheng was among the first few sneakerheads to actually make something of the subculture here in Metro Manila. First, it was through Fresh Manila, a shop that he put up for designer toys and art. It would eventually become Secret Fresh, a full-fledged gallery of its own, and of course, Ronac Art Center—one of the hotspots where mainstream sneaker culture would find its beginnings in the early 2010s.
Antonio Aguirre Jr. (@mrsoleslam)
Regardless of how you view sneaker culture here in the Philippines, it’s impossible to deny the influence of Sole Slam in its beginnings. In 2011, just around the time that the local sneaker community was starting to pick up speed, Antonio Aguirre Jr. (or Mr. Sole Slam, as he likes to call himself) dared to mount a sneaker convention of unprecedented scale. It would eventually announce sneaker culture’s arrival, and establish, to a mainstream Filipino audience, that there was such a thing as sneaker culture, and more importantly, that anyone could be a part of it. Sole Slam has since continued annually, and has come to accommodate different things as well, like cars; and has even become something of a streetwear brand.