Ibn Jasper Goes Full Throttle on the Converse One Star
Ibn Jasper, master barber, image consultant and designer (also famously known as being Kanye West’s barber for over 20 years), continues to cut fine lines in the sneaker industry, the Chicago native now turning the key on his sophomore collaboration with Converse, the One Star. An endless tank of information for all things streetwear, we linked up with the high-speed creative to lift the lid on a sneaker packing plenty of horsepower in 2022.
Tell us about growing up in Chicago and what sneaker culture was like there.
Growing up in the city of Chicago is tough. It’s a blue collar city with people that work hard and are overworked. It’s one of the most segregated cities in the world and we also have a long history of crime and corruption. Everyone who lives there is gang affiliated because you have to be able to go to the corner store and make it back with your stuff. Somebody on the block has to give you a pass, basically.
When Michael Jordan came to the city that’s when it felt like some new hopeful energy was buzzing through. We had the best hooper with the best sneakers! I remember my father came and got me when he got out on parole when I was nine years old. He took me to Foot Locker and got me some Sky Jordans – the little kids' Air Jordan 1s were called Sky Jordan, not Air Jordan when they first came out in the 80s.
Did you have a relationship to Converse as a kid? If so, describe it.
Yeah, I was definitely wearing Converse when I was a kid. From age 11 to 15 I was wearing all of the Cons because those were the ill skate shoes – 1986 Converse Weapon, 1987 Fastbreak, the ERXs. Natas Kaupas wore Converse. Rodney Mullen wore Converse. The first H-Street video, ‘Shackle Me Not’, is basically a Converse skate video, and that was my favourite skate team when I was a kid.
Were sneakers a large part of barber shop culture in Chicago?
Sneakers are definitely a part of barber culture, because it’s all about looking good in general. It’s not a separate thing. You get a fresh cut, you put on some fresh clothes, throw on some fresh sneakers, in your fresh crib, go get in your fresh car and go somewhere that’s fresh…
Do you see a creative crossover between being a barber and designing sneakers?
Yeah, good design is good design. Anybody can design anything if they know it’s just different ratios of utility, proportion and symmetry. It’s simple.
Can you break down your latest Converse collaboration for us? What was the design process and what story did you want to tell?
The thing that I realised is this: The vulcanised sneaker is neglected. Every company makes them the same way – they ‘see’ them the same way – I don’t look at them like that. I look at them as a valued piece of skateboard equipment. High-performance equipment. The same as my 7-ply Canadian Maple deck, aluminium alloy hollow trucks, 97A polyurethane wheels and Swiss precision bearings.
So, I took a hot rod approach of taking apart an old school chuck and rebuilding it as a high performance race car. I wanted the shoe to be stronger, more durable, but also more luxurious and comfortable – whilst also adding the safety of reflectivity. I think all skate shoes should have reflective material as a safety feature for skating at night. RIP to Chicago legend Reggie Destin.
What were some of your visual or auditory references when it came to brainstorming? What did your mood board look like?
My design references were three different Corvettes. The C2 Grand Sport Chassis Number 5, the C5 Pace Car and the C6 Safety Car.
You’ve previously lamented a lack of creative control when it comes to working with brands. What’s different about Converse?
Converse has the ability to produce what I design because they already work with some of the masters in the fields that I represent. Our first collaboration was with the Dr. J shoe (the Pro Leather). We’re talking about Michael Jordan’s mentor, which is Black History. Barber shop culture? Check. Converse also have their own skate team with legendary skaters. They also work with legendary high fashion designers and brands like Rick Owens and Maison Margiela.
Converse is very familiar with the three ‘worlds’ that I represent, so they understand everything that I’m talking about on such a real level, that they always surprise me with something good that I wasn’t thinking about. That campaign video for this launch is just the latest example!
What’s your relationship to the Converse One Star?
The One Star and the Pro Suede were go-to Converse skate shoes in the early 90s, that’s when I was in my first two years in high school. Kurt Cobain was rocking them and they were rocking them in skate videos too.
Tell us how you landed on the use of metallic snake print!
I just liked the way ‘Pearl Snake’ sounded. I asked them if they could get a ‘Pearl Snake’ and they found it. See what I mean? They took it seriously as a creative idea and delivered. They didn’t disregard it. That’s why I like working with Converse.
How did your passion for motorsports and skateboarding develop? What do they mean to you?
I started skating in 1985 when I was 10. I’d get to go to the skate shop to get new stuff, probably once a month. I would also go to the hobby shop and get model cars and planes to build and RC cars to race. I also have a cousin who was a race car driver. I’m just taking the things that I loved as a kid and learning the professional design side of them.
You’ve always had your finger on the pulse when it comes to the sneaker zeitgeist. Give us your predictions for the 2020s, how do you see it evolving?
I see there being more shoes for high fashion. I think more trail-inspired sneakers for the mainstream market, and skate shoes will stay the same.
What’s in store for you in the second half of 2022?
I’m just trying to stay healthy...
The Ibn Jasper One Star – available in a duo of colourways – is available to shop now from Converse.