While veterans of the sneaker game reminisce of a time before eBay, there's a new generation of heads on the rise ready to keep the sneaker scene pumping. With a know-how like no other, kids are tuning into live UStream broadcasts chatting with like-minded sneaker nuts all over the world, spreading knowledge and talking kicks 24/7. Heading the pack is LA native Franalations with his self-titled online sneaker channel - offering cats in-depth reviews on anything from Jordans, Air Max, G-Shocks to his beloved Nike SBs. Fran popped his video cam on pause to take time out to talk to SNKRFKR about the new generation of sneaker heads and why he feels a responsibility to keep them all well-informed.
For those that don't know, just who is Franalations and what does he do?
I'm a sneaker connoisseur. Around two years ago I started doing sneaker reviews on YouTube. My main reason was because I wanted to give people my thoughts on the shoes, adding in 360° views of each sneaker and dissecting all the materials used. A 360° review, if you will.
We first met this past May at Atlanta's Sneaker Friends event - just how many of these events do you appear at and how important is it for furthering the love of sneakers and the culture?
I started going to these events towards the end of last year. Since then, I try to make it to at least one event a month. I have a few reasons for doing this. One - I really like meeting and talking to the people that watch my videos. Second - there is always the possibility of meeting people that may have never seen my videos before. This way I'm able to inform them of what I'm doing on YouTube so they too can watch the reviews. It's an opportunity to see and hear what people think about the same shoes that I review. In this way I get to connect with my viewers personally to see what goes through their minds. It's all about a common interest, and that's sneakers. It's always a great feeling to hear that my review on a particular shoe was the deciding factor in whether people purchased the shoe or not. Last but certainly not least I go to the events in the hope of finding some rare gems in my size.
Preach on! You guys over in the States seem to be incredibly serious about your sneakers! What's the competition/camaraderie like?
I don't feel like there is any competition. It's more a forum of people coming together to further their knowledge of shoes. For instance when we go to events, the consumers have a chance to meet the people in the industry, like the designers, bloggers, sellers or even writers of sneaker magazines. Not to mention they get to see some of the rarest kicks in the world.
As a dude from the younger generation of sneaker collectors, what info are kids not getting that you feel the need to educate them on?
First off, some people don't even know how to find which retailer sells shoes, let alone know how to tell if they're real or not. I also frequently get asked questions like, ‘what's the difference between a Quick Strike and a general release?' or ‘how do I tell if a shoe is a retro to the original release?' I always try to pass on the knowledge I have the best I can.
Was this the catalyst for starting the YouTube channel?
I started seeing SneakGeekz do Jordan videos on YouTube and it was helpful to see the shoes from all of the different angles rather than just looking at a blog with a couple of pictures. He went in depth about materials and where he purchased the shoes as well. It was also helpful to hear his opinion on a shoe as well as the opinions of others in the comments section. At that point I realized that there was the possibility of a similar community interested in Nike SBs. Or better yet, a group of people that know nothing at all about the shoes yet would love to learn more about them.
Where the hell would we be without the internet and social networking! You've joined a crew of cats that are taking the scene to the next level. Is this the way of the future - video reviews over print and online media?
I really don't think it's the way of the future, just a separate medium. The internet provides an opportunity for people to communicate about any subject whether it be a new shoe release, pet peeves or anything else along those lines. Some people might want an in-depth view, or maybe they're always on-the-go, so watching the videos quickly for a few minutes will give them the information they need without taking up too much of their time. Then again, there will always be those who prefer to purchase books, magazine, online magazines or even newspapers so that they have something to refer to from time to time.
True that. It's an incredibly simple formula that seems to have been perfected by the likes of Maestro Knows, Inside The Sneaker Box and Mayor TV to name a few. Why should peeps tune into Franalations?
When I originally started doing videos, it was just a hobby that I felt I could have fun with, as well as help other people gain knowledge. As time went on, I started to throw in little comedic elements by adding my friends into the videos to make it feel more real and enjoyable. I don't want to make it seem like I'm just trying to shove info down people's throats. I'd rather provide an entertaining video that people can relate to and learn from. At first I only did Nike SBs, but as I continued growing people asked to see more than just shoes, so I started reviewing other things that interest me, like clothes, video games, and accessories. I just give people my opinion on the stuff that I feel is dope. I push myself to put out as much content as I can on all of these different topics.
So why do you have such a hard on for Nike SB?
As a kid I was always into skate shoes from brands like Vans, Circa and D.C. When I had my back surgery I had to stop skating, but it didn't stop my interest in skate shoes. When I found out that Nike had skateboarding shoes I was drawn to the colours, the materials, and the inspiration behind each shoe. Even at a young age I was already matching the fits with the shoes.
Haha dope! And from here on in, what can we look forward to in the future from Franalations?
I want to host Franalations events. These events will let people gather and talk about the topic we all love most - that being shoes. Another thing I would like to happen at these events is for all the big brands to show the new line up for the upcoming season. I've always loved and wanted to bring people the first look on new shoes. How great would it be if they could actually see, feel, and try on the new product months before these shoes drop! I'm sure events like that are in the far future, but I would love nothing more than to bring that to fruition.
Photography by Amanda Lopez