We spoke with Hanni El Khatib of HUF

Hanni El Khatib is a man who wears many hats: a musician under his own name, record label owner, skateboarder, sneakerhead, and many more. 

Hanni reached out to us months ago and expressed love for our brand and products, and we vibed on old skool basketball shoes and the neo-vintage custom culture. I later found out that he is the brand director and one of the original creatives of HUF. Being a skateboarder myself and big fan of the late Ketih Hufnagel and Dylan Rieder, I immediately felt a connection with Hanni.

So we stayed in touch, sent each other some stuff, and eventually started talking about doing a collab. 

But today, let’s talk to Hanni El Kathib the sneakerhead:

Sup Hanni, hope you liked your intro, can you tell us what you are into these days and how was your performance on The Late Show? 

What up! These days are mostly spent working with the crew over at HUF, making beats and when I can find time for it skating. – Performing on Letterman was wild. To be honest, it was a pretty surreal moment for me. I used to watch that show with my parents growing up, and there I was being introduced by Dave himself. Super trippy for sure.

How about your history with the Brand HUF and your relationship with Keith? 

I met Keith right around the time the original HUF shop on Sutter opened. We had some mutual friends and we just clicked on skating, design and art. Soon after we met, we started to hang out all the time and it was around 2003 I think when he started asking if I’d design some shit for him. In the early days I’d just help him out with whatever design projects he had going on at the time, whether it be a t-shirt, skateboard graphic or a collab shoe. Eventually Keith started talking about turning HUF into a full apparel line and that’s when I came onboard to help figure that out. I’ve been working with HUF in some capacity since those early days and it’s crazy to think it’ll be 20yrs soon.
In 2004, HUF released one of the best Dunk SB’s of all time. I felt that that was the golden era of SB, and pioneering class of bridging sneaker culture and skateboarding. Can you tell us a lil more about the inspiration and design process of that sneaker? How aware were you guys of writing history? 

Yea, that shoe is a classic. That was all Keith! He came up with the entire concept, and all I know is that he wanted to represent SF with that one and use materials that he thought were unique and looked dope. I’m not sure that anyone was really aware that any of these shoes would be a part of history. Back then, the sneaker world was so niche, it would have been hard to predict that.
You are also a big fan of 90’s basketball models, like Zoom Flight 95’s and Foamposites. Can you tell us how you got rare kicks pre-internet era? 

Back then it was all about the hunt. We would search mom and pops, outlets, and basic sporting goods stores. You would be able to walk into a Copeland’s and come up on a stack of Goldenrods on clearance or go into the back of a mom and pop shop and find some deadstock Jordans. It was so much harder back then, but at the same time way more fun.
I’m such a huge fan of Dylan and I know that you knew him personally, can you tell us just how special he is, and the legacy he left behind? 

Dylan was the best. Such a sweet soul. He always handled things with grace and style and that was very apparent in his skateboarding as well as his essence. He made things look so effortless, it was amazing.
Just like him, his shoes are very unconventional. How did HUF process making the move to produce such different shoes? 

Keith always showed full support of the team riders. When Dylan got on the team, Keith just wanted to help him achieve his vision for his shoe and let him be free to design what he wanted. Keith was like that, he would trust people with their creative instincts and really make things happen.
I remember watching an interview of Keith talking about the Plantlife socks and how bizarre the success was. For those who don’t know, can you tell us about that? 

Yea, those socks were originally kind of an inside joke, and to top it off they really didn’t even sell for a couple years. We made them and ordered too many, so they ended up being in inventory forever. The crazy thing is that eventually we just had to start giving them away because no one wanted to buy them and boom, outta nowhere they started popping up in rap videos, and people started asking about them, and then they’re everywhere…

I see you using some of our products and having fun with them… with your experience in this industry, can you tell us what you think about the neo-vintage sneaker culture and its future? 

First off, shoes are meant to be worn and lived in. When I first started collecting shoes it was all about having sneakers most people didn’t have or sometimes had never even seen. Nowadays it’s much harder to be that person, since there are so many ways to get rare shoes. Basically, if you’re willing to pay the price, you can get what you want in an instant from your phone. I think customization is probably the easiest way to give you a unique take on your personal footwear, and help those people that still are looking to stand out. I really like the archival vintage approach to what people are doing now. I love vintage sneakers, but let’s be real.. once they get past a certain age most of them become unwearable or just crumble to pieces. That’s why I kinda feel like this style of customizing is not gonna go away anytime soon.

Do you have any advice for people who are running their own indie brand? 

Stay true to yourself and trust your instincts. Design what you think is cool and be authentic to who you are. Stay consistent and don’t be afraid to fail.

Lastly, is there anything you wanna tell the community? 

Wear your shoes, they get better with age.

Shop the Yo HUF! Collection!

Available now on our website: https://foxtrot-uniform.net/collections/yo-huf-collection

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