Meet Lester, aka Sole Digger! Chances are if you wear sneakers and you hit the streets on the regular you'll run into the Digger-man, strapped with his SLR and notepad. Wanting to hone in on his photography skills and utilising his massive love of sneakers, Lester got cracking on his slammin' project ‘I Dig Your Sole Man' - a personable documentation of sneaks and the freaks who rock them. Having traveled far and wide to find the perfect subjects to grace his site, Lester is far more concerned with where you've been, rather than where it's at... so loosen your laces and crack open a coldie, it's time to dig deep into the Digger's soul!
Waddup Sole Digger, tell us a little about yourself and how you came to fall in love with sneakers?
Well, where to start...I moved to Sydney from London over two years ago. I've always been interested in sneakers, and after some pretty serious ankle problems, have worn kicks everyday for many many years. I've always been interested in the fact that sneakers are an ever-evolving area of fashion and an art form in their own right, and I have always liked to know what styles are hot, how trends are changing, and how people are wearing their kicks.
What led you to start your own site - I Dig Your Sole Man?
I've been dabbling with photography for a few years and wanted to start a people-based project that would help me to develop my skills further, allow me to shoot regularly, and be accessible to other people. I'm a big fan of street blogs like The Satorialist and Face Hunter but feel that their content can be quite exclusively high end, so I thought that an urban sneaker-based project would work to offer a relatable, non-elitist body of work that can appeal to everyone. The great thing about the site is that you delve deep into the stories behind how sneakers came to be a part of the wearers lives.
What interests you more...the sneaker or the story behind the sneaker?
I think the success of the site has been that these two elements work together collectively. It doesn't matter to me whether people are wearing high-end collectibles or battered plimsolls it's all about the story of how the two elements of owner and shoe work together.
Knowing that sneaker culture is (or once was) mostly about flossing and for want of a better word 'showing off'; do you find it easy to approach people on the street and draw these stories out of them?
There hasn't really been much flossing, people have been down to earth, on the level, into the project and very happy to show off/talk about their kicks and the relationship they have with their footwear. I do occasionally get some funny looks when I hit the streets and one group of Italian guys (from my London shots in December) kept using the word ‘fetishista' to describe me which made me laugh.
What do you base your criteria on as far as what gets featured on the site?
There are a few things that I look for - rare shoes are an obvious good starting point, but I also like to look for kicks that are being used as part of an interesting look, and I also look for trends of commonly worn shoes, and try and find the different ways in which people wear them. My mandate is that style is subjective, and we all have a right to look/appear as we want which means that I'm interested in all looks, and how we all use sneakers differently with our differing looks/styles.
Has it been hard to source interesting product, considering the market has seen a phase of ‘not drawing attention to the foot' this season, especially with such low fi brands as Gourmet, Clae, Vans and beyond? Or does that spark a whole new direction to the website?
Yes and no. So far most of my shooting has been in Australia and my biggest challenge was merely finding sneakers during the summer which was tough as most people in Sydney tend to wear Havianas instead of kicks, but it did make finding sneakers all the more rewarding. That said there is a movement towards ‘less is more' in sneaker design at the moment, and regardless of what trends come up, each shoe and owner has their own merit so changing styles won't be a problem as the site can evolve as the trends do.
Do you find any inherent differences in what people rock between the places you've visited?
There is a trend in Sydney and Melbourne of low fi plimsolls (I include Vans, Spring Courts and All Stars here) worn with skinny jeans and baggy t-shirts. It's a clean simple look that's very now and very different to the more built up styles of shoes that you commonly see in the bulkier shoes of the US, and the classic retro shoes that are traditionally popular in the UK and Asia.
Do you think the scene is still healthy and befits the website to maintain a heavy flow of traffic?
I think the scene is in an interesting place. A few years ago people were flossing a lot more with Air, Shox and other visible elements on their kicks, but now with the recent trends for ‘80s retro revival and low fi styles more people are after clean, simple designs and some brands are having more success achieving this than others. That said, with internet shopping, people travelling so much and great sites like Sneaker Freaker telling us what's going on around the world, sneaker lovers have a greater access to differing styles from all over the world than ever before. This international desire for sneakers has been reflected on the site with followers ranging from Australia to the US, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Hong Kong, France, Italy, Chile, the UK and more, and the great feedback I've been getting from these international followers suggests the scene is very healthy with plenty of choice out there to cater for all tastes.
You've actually just become a guest blogger for Hype DC - congratulations. How did that come about and how do you marry the two sites together for maximum exposure?
Thanks. I had been in touch with the guys at Hype DC to see if they liked my work and I was very flattered to hear that they were fans of the project and thought I was doing something unique that they thought could work on their site so they asked if I could supply exclusive weekly content for them. For these posts I try to find sneaker owners who target the Hype DC demographic in terms of age and style and so far we've found some interesting people/shoes.
What's next for I Dig Your Own Sole?
Well, my hope is that the site will continue to gather momentum and earn a name as a popular blog for sneaker, fashion and photography fans and people watchers from around the world. I'm going to open up the site later in the year with some new strand ideas and some new features that will allow followers to get more involved so keep an eye out for those. I want to keep improving my photography skills, and would love to get sponsorship from a photography company (if anyone from Canon is reading this please get in touch) to help me get access to better kit, as I'm currently shooting on quite basic equipment. Aside from that shameless plug, a few brands, stores, publishers and sponsors have expressed an interest in working with me, but regardless of any of these opportunities my main objective is to keep getting out there, to keep shooting and keep meeting interesting people.