Jemuel Wong Talks Tattoos, Trefoils, and his Ozweego Journey
With sneakerheads, you only need to look at their ankles to see where their heart lies. With Jemuel Wong, you don’t even need to look at the shoes. The Three Stripe devotee is notorious on IG for on-foot shots bearing his Trefoil tattoo. He got the ink done when he made the decision to subscribe wholly to the teachings of adidas, and has been preaching the good word ever since.
His journey has led him to a number of oddities and throwbacks, hype and colabs. One shoe that’s a Venn diagram of all four is the adidas Ozweego. Wong’s love for the model spans every update and sidestep, so we tapped his mind for his thoughts on 2019’s iteration.
Read on to find out how his and the Ozweego’s stories entwined.
How did your appreciation of sneaker design start?
It all started back when I was still a teenager. At that time, I was actually an avid collector of football boots. My favourite was the adidas Predator, of which I had multiple pairs from different years. I was working my casual retail job and a colleague of mine (shoutout to Rowland), was a huge sneaker collector who used to show me all of his new pickups, including some crazy high fashion stuff. I used to think spending $550 for a pair of shoes was insane, but ironically, a few years later, I ended up doing the exact same thing myself.
Eventually, Rowland convinced me to look at sneakers, so he invited me to join a few Facebook groups like Shop and Swap (shout out to Lyam) and The Kickz Stand (shout out to Jay). My mind was blown as I was immersed in a whole new world. At first I stayed true to my love of soccer, and focused on anything that related to the World Cup. At that time, adidas had also just introduced the ZX Flux. It instantly caught my attention, as the reinvented and simplistic upper, coupled with the endless designs at an affordable price point, was a really appealing combination. So my very first sneaker purchase was the ZX Flux ‘Ocean Print’!
As adidas’ momentum continued to grow with the success of the Tubular, UltraBOOST, and Yeezy range, my adidas collection expanded rapidly, and soon my fondness for the brand developed into an exclusive love and loyalty to the Three Stripes. That’s when I decided to commit solely to the Three Stripes, and asked a tattoo artist to sketch up a Trefoil tattoo for my ankle. A few days later, I posted a photo with my new ink and, within 48 hours, the photo blew up on social media, something I honestly never anticipated. From that moment, my Instagram account started attracting a following, and the rest is history.
I have a deep appreciation for adidas’ heritage, and how they have always strived to make the best equipment for athletes. Despite their sporting roots, the brand still has the cultural flexibility to reach out and invest in different cultures like hip hop and high fashion. They were the pioneers in those subcultures, way before any of their competition.
Tell us about your collection.
I currently have about 130 pairs in my collection, and all of them are three striped. I can also tell you where and how I got every single pair. I wear almost all of my shoes, though a few are still on ‘ice’ for future occasions. From performance to collaborations, both current and vintage, I have a deep appreciation for all shoes within the adidas umbrella. My most coveted pair are the adidas x Parley Futurecraft UltraBOOST. I won one of the 50 pairs from the ‘For the Oceans’ video competition. My all-time favourite adidas shoe, however, is the ZX Flux London City, of which I have four pairs in my size.
Talk us through your Ozweego journey?
My first encounter with the Ozweego was back in 2015 at Sneakerboy in Sydney. I remember seeing a pair of the Raf Simons in chalk/multi – they were the strangest shoes I had ever seen! I didn’t buy them as I didn’t think they suited my style at the time, a decision I still regret to this day. Sometime later I did finally buy a Raf pair in chalk/pink, and they are still one of my favourites.
From this first pair, it became a total love affair! At the peak of my Ozweego collection, I had over eight different Raf Simons Ozweegos, though I had to scale back a bit to fund a house purchase. Thankfully, I am now starting to rebuild the collection back up.
In terms of vintage, I have a pair of the Ozweego Classic from 2002. There is some confusion about the status of this shoe that was only just cleared up when I discovered that this is a retro of the Ozweego 2 from 1998. By the way, the Ozweego 1 is super rare. In all my years of collecting I have only seen one pair on the Bay, and sadly I missed out on buying them.
There are always pairs on my to-cop list, mostly vintage adidas runners from the late-90s and early-2000s, but I am currently looking for the Raf Ozweego in the extremely rare cardinal and fairway combination. I’m also looking forward to the release of the Pusha T’s Ozweego in the cream and red scheme that leaked earlier this year at Paris Fashion Week.
I’m down with the new 2019 Ozweego as well. My favourite out of all the colourways is the crazy orange pair, though the black pair with the green piping is also super fresh.
What are the 2019 Ozweego design elements that stand out for you?
For me, the Ozweego is defined by three core factors. The first is that the midsole unit needs be the champion. It should have a sense of structural flair, and has to utilise unique tooling that really grabs your attention.
Secondly, it’s not an Ozweego without mesh, as the upper simply won’t flow without it! Primeknit is cool, but updated fibres just take away the heritage flavour, in my opinion.
Finally, the Ozweego must be loaded with adidas’ most trusty and reliable midsole technology. Using adiPRENE in the 2019 Ozweego pays tribute to adidas innovation, and further emphasises the Ozweego’s roots as a proper runner. Anything but that classic midsole tech takes away from the authenticity of its heritage.
Why do you think the Ozweego has been so integral to adidas?
When the Ozweego was first introduced in 1996 as a performance running shoe, I don’t think anyone would have anticipated it would become the iconic silhouette that it is today. The initial success paved the way for design renewals and updates through the late 90s and 2000s, but what was arguably the most significant ascension was when Raf Simons took the runners to the runway, transforming them into icons of high fashion in 2013.
The Raf Ozweego has developed a cult following for its unique, chunky and obscure look. Fast forward to 2019 and the Ozweego has been reupped once again into a sleek and unique modern-looking design. For me, the Ozweego is iconic because it echoes the strengths of the adidas brand. They make products that speak to everyone, and that covers the past, the present, and the future.