You might not know Ollie Teeba by face, but no doubt you've heard his beats and production work as the DJ for the UK's successful hip hop group The Herbaliser. On top of that, he's an OG B-Boy from back in the roughneck days! Ollie has accumulated a delectable collection of vintage Puma and adidas sneakers (or trainers in his words), so delicious you're bound to lose some sleep tonight! Favouring the tactile nature of classic suede sneakers, Ollie is prepared to go to war with the UK's damp climate in order to rock his pride, which is why his crate of kicks is still so crisp. We took some time to hit the 808 with Teeba and find out just why he can't get enough of the old school sneakers!
Hey Ollie! For all the folks at home who are unfamiliar, give us a rundown of who you are and what you do for a crust!
My name is Ollie Teeba. I am one half of the production team and the DJ for The Herbaliser.
Rolling back in time, when did this obsession with trainers start for you?
When I was a wee slip of a lad - probably about 11 or 12 years old. I remember asking my parents to bring me back some Nikes when they took a short trip to New York in 1982. They didn't bring any. I think the obsession started there and was further fuelled by my love of Hip Hop culture.
How did it get to a place where all of a sudden you have over 250 pairs - what was that turning point where you realised this has gone a little bananas?
I definitely think things got a little bananas, to say the least. I am currently looking for a new flat as I can no longer fit all my shit into the one I currently live in. I've always had quite a few pairs. Once the 35th anniversary of the Superstars got me buzzin', I got on eBay and that opened up the entire world to me, it just got crazy. All of a sudden I could put my hands on shoes that were never even available in any store in the UK.
Before slicing up beats and blips for The Herbaliser, you were a b-boy right? And we're talking OG styles - you were there when it first hit! What was the sneaker of choice back then?
Yeah, I was a b-boy from ‘82-‘86, a graffiti writer from ‘84-‘87 and a DJ from ‘85 till the present day. For the most part UK b-boys had to limit themselves to shoes that were available in the UK. So a lot of people wore adidas Century. Which is basically the Campus in white leather with fabric stripes that you could colour in. That was in the era of the original Adicolor. They were also the closest thing to a Superstar that you could buy here - they did not release the almighty Shells in the UK until the re-branding with Run DMC in 1986. There were a few kids that you would see in Covent Garden with pairs that someone had obviously brought over from New York - those and the Puma Suede, which everybody used to call Puma ‘Joints'. They were not released in Britain until ‘85 when they were re-branded as the ‘State'. Some b-boys in the ‘80s also favoured the Reebok Exo-Fit or Freestyle, as they were lighter and more comfortable to break in. Superstars and Clydes, although looking dope, were not a practical b-boying shoe. They would always fly off your feet!
Growing up in that time, were you affected by the whole Casuals movement - was there a turf war of b-boys vs. soccer heads?
Well for the most part I think a lot of people outside of the Hip Hop scene could not see any difference between the two. I would often have to tell peeps that I was not a Casual but a b-boy. This was particularly evident when I went to college and everyone started wearing braces, trilby hats and Doctor Martens, all that Curiosity Killed the Cat-trendy bollocks. When I was there, you would be branded a Casual for wearing any kind of sportswear whatsoever. Fortunately this trend only stuck for a year or so. Anyway the Casuals didn't really have a problem with b-boys, they more often would fight the Mods. In fact nobody really had any issues with the Hip Hoppers.
Ha, that's good to know! You're a massive fan of Suedes, which seems crazy considering you live in a country known for its damp-ass weather - why Suedes and how do you maintain them?
Yeah, I know what you mean with the weather. They don't get much play in the winter, that's for sure. There are very few of the natural grey suede shoes that I have worn other than on stage or photo shoots as they are just dirt magnets, which is a pity as they are some of my favourites. These days I keep every shoe in its original box. I cannot say enough about keeping the boxes. Not only do they keep them clean but preserve the shape of the shoe. You would be surprised at how having a pile of sneakers in your closet will destroy some of them. I have had old Nikes that I have pulled out to find that the soles have disintegrated. I lost my original Jordan IV that way.
RIP! Tell us about some of the nuggets in your collection - you have a lot of Made In France Superstars, along with a bucket-load of Puma Suede colours we've never seen.....
I have some MIF Superstars that I bought in the ‘80s and early ‘90s from a couple of stores in London. I shopped at Passenger and Duffer of ST George, went on hunting trips and brought back a limited supply of Made in France Superstars and Made in Yugoslavia Suedes. Those pairs got worn a fair bit and could be in better condition. A fair few that I have that are in great condition have been found on eBay. I used to scour that place looking for OGs. I got some for a bargain too. I'm lucky, I am a size 7UK, which is a size that you can sometimes get vintage beauties at a good price. It amazes me what a pair of size 10 OG shells can go for!
How did you dig before the advent of the Internet?
I simply just bought the shoes when they came out and also scored a few vintage joints from the stores I mentioned earlier, which was way before the craze hit its peak. There were no exclusive sneaker drops in those days, no limited editions. You just bought them in the store - it was a long time ago.... I am getting old.
Haha, aren't we all! Are you still copping, still looking for that next hit?
Well. Not so much. I have to practically consider what I have space for, although the Superstar 80 and the Campus 80 got me fiending again. Just when I think I am done they pull me back in by bringing out the original shits, in new colours. I don't have any more space - I guess I could sell off some surplus! (In fact I know I soon will be. Keep your eyes peeled for Ollie Teeba on eBay)
Let's talk about The Herbaliser - you guys just dropped an album a couple of months back - it was a long sip between drinks for this record. Do you feel that sneakers are going the way of hip hop - where the larger corporations are becoming redundant in a sea of Indies?
Put it this way. I feel much more positive about the sneaker business than the music business. Having said that, there have been some obscene versions of classic shoes coming out. Puma, this is a message to you! Stop bringing out these teenybopper day-glo Clydes! If ya want some colour ideas, hit me up!
What are your thoughts on the sudden resurgence of Puma bringing back their vintage archive, and even adidas with their Originals range - are they doing the shoes justice?
I was so blown away when they reintroduced the Clyde. But I have to say I have been, for the most part underwhelmed. They started off very well, but now we seem to have either luminous reptile-skin uppers or a slightly different version of a colour that they already made two to three years ago. When they do release a colour that I really like, for example, a burgundy stripe on powder blue suede, you can't find it anywhere. Anyone who knows where I can get US7/7.5 of this please let me know!
So, what's up next for you - will there be a tour of the album (leading to a world wide tour of sneaker hunting, no doubt)?
Any parting words?
Lets have some grown up colours. A lot of collectors are in their thirties and forties ain't feeling the multi-fluorescents. Lets have something for us pensioners!
Photography by Errol Photography