The Consequences of Jeff Staple’s ‘Pigeon’
Society engrains in us that we should ‘stick to what we’re best at’. But, society at large and sneaker design are two different worlds. Designers are encouraged to break down barriers and propel the status quo in new and exciting directions. Despite this, they often receive notoriety for merely rehashing previously successful colourways on various silhouettes. This can create an awkward dilemma, especially if that popular look is part of a designer’s identity. Regardless, people will still be compelled to ask whether a designer is simply capitalising on past fame?
Nowadays, the sneaker business is all about numbers. When brands want to keep their audience interested, and buying, they approach prominent influencers like Kanye and Virgil. So far this tactic, for better or worse, has definitely kept the masses intrigued.
Jeff Staple can’t be critiqued as easily. His engagement and experience within the industry and greater community won’t and never should be discredited. Staple is equal parts entrepreneur, store owner, apparel and product designer, blogger, and jetsetter extraordinaire.
When speaking to Sneaker Freaker back in 2016, Staple emphasised the expansion of the celebrity influencer trend when he stated, ‘I think right now the obvious silver bullet formula of remaining cool is to do strategic collaborations, particularly with celebrities and musicians and influencers. I think even more specifically now it’s more straight-up celebrities. That seems to be the thing that everyone’s moving towards.’
That said, we still need to ask: has Staple fallen victim to reworking his famed Pigeon across too many brands? Or has he created something of a trademark?
To further explore the breadth of Staple’s work, here is a full retrospective of his use of the Pigeon colourway over the last 14 years.
2005 Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Pigeon’
The first time the bird flew was back in 2005, thanks to a Nike SB Dunk Low that was modelled on a pigeon to celebrate New York City. At the time, it was groundbreaking and inventive. The symbol of the Pigeon really resonated with NYC, thanks to its ability to live out there in the cold, hustling, and trying to eat — just like the folks that live on the streets. To this day, this drop is considered to be one of the all-time greatest Nike SB Collaborations — partly due to the riot it sparked on the morning of the release which shut down the Lower East Side. If you don’t own a pair from the originally released 150 pairs, you’re unlikely to get your hands on them. Unless, of course, you’ve got a spare $8K+ in your back pocket.
2008 New Balance City 575 ‘Pigeon’
Image via mywifeandkicks
By 2008, everyone knew the story of ‘05, so they wanted to work with Staple. As a result, he started talking to New Balance and decided they were going to work on a new pigeon rendition. This time it arrived in trail running form, transplanting the grey, white and pink combo onto the appropriately named 575 ‘City’ Pigeon. The tongues were adorned by the NYC skyline and carried the Pigeon embroidery on the heel.
2009 Converse Sea Star Hi ‘Pigeon’
This is one of Jeff’s lesser known Pigeon adaptations. However, what remains interesting about the Sea Star is that it was the first time a Pigeon sat above the ankles — something we will see more as the years pass. The Sea Star distinguishing itself by incorporating three shades of grey, and flocking the embroidery to the front.
2009 New Balance 575 ‘White Pigeon’
Until the summer of 2009, the Pigeons had only ever been grey. With the ‘White Pigeon’ 575, Staple hit back with something fresh. It had a striking resemblance to the original grey, but incorporated a combo of whites and off-whites in its upper. The change gave the colourway an entirely different appeal, truly setting the summer pigeon free!
2012 Staple x size? New Balance 577 ‘Black Pigeon’
Staple spread his wings across the Atlantic in 2012 and linked up with UK boutique size? for the New Balance 577 ‘Black Pigeon’. Marking 30 years of NB’s Flimby factory, the Black Pigeon was inspired by a story of a rogue black pigeon that nests in London en route to New York. What was also captivating about this release was that the renowned Pigeon embroidery was left off for the first time.
2014 Staple x Clarks Originals Collection
In 2014, Staple tried to solve a puzzle that designers often face: successfully keeping your eye on the past, present and future all at once. The past was represented by a classic Clarks Wallabee Boot in traditional Pigeon form.
2016 Staple x FILA ‘Pigeon’ Collection
After Reed Space shut its LES location in 2016, the community thought they’d seen the last of the Pigeon. This wasn’t the case. FILA was next tasked with reinventing the historic colourway. They served up an intriguing F-13 Red Pigeon that happily sat alongside the original tennis and more classic F-13 highs and lows.
2016 Staple x SneakPeek x Nike Air Max Zero ‘Pigeon’
If you think the original 150 pairs of SB Dunks were hard to cop, the Air Max Zero literally cut that number by half — releasing just 75 pairs by raffle at Manila’s SneakPeek in 2016. At the time, the Zero had only just hit the market, and Staple was offered a chance to mix up the Tinker Hatfield design. Finding yet another way to show his appreciation for the city that gave him so much, the finished product featured a big ‘NYC’ embroidered on the trunk of the shoe.
2016 Staple x Ewing 33 Hi ‘Pigeon’
The Ewing 33 was certainly the highest the Pigeon had ever flown, eventually coming to rest well above the ankles. The 33 was constructed with grey suede and a speckled midsole, while also boasting pops of a pinkish red. Much the same as many of its predecessors, the pigeon was settled with correctness.
2016 Staple x PUMA Collection
By 2016, the days of regional sneaker releases were well and truly over. However, Staple looked to change that when he linked up with PUMA, making it impossible to physically cop the pack in one store. The three PUMA Suedes were released in three different locations: North and South America; Europe and the Middle East; and the Asia Pacific. To avoid upsetting the entire sneaker community, the Blaze of Glory was seeded out globally.
2017 Staple x Cole Haan 2.ZERØGRAND Stitchlite™
To celebrate their 20th anniversary, Staple Design partnered with Cole Haan to add a dress option to the repertoire of styles that boast the Pigeon colourway. This rendition was crafted with twisted yarn for a marbled and speckled effect, a functional zonal knitting ensures stability and breathability.
2017 Staple x PUMA Ntrvl Collection
Last year’s collaborative work saw the Pigeon motif making another full-body look. Staple transitioned his timeless aesthetic through the IGNITE evoKNIT, IGNITE 3, and Limitless, as well as the classic Clyde and BOG Sock. This successfully delivered the Pigeon look from head to toe!
2017 Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Black Pigeon’
Twelve years on from the very first release, Staple incited an echoing riot throughout NYC when he released the ‘Black Pigeon’. This Dunk was crafted with nubuck and Stetson waterproof leather. Despite being built on the new Dunk SB outsole, this release sees the return of the original fat padded tongue.
2018 Staple x PUMA Suede ‘Pigeon’
All these years later, it’s apparent that Staple can sell any Pigeon he lets fly the coop. The first drop of the Suede Pigeon — which features an unusual pony hair and crispy white sole — disappeared off shelves in an instant in late October. Did you have any luck with the November release?
Leaked: Staple x Fusion x FILA Disruptor ‘Pigeon
The Pigeon has lurked around the streets in many variations over the years, but none more abstract than this. Ditching the usual floods of pink, this rather grayscale Fila Disrupter was reworked into a mid-top with added internal bootie construction. It’s expected to release later this year.
Subtle Flex: Nike Dunk SB ‘White Pigeon’
Staple was spotted at ComplexCon in an unconfirmed Pigeon that featured black and white colour-blocking. Is Staple just flexing on us all? Or will we see him tackle a third SB with the Swoosh? It is worth keeping in mind that the kicks were seemingly identical to the unsuccessful samples that Staple shared back in February. Nevertheless, these have been updated with an icy sole. Hopefully we end up seeing that White Pigeon Dunk on shelves. One can only dream!
Staple has gifted the sneaker world with something that is entirely unique. The Pigeon has its own identity. It has its own signature. Nobody can touch his colourway for fear of being called a ‘biter’. And rightly so. Staple has spanned it across 14 years now, with more expected in the near future. We expect that the original will never be retro’d. By keeping mindful to not disrespect the OGs, Staple has been able to generate new fans by appropriating his signature move. In the current climate, that achievement in itself is worthy of applause.