Here's one from the vault. With the SNKR FRKR Exclusive on the release of the Pigeon 575 x New Balance (feature here), we thought it was timely to dust off this interview with Jeff Staple about the Pigeon Dunk that only ever appeared in the Sneaker Freaker Book. Enjoy this catch up, it was only a few short years ago, how time flies! (pun intended)
Despite predictions of imminent uncooldom, the Dunk SB just keeps powering on. No other shoe can consistently inspire kids to camp out for days just to land the big one. And they don’t come much bigger than this - the New York Pigeon Dunk! With so many kids wanting, and so few shoes available, there was bound to be disappointment. But no-one expected the launch to nearly turn into a New York street riot! We caught up with The Reed Space owner, Jeff Staple, to ask him what went wrong and why it seems reports of the Dunk’s death have been greatly exaggerated?
Hey Jeff - how’s New York?
NY is culturally dead. And I might add the weather here supremely sucks.
You guys own the store Reed Space, but what else do you get up to?
Staple Design owns and operates The Reed Space. Reed Space is a store and an art gallery and we also do special launches. For example, we launched the Nike Considered line as well as the Pigeon Dunk. Staple Design is primarily a design firm and small independent creative agency. That’s our bread and butter. We also do a small clothing line for some stupid reason. Just for shits and giggles I guess.
How did the Pigeon Dunk come about?
My good friend Marcus who used to run things at Nike SB, asked us to create the NYC Dunk that was to be aligned with the White Dunk show. If you remember, there was a Paris, Japan, Cali, London one etc, etc. So he asked us to work on the NYC one. Of course it was a great honor. To be able to bless the seminal shoe, The Dunk, and represent our home town all in one project was just a dream come true. After sitting around and thinking for a while about what represented NY best, the Pigeon kept coming up. It’s something very innate to New Yorkers. And something you wouldn’t necessarily relate to the city if you didn’t in fact live here.
When were they released and how many were there?
Feb 22nd, 2005. 150 for the world. 30 pieces for 5 shops. Rival, Supreme, Recon, KCDC and us. Our 30 had a lasered Staple logo and each was individually numbered.
And tell us the story about the days leading up to their release?
Leading up to the release day was pretty crazy. We had kids sleeping outside in tents about 4 days before the release. There was a snowstorm as well so I was pretty impressed and dumbfounded at the same time. But for the most, the kids were calm and orderly.
At what point did you realise there was a major problem?
I thought it was going to be pretty chill. When I left work the night before, there were maybe 20 kids waiting outside that night. It wasn’t until I came to work the next day that I realized there was a problem on our hands. There were about 100-150 kids now. With bodies pressed up against our front gate it looked like there was a Manchester United game going on inside. About a dozen cops were already there. The NYPD was like, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’
Did you ever, I mean ever, in your wildest dreams think it would go as crazy as it did?
Never. I was totally shocked.
It sounds funny now but were you scared at all?
I was scared the whole time! There was no way we could satisfy everyone. We had 30 pairs for our allotment! With 150+ people, you knew there was a problem. I had a security team, the NYPD, my staff... nothing could make these people happy. We were seriously, without any exaggeration, on the verge of a full-blown riot scene.
I heard the cops were giving out summonses for trespassing and weapons were found?
About 10-20 arrests were made. I must say the NYPD was so dope about the whole thing. They were very understanding and helpful in fact. After the crowd cleared, we found machetes and baseball bats!
I also heard they made everyone get a cab home, because hoods were waiting for the kids on the other side of your store?
Yeah, the Lower East Side is no joke. There were thugs on all four corners waiting to grab kicks from kids who were waiting in the line. The cops saw this. So they called a fleet of cabs to our back door. Kids would come in thru the front, buy their pair, and then be escorted thru the back right into a cab and off they went. One kid didn’t have enough for the cab fare and the cop paid for him. That’s the NYPD servicing the community if you ask me!
Does it seem funny to you that anyone would pay 2000 bucks for a Dunk with a pigeon on it?
No. To each his own. That kid who paid 2Gs for a Pigeon probably doesn’t understand why someone would pay 3 million for a Picasso. Or $10,000 for a Tiffany watch. Everyone has their fix.
What was Nike’s reaction to all this? Were they there for the event?
Love and Hate. Some people loved it, some people hated it. Thing is, some people thought we orchestrated and planned the whole thing. It was on the cover of the New York Post the following day... so I guess people thought we paid for that. Trust me, my life was in danger for most of that day. I don’t need press that badly. I just tell people at Nike who were pissed, ‘Would you rather that cover have a Reebok on it? That’s what I figured.’
What do you think the Pigeon says about sneaker culture in 2005?
It’s reaching critical mass. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone can top this. I’m not tooting my own horn or anything... I’m just saying I wonder if this is the nail in the coffin for sneaker culture. Or will it continue to be bananas?
It’s kinda nice to have peeps go so nuts to get your shoes, but did it make you feel sick as well?
Yeah it did. When those kids were sleeping outside in a snowstorm, I felt bad. I wanted to buy everyone a pizza or something. Then I realized... wait, these guys are waiting here so they can drop $300 on sneakers! They can buy their own damn slice!
Well it was such a big success, what else have you got planned?
Now you know we can’t say. But some cool things are gonna drop in 2006. The Pigeon was only a clue in what’s to come. I’m really shocked because some people already figured it out! Sneaker heads are mad observant.
What’s the current street price for a pair?
$2000 and up, with fakes running $800 and up.
How long until the fakes appeared? The embroidery is a great copy!
Not sure... but I started seeing them on eBay about 2 months after. The Chinese are very ingenious!
Have you run into anyone who’s been rocking fakes?
Yeah... I was art directing a photo shoot for this famous basketball player. His assistant was all amped about the fact that he was getting Pigeons from eBay he just won. He showed me and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he just bid on fugazies. Hope he’s not reading this.
Can you hook me up with a pair? I know you guys got spare pairs under the table somewhere. C’mon, help a brother out!
I’m disappointed I didn’t save one pair on ice. I just have the one I wear. I guess I felt like if I did, I would jinx myself and we would never be able to do another Nike collabo. I’m very superstitious.