Dissecting Stray Rats: From Car Boots to Heavyweight Colabs
Stray Rats have circled back into the footwear zeitgeist, preparing another New Balance collaboration that has the world of streetwear, sneakers and fashion in awe. Their two-stack of NB580s screams 2007 throwback, while their colour-blocking and campaign imagery channels the early noughties.
Part of Stray Rats’ appeal is that despite their reverent history and far reach, they remain an inconspicuous presence in the modern streetwear landscape. And although they’ve only been around for 12 years, the brand feels as authentic and OG as they come. Their slew of reference points, ties to hardcore, a heavy-hitting roster of collaborators, and low-key cool make them an esoteric puzzle waiting to be solved.
The Stray Rats Story
Julian Consuegra is the founder of Stray Rats. Growing up in South Florida, the son of first-generation immigrants, he looked to his older siblings to guide him through culture and help shape his tastes. From an early age, Consuegra fell in love with hardcore music and the rich scene that was spread across the United States. He also identified deeply with the straight edge archetype, an off-shoot of individuals in the hardcore and punk scenes that refrain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, which he still remains part of to this day. In the year 2000, Consuegra made the move to Miami, entrenching himself in the city’s hardcore subculture.
It wasn’t until 2010 that he founded Stray Rats, with the Rodenticide tee – a flip on the warning signs seen in the New York subway system when rat bait was present – being their first release. Consuegra’s label quickly garnered a cult-like following among the community thanks to his close friendships, despite only selling product out of his car boot at hardcore shows. Building a presence on online message boards like HYPEBEAST’s and Bridge Nine’s helped Stray Rats receive recognition across the US.
During his stint on the HYPEBEAST forums, he became friends with Julian Berman, an up-and-coming photographer who worked with Tyler, the Creator. Consuegra was introduced to Tyler, and the two hit it off. Soon, Stray Rats could be seen on a slew of Odd Future members, catapulting the brand into the spotlight. Separately from Stray Rats, Consuegra has assisted Tyler with his GOLF le FLEUR* brand and Drake with his Summer Sixteen Tour merch and cover art for More Life.
In 2014, Consuegra moved from Miami to New York alongside J.R. Ewing, now the second half of Stray Rats. Born in Texas in 1980, Ewing moved out of his parents’ house at a young age, immersing himself in street culture subsects like skating and graffiti. His life experience and past owning a shop in Seattle called Winner’s Circle led him to become FUCT’s creative director in 2011. He later came on board alongside Consuegra for the next evolution of Stray Rats.,
Stray Rats have never been pigeonholed as one thing or another. And despite being a hardcore punk brand at heart, they’ve riffed on video games, comics, movies, music and many other artistic subcultures.
Stray Rats Enter the Sneakersphere
Stray Rats hit the ground running when it came to their first sneaker collaboration. Having already established a recognisable aesthetic and design language, they were tapped by New Balance in 2018 to redesign the 990v3. Boasting crisp suede panels and the usual mesh, the star of the show was the purple and green colour-blocking. In 2019, they were tasked with another NB990v3 colab, inverting their previous one and opting for a grey base instead of a black one. These first two colabs resonated widely among fans of the early noughties, imparting a DIY, grassroots feel. Acquiring a pair on the secondary market may prove a challenge now, with some asking prices landing upwards of four figures.
Stray Rats hit their stride between 2020 and 2021. The beginning of the new decade saw more work with New Balance, and they enlisted the 827 as a ‘Sewer Stomper’. A collection with Vans came soon after, followed by two 574s and some inventive suede underlays that caused a stir on the 991, leading to this year’s two-pack 580 collaboration.
Stray Rats have had multiple hit sneakers and an ever-growing audience. Still, they’re yet to allow themselves to get bitten by the hype bug, remaining as authentic as they were in 2010.
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