Growing up in South Central in the 1990s, Aleali May always felt like something of an anomaly.

Ditching skirts and dress shoes to dig through her uncle’s closet for Js, jerseys and fitteds, the original style May cultivated over the years has garnered recognition in both high and low-brow fashion worlds.

This week, Aleali sees the release of her first collaboration with Jordan Brand available at retail – an Air Jordan 1 with cool gray satin and black corduroy, in recognition of the city of LA and her love for Jordan satin shorts and corduroy slippers.

In honor of her family and the release of the Air Jordan 1, Aleali May heads home to style her shoe and shoot with legendary LA photographer Estevan Oriol at her grandmother’s place in South Central.

Images by Estevan Oriol, South Central Los Angeles.

MANY THANKS TO GRANDMA SHARON, UNCLE G, VIRNIYA + THE FAMILY.

 

ALEALI

“I was always dressing like a tomboy. I grew up around a lot of boys and always wanted to be like my Uncle G. He used to buy me all the Jordans. I used to wear Jordan satin shorts, with slip-ons and Js. I didn’t really know what I was wearing until later.

I wore a uniform, so my shoes had to be the standout piece. So we would go to Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw Plaza, and cop the latest Jordans. It’s always been in my DNA, I guess before I could understand it.

I used to play so hard in them and then be mad at myself like ‘What did I do!’ Grandma would be like ‘Well, they’re dirty – guess you’ve gotta wear these other dress shoes.’ She always used to tell me ‘You have to wear skirts some days,’ and I hated it and was back to my Jordans.

My uncle, he was always LA style. He was into hip hop and playing basketball. I guess he didn’t know how much influence he had on me and vice versa.”

UNCLE G

“When Aleali came around, she was living right next door. She was the new breed. She had to have the same thing Uncle G had so if I went and got some shoes, she had shoes. She used to dress like a little boy all the time. It was a big old thing about letting her be who she is right now.

She was always a tomboy. Jordan satin shorts, slippers or sneakers, all the time. She was never into girlie stuff. Man, you used to have to kill her to get into a dress. She was not having it, not at all.

When you come from LA you always imagine people with the corduroy house shoes. You got the gray in this Air Jordan 1. You got the California corduroy. You have that stand-out, LA, get down. When I see her in it, that brings a Crenshaw get down to it.

Where Aleali is today, it came right here from us. It’s amazing to see her with her own shoe with Jordan. This is a dream come true for a lot of kids, especially coming from this side of town. Right now, I’m too proud of her.”

GRANDMA SHARON

“This house used to be a daycare, which is in the back [of the block] now. When Aleali was growing up, she was here – a part of the daycare kids.

Growing up here, she was with Uncle G. They would teach her how to braid hair. When they would go out and do things, she would get mad because she wanted to go but she was too little. She was like, ‘I wanna go with my Uncle G, I want my Uncle G.’

Aleali always had on her Jordans whenever Uncle G had them on. Whenever there was a new release, he would go out and get a pair, and then he would bring her a pair. She would get into a little trouble, because I wanted her to wear dresses and be a prima donna, but she always wanted to be that little tomboy and look like her uncle.

I used to take her to the mall, and we would be in the shoe department and make her walk around the store with girls’ shoes on, with little heels. She was like, ‘Granny I can’t wear this, they hurt my feet, why do I have to wear these, I wanna wear tennis shoes.’ That was a point when I was trying to make her into a girlie girl. Didn’t know that she was gonna end up doing what she is doing.

As a parent you do what you have to do for your kids. They were good kids too, very good kids. They made good grades, they were well mannered. I was the person in line, standing to get these shoes for Uncle G. People would look at me like, ‘You are into [Jordans]?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, I gotta get this for my son.’”

The Aleali May Air Jordan 1 ‘Satin Shadows’ is available from Grade School – Adult sizing on 10/27 at the Undefeated pop up from 6pm at 112 1/2 S La Brea Avenue Los Angeles, and at select retailers on 10.28.17:

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