The guys at Freshness got the chance to sit with Futura 2000 and talk about his current Converse Made by You campaign. Here is the interview.
FRESHNESS: You mentioned last night that you’ve been wearing Chucks for a good half-century. What was it that drew you to wearing Chucks in the first place?
FUTURA: Yeah well, that’s true. At that time, let’s say 1969, I was 14 and I was trying to look cool. Really Cons, Converse, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, that was like the height of urban street wear for that era. I’ve always been a black high-top guy. I like the low-tops in the summer. There were really no other choices. There was no other footwear. I also liked Pro Keds. I’m trying to think if had Puma emerged yet with the Clyde. I had Clydes too, and there was a famous basketball player named Pistol Pete Maravich, who had a great low top Pro Ked. It was a gray suede. Chucks were it, but only because Chucks were the only game in town, I honestly think.
There were lesser brand shoes were what we would call Skippies. Like, “Oh you can’t afford Chucks, you got Skippies?” They were kind of a fake brand. It was really because there was nothing else.
Sounds like choice were limited.
Yeah, and they always had what? 45, something years later, right? I mean damn. They’re still the same, and I guess people feel completely connected to the brand. I didn’t know they were 100 years old, though. Damn. Oh my God.
What kind of music were you listening to at the time?
Hippie shit. ’69 was the summer of Woodstock, so Hendrix, whatever, Stones. Anything of that era, but also R&B. I also grew up on that Motown sound, so Smokey, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
How does it feel to be part of one of the biggest Converse advertising campaigns after spending your life wearing them as a fan?
It’s great. People say, “Hey, what companies would you like to work with?” I always used to say Apple, Sony, blah blah blah, but in the back of my mind I was like, “Man.” I really wanted to hook up with Converse in some way, and I think when I defaulted back a few years ago to get away from all the hype of new releases of Dunks and any of the variations, I was like, “You know what? I’m just going back to Converse. It’s a real simple look.” I’m so happy. You’re right, this is one of the biggest campaigns I think I’ve ever seen, but I like how they’ve done it with the Made By You sentiment, and it’s just about our consumers.
It’s about not just youth culture. I guess I’m not exactly part of that anymore, but it’s like everybody wears Cons. I’ve seen them at wedding. It’s a crazy show, but I’m super-happy.
In regards to your Chuck Taylors in the Converse Made By You campaign, what was the journey that they went through? What places in the world did they end up in, or what work did they endure?
That particular pair, that was more or less the shoes off my feet, the shoes I painted in. I’m pretty spontaneous. If we started working now, and the pair I’m wearing just got caught up in the process, then that would just be it. That particular pair, I’ve probably had them for a year or something and had them in my studio, so every time I went in, I’d take off the ones I’d have on, and I’d just rock those or something. Yeah, they’ve got a good story. I’m pretty sure I traveled in those too, although the sneaker selfie thing I was talking about, I stopped doing that, but those shoes have been around.
When you first started wearing Chuck Taylors, who else significant did you see wearing them?
Well in the very beginning I was looking at those kids in my neighborhood who were a bit older than me who I felt were influencers of our community, and it’s like all the cool kids in the neighborhood were wearing Cons. At that time, I didn’t know anybody famous. I didn’t know anyone on any higher level other than the kids in the neighborhood who just had seniority. It’s like, “Oh my God, John. What’s John wearing? Oh damn he’s got those, I wish I could afford those.” I think Converse has a mass appeal to a number of people, but I think I was taking my direction from the cooler kids, 3 or 4 years older than me, and aspiring to be as cool as them one day. Maybe that worked. Yeah. Yeah, I think it worked.
One of the other featured artists of Made By You is Andy Warhol. Did you guys ever cross paths?
Oh, absolutely. I knew Andy. I won’t say I knew Andy well, but socially, yeah. I used to see him at stuff, and I was really good friends with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy would show up at a lot of things. I used to have a softball team and Andy used to come to my games. At that time, 30-something years ago when we were all involved in the New York art scene, I was very intimidated by someone like Andy. Just looking at him as some sort of an art God, and here I was an aspiring artist at the time. Andy was really sweet to me, he always had something really nice to say to me. I miss those guys. Keith, Jean-Michelle, Andy.
It’s hard to believe … We’re talking about me wearing Cons for a half-century; those guys passed away 25 years ago already. It’s crazy to even talk about someone as famous as those artists are, and them not being here for such a long of a period. However, here we are. Andy’s foundation, or his whatever house is handling his marketing, is very interesting to see. And the fact that Andy was wearing Cons also? That underscores how popular they were back then.
Other than some of the artists that you just mentioned, who are some of the other artists that you say were a big inspiration early in your life?
Obviously the Picassos, the Michelangelos, the Rembrandts, those are people who you go and you’re in awe of their works. It was mostly the graffiti writers of the 70’s. It was mostly someone like Dondi, and once again, Dondi’s not here. I’ve often said a lot of my role models are not longer here, unfortunately. I always thought, “Well maybe one day I’ll be able to influence someone, a younger person, to be creative, to explore their self expression.” Once again, that’s what the Made By You thing is all about. The self expression, that’s very akin to what graffiti’s all about in a way. Just having your identity and putting it forth, either legally, and back in the day, illegally.
Were there any important moments in your life where you looked down on your feet, looked up, and said, “Wow, this is one moment I will never forget?”
I’ve traveled around a lot, and I don’t take things for granted. I’m always like, “Wow, this is amazing,” and, “Oh man, I’m so lucky to be here.” I had some experiences in let’s say at the pyramids or something. I remember being at the pyramids and there was an area … It’s like the one time in my life, I think it was mostly impressed of all my life experiences being somewhere, and stopping, and stepping out of myself and just looking at myself in the moment. This is like 10 years ago. I was sitting there and going, “Damn, I’m here.” I was super-grateful, but just once again reflecting on all my friends who aren’t. I just to wake up tomorrow and trying to be happy, and that is a good day for me.
I try to stay positive and appreciate life as it is, and not be super self-absorbed. I think that’s the nature of graffiti. It’s all about your identity, but at the same time, I never feel like I can’t get with a social group and just be one of the guys, and help out in some capacity. Like go get coffee for somebody, or whatever. I still do that.
Can you and are you able to recall how many pairs of Chucks you’ve had over your lifetime?
A good 100, no doubt. A clean 100. The thing is, years ago, when economics were different, and you’re scrambling, you don’t have really budget for stuff, it’s when you’re taking care of the things you have and preserving them. More recently, I found that Converse tend to be disposable, in a way. You just rock them, and then they get paint on them and you’re like, “All right, whatever.” Get a new pair. I think the price point has always been reasonable. For example, if I went into a shop and I saw the ones you’re wearing now with the gold caps, I’d probably buy 3 of them. Just to have them on standby.
It’s like back how people used to buy records, and then toy collectors used to buy toys. It’s the same thing for sneakers I think, and people do the same thing as well. Not that my motivation is a secondary market. I’m not like, “Oh yeah let me sit on these, and I’ll sell them in a year.” It’s more like, “Oh those are really cool, I’d love to wear them.” They look great new, so you just rock them like that. I found a pair in a Foot Locker in Queens recently that were some digital camo. Super cool. Generic, but interesting because it was new. Visually I had never seen that before.
I bought 4 pairs of them and I actually have them in the trunk of my car. There’s still 3 in the trunk of my car, so at some point I’ll just be able to bring those out. Quite frankly, a year from now when people forgot about them or never saw them anywhere, they’re still going to look dope. They’re still going to be fresh, and of course they’re going to be brand new. So yeah more than 100, total who knows? A couple hundred maybe over a lifetime, but in my recent 10 years? Easy 100, yeah. Which is what? 10 years, that’s 10 pair a year. Eh, that seems excessive.
Complete interview available HERE