Words: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins

Photos: @AnthonyBlaskoPhoto

“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. Click here for more stories.


The Air Jordan I was ahead of its time. Designed exclusively for the exciting rookie guard, Michael Jordan, the shoe was introduced to the public on November 17, 1984. The striking silhouette was met with mixed emotions: intrigue, controversy, pandemonium and confusion. What was this sneaker?! No one had seen anything quite like it. Fortunately, history has also shown us that puzzlement often precedes something great.

Since then, AJIs have raced down basketball courts, sauntered across fashion runways, hopped on concert stages, ran down school hallways and cruised on skateboards. The shoe is a timepiece that reminds us where contemporary sneaker culture began and how far it’s come. That status was achieved by Nike, Jordan Brand and their athletes fighting to let their vision and passion define who they are more than anything else.

Similar to the Air Jordan I, Reese LaFlare has chosen to carve out his own lane, despite naysayers, imitators or the expectations of others. Born in Birmingham, Alabama and hailing from Atlanta, the 28-year-old talent is a hip-hop renaissance man. The skater turned rapper, fashion enthusiast and all-around cultural influencer has been making waves over the past decade in one way or another — from signing with Nike SB to founding LaFlare Records. Like the Air Jordan I, Reese has long been ahead of his time. Thankfully ,the world is finally catching up with him — a fully formed talent with both classic sensibilities and a pioneer’s mindset.


 

You’re driving in a few different lanes right now. Can you speak to some of those?

I grew up skateboarding, I’m an artist and I write songs for a lot of people. I have a pretty tight music career right now. I like clothes and fashion. I’m just into the culture, in general: skating, streetwear, everything — the full embodiment of it.

How do all these different things intersect?

There can’t be one without the other. Fashion and streetwear are driven from things that the average street kid or skater might wear. Big fashion houses copy that, because they think it’s cool. Music is a big part of skateboarding and vice versa. There can’t be one without the other. It’s all from street culture.

How has your decision to play in all these different arenas affected you? Is it easy to explain to people?

In the beginning, some people thought it was weird that I’m a black kid who skateboards. It’s just what I was interested in. Now it’s the thing — a lot of people pretend to skate, because that they know it’ll get them certain looks. We used to call kids “posers” who did that. I’m not a poser.

It’s quite natural for me to pursue different things. When I meet people who have backgrounds in punk rock or skating, I’ll know everything they are talking about. They’ll be like “Yo, how do you know about this?” And I’ll be like, “Man, I grew up skating. I skated for 19 years.”

What about skating spoke to you at such a young age?

I was always out in the street. Skateboarding is a street sport. I saw a couple other black kids skateboarding who looked like me. Maybe one was wearing a football jersey, some baggy cargos and skating in some Nike Air Force Ones or Dunks. That spoke to me. I can still be fresh and do this. I’m frail. I’m fly. I’m not trying to get tackled. I just thought, “I can get fly and skate.”


The moment he feels you at his heels, that’s when LaFlare pedals faster. As a skater who’s ollied the highest career bars, he needed another trick to master: music.


 

So, what marked the transition into music?

It happened as a joke, at first. My mom sings, so I’ve been around music my entire my life. I used to skate for a shop that Don Cannon and DJ Drama often went to. They got me into music, especially Don Cannon. He was like, “You should rap, because you look cool.” All the rappers would try to dress like me, and I didn’t even rap.

What were the obstacles you had to face going from skater to rapper?

There were some people who were welcoming at first. Other people just didn’t get it. Of course, as soon as what you do starts popping, they all look back like, “You had it right the whole time!”

Carving your own lane gives you your own destiny. You feel much better when you succeed, because you put in all that work instead of having it just handed to you. You made it happen.

You recently just did your first full album, but you’ve been doing music for years.

Yeah. That was my first solo thing, my first album in three years. I don’t know how to be anything that’s not creative. It’s my only option.


When it comes to skating, trusting yourself is everything. A moment of doubt seconds before you attempt to boardslide a 20-stair can cost you your life. LaFlare brings that mentality to every feat — confidence in knowing he’s nailed something before he’s even tried.

Reese is wearing the latest in the lengthy lineage of the Air Jordan 1: The Air Jordan I High OG ‘Couture. Dripped in black and accented with a huge, racing-inspired strip of red tape, the ‘Couture’ updates the classic AJ1 silhouette with both utilitarian and artistic details. Like Reese, it has a timeless quality to it, but with a brash, unapologetic tone that demands attention as much as it inspires wear and further personalization.


 

Where do you think you got your defiant perspective from?

Just being a rebellious kid. Doing my own thing when I was younger. I didn’t want to be like anybody else.

Let’s talk shoes. How long have you skated in Jordans?

I’ve always skated in Air Jordan Is. They have the perfect flick, and the laces don’t pop on them. The eyelets are up so high that you might scuff the laces, but they won’t always rip. Everybody else is like, “Oh, I’m not going to mess mine up.” Man, I’m skating in them! All the colors that everybody likes, I’m skating in them!

Even when I’m not skating, a pair of black and red Air Jordan Is go with anything and everything. You can wear Air Jordan Is playing golf, to prom or to work. It’s just about what you wear with them.

Ha! Do people look at you like you’re crazy? Especially when you skate in AJIs that they can’t get their hands on?

Yeah, they go, “Man, you could have stashed them.” I’m like, “You’re right. That’s cool. I’m just going to skate in them.” I like to look good when I’m skating.


The Air Jordan I High OG ‘Couture’ is available starting February 23 from SNKRS and select retailers.

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