In the sneaker culture, what's always stood out is the ability to think forward and not stay conformed to what's already being heralded as successful. The Jordan XI. Before its time in terms of style and material, has left an undying legacy and no sneaker head's collection is complete without it.
With clothing, it would seem easy to not only make a mark, but to also stay relevant throughout the culture. Wait til' a release and create a shirt playing off the colors and message of the shoe. Instant success, but if the idea is to leave a legacy, while also giving the owner a sense of individualism, you have to go beyond that.
In 2002, Sneaker Fiend was created and finally launched in 2007. The idea pushed fashion in the sneaker culture to the forefront. Instead of clothing to match your sneakers, CEO, Darrick Carruth envisioned a product fresh enough where heads would by their footwear based on his shirts. Going off his his own sense of style and having many influences that drive and motivate him, DC has been able to turn his dream into reality simply by pushing the boundaries of what the masses may bring to the table, in terms of flavor.
His story is trusting himself, his vision and never letting anyone detour him, but he could tell it better.
Mateo Magazine: Who is Darrick Carruth and What does He do?
Darrick Carruth: I'm the brand manager, creative energy, CEO of Sneakerfiend T's.
Tell me about your brand?
My brand is Sneakerfiend. Sneakerfiend is a brand created for dope people by a dope person. It's created for all of the people that like to get their fresh on, that want to stay in the now, stay in the current and a little bit futuristic, for those that want to a little fast-forward in terms of what they do and in terms of their fashion.
Every brand has a message that they try to put out on a T-shirt. What makes yours different from a common brand you might see in at a shop?
What makes mine different is mine is more sneaker-related, definitely the colors. I don't think people really use colors and take advantage of the color palette like they should and that's one of the things that I concentrate on. Bold colors, unique design, an edge; I think that alone and the overall aesthetic of the brand in terms of, when we do a character shirt, we take it to the tenth power. It's a couple of brands out there that do characters, but I really think we take pride in our characters. We take pride in the overall thought we put into the brand, in terms of the concepts. If you look at the "Death Match" shirt, that shirt goes over the heads of so many people because of the detail. The detail in that shirt is actually [Andre] Agassi. If you would have seen the Agassi apparel when the Agassi shoe initially dropped, that's what the character in that shirt was wearing. Most people totally don't get it because it's a little too fast-forward, so what we really want to do is take it to the next level and educate people as well as amaze them.
Tell me your favorite shoe.
My favorite shoe? I got a couple. Dave Quality Meats Bacon [Huarache]. I love the bacon. Air Max 95, OG colorway. That's one of my favorite shoes in the world. Jordan V's, I love the V's. I don't care. They could be the Grape's, they can be whatever. If you were to ever see my shoes, you know... Let me say Air Max's, because that dominates my shoe collection. Air Max 90's, 95's, Air Max 1's, it's everywhere. The 180 "Opium". I like 180's, but the Opium, that's my shoe. That's what does it for me. If you were to come to my house you would see the bulk of my collection is Air Max. Air Force One's, they're so dope. Any Rasheed's, the Rasheed High's. I love the Sheed's. That's what it is.
There are aspiring individuals like yourself with ambition to create their own concept reading this. What can you tell them?
I want to tell any individual that's out there reading this, I got a new shirt out called "Dream Killer." The significance of the shirt is way more than what the visual is. The significance of it is, you can do whatever you want, just continue to dream. Most people give up on their dream and most people stop dreaming. I'm here to tell you that if you just keep believing in yourself and believe in your dreams, you can make them come true. What anyone can get from my story is never give up on your dreams, because I been told many of times that "you can't do this," "ain't nobody gonna want a shirt that you made," "who do you think you are," "why would they buy that from you," "why would they buy your shirt, they can buy a Nike shirt," "they could do this, why would they do that," but if I was to listen to the dream-killers, I would have been dead in the water. I would have been a miserable individual. Believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Don't let the dream-killers kill your dream. If anybody can learn anything from me, stay persistent, stay humble and keep grinding.
Five-thousand units later........
Well, that's five-thousand units of one design. You got to think, in 2008, 2009, I shipped a total of about fifteen to twenty-thousand units. We're talking one shirt did five to six-thousand. So now, we're probably talking thirty to forty-thousand units later. That speaks for itself and a following. Now a Sneakerfiend consumer. A couple of years ago, it wasn't a consumer, it was people buying a nice product, buying a nice shirt, now Sneakerfiend has an audience. It's not in a large position, but it has a small position within the market.
What are the inspiration behind the concepts of your brand? Does it come from certain sneakers that came out during your time?
Definitely. By me being the creator of the brand, I like to call myself the historian of the brand. What I bring to the game is the length of time that I've been in the sneaker culture, into shoes, into sports and a lot of influences from days of reading Sports Illustrated, Dime magazine, SLAM magazine, old Nike commercials, just anything sports-related. Not only sports, but fashion-related and different people. One of my favorite people is Dwayne Wayne off of "A Different World". A fresh dude, but no one ever paid attention to how fresh this guy was. What I bring is this ton of information that I've collected over the years and I take this information and infuse it into my brand. I bring the eye. The asset of watching fashion, sports and several other things, evolve over time and now the sneaker culture coming to the forefront of pop culture or youth culture, and me being around long enough to watch it evolve. I'm just bringing my experience and things that I enjoy to the forefront of my brand.
Sounds like you been in the game for quite a while. Tell me about when you were a lot younger, was it the same back then in relation to the sneaker culture or how is it different?
What's different now? For one, I'm an OG, I'm an old-head and proud of it. A lot of people don't like to discuss their age. I don't discuss my age, but I been blessed to be on this earth for a long time, a nice period of time. In my day, it was all about individual style, being fresh and being that first dude with "that". Like in my day, you wanted to be the first cat to rock the Jordan's. You wanted to be first with the Jordan's. You wanted to be the first to find a particular shoe. It was about individual style and being first, not jumping on the bandwagon.
So now, 'I like Jordan's because everybody else like Jordan's." No, you wanted to be the cat that said, I'm going to take Jordan's out of the equation. I'm going to rock the Bo Jackson Trainer because all my boys rocking Jordan's, so I'm going to go against the grain and rock the Trainer. Not only that, I'm going to flip the strings in my trainers. If they came with gray strings, I'm going to find some green strings and that's how I'm going to flip it because it was about being an individual.
What do you consider a masterpiece out of your entire line? This is mixed in with the crowd response, your own personal experience, buzz, internet, all of that.
I wouldn't call it my masterpiece, but I like to call it platinum in the hood. Actually, what I consider my masterpiece, didn't perform well at retail. But, the peoples choice, the peoples champ would have to be "10 Pair of Kicks Don't Make you a Collector," is the peoples choice. That shirt, I can't sell it, it sells itself. The funny thing about that is it took the least time to create and performed the best. It was a shirt that we came up with, literally, It was a conversation between my graphic artist and myself. He was like, you need to do something that just goes against the grain. You need to talk some [...trash...].
What went behind that?
That was the conversation. We were actually getting ready to go to Magic's in Vegas. It was our first major trade show and we were working on concepts for the line. He was like, "Yo, you need to come with something that's just going to go against the grain, that's going to talk smack and be like ah, now what?". In the conversation, when he said it, I just said ten pair of kicks don't make you a collector and he just started hollering, "Say that again." Ten pairs of kicks don't make you a collector. He was like, "Yo son, that's it." This was spontaneous. It wasn't pre-thought of, before the phone conversation, that phrase had never been used. I never put it together, but out of that conversation came that shirt. And that shirt, by far, at retail, has out-performed anything I ever done.
Where can people cop the T's?
People can cop the T's at sneakerfiendtees.com. You can go to AKIN in Chicago, You can go to Foot Soldiers in Miami, You can go to Sole Fiasco in Austin, Texas, You can go to karmaloop.com. We're all over the place. We're not hard to find. We're not hiding, if You're looking, You can find Us.
Anything else you like to add?
Keep grinding, stay humble.