We spoke with Goodbirger about digital thrifting, and the Wild Cats Collection

Goodbirger: Archivist, historian, digital thrifter, creator… many terms can describe him but I arrived at, “The Detective”.

Combing through our DM’s on IG, I first got to know Goodbirger on 5 May 2021 when I posted the Kentucky Wildcats Player Edition custom. I woke up and saw a photo in my DM that made me jump out of bed: It was an old picture of the Kentucky coach back in 1985, at a press conference holding those shoes. 

Today we are gonna find out more about him.

So hey Goodbirger, (or can I say, ‘Detective?’) can you tell us where you’re from and what you do? 

Sure! My name is Caleb and I live in Southern Illinois. I work for Nice Kicks, running @nicekicksvault on Instagram. I’m also a stay at home dad, teaching my daughters homeschool during the day! 

I’m gonna say that you have a special set of skills which you do this better than most: vintage sneaker forensics. Would you describe your process and how are you able to dig so deep into something most people can’t? 

While I can’t dive exactly into the specifics, or give my searching secrets away, I can say that what I do can be done by anyone. But as with any profession, it’s something I’ve improved on over time and I’m still discovering new techniques, as well as sources for information. My wife was a librarian for quite some time and introduced me to the microfiche at her work. I really started diving into it one day, and I’ve never really stopped. It’s an endless source of information that’s been missed by many in the past! 

Newspaper or magazine clippings of old ads seem to be your thing. You have a term for this, care to explain?  

I like to call it ‘Digital Thrifting.’ When thrifters go out and find a rare piece, buyers/collectors get excited at seeing such a rarity. Especially if it’s something relatively unknown. I do the same thing with pictures/info in a sense. My goal is to find material that most haven’t seen, and attempt to give a small history lesson without being too boring about it. People get excited about some of the material I share, but unlike physical thrifting, my finds are free for all to enjoy! I think what I enjoy most is that many of the stuff I discover, it’s me learning it too. That’s probably my favorite think about sneakers in general is it’s impossible to know everything. I love learning new things!

Do you have a vintage collection and if so, what kind of curation? Pics?

I have amassed a small arsenal of shoes. But in July of 2013, our house was broken into and 75% of my collection was stolen. The took pretty much anything that could be worn, left some of my oldies which I’m somewhat thankful for. My current focus has been on the Nike Air Strong and Air 2 Strong TB sets. I’m a Nike Team shoe junkie! It’s not very exciting, but much more affordable than chasing down Jordans from ‘85! (I have a couple of those too.)

OK big question here, do you think the AJ1 silhouette was made for Jordan or was it a pre-existing shoe that they branded for MJ after signing him? 

I think the idea of the shoe was solely made for him. They wanted him to represent a specific model and that’s the one given to him. But as we know, the AJI is mashup of multiple shoes of that era into one. Nike very well could have been designing the shoe prior to signing him, because many sneakers are planned 12-18 months in advance. 

You mentioned thrifting in Kentucky for 15 years and You sent me a pic that blew my mind: its this ad thats says “VINTAGE BUYERS WANT TO BUY OLD NIKE BASKETBALL SHOES”. Can you tell us more about that? 

In the early 90’s, there were buyers from around the United States holding buying events where they’d purchase vintage Air Jordans, Dunks and Levi’s denim. They’d typically set up at a local hotel or trading card show, asking people to bring in what they have and guaranteeing a certain cash amount for specific shoes. They’d turn around and sell their purchases to buyers in Japan for three and four times what they paid for it. The Japanese were responsible for the early vintage trends and buying old Air Jordans. The reason Nike retro’d the I, II and III in ‘94 and ‘95 was due to this rise in popularity in the old models overseas. However people outside of Japan weren’t quite ready for that trend yet and most ended up on deep discount very fast! All hit as low as $19.99! 
Why did the Kentucky WILDCATS have these SMU’s made for them? And how many versions of DUNK P.Es (Player Editions) do they have? 

My theory on the Wildcats Dunk is they were in fact originally intended to be made solely for Kentucky. The Dunk that is. But as the popularity of the AJ1 rose quickly, along with its unique color blocking of the time, I believe Nike changed the format and made it a full-on team shoe, starting the College Colors program. Kentucky was told by Sonny Vacarro that a new shoe would ‘specifically be designed for them, similar to the Air Jordan.’ This was in June of 1985 when Eddie Sutton left Arkansas for Kentucky. UK had been a Converse school since the 1950’s, so them joining Nike was a huge deal at the time. Them receiving their own sneaker was part of the deal upon signing with Nike. As for how many PE’s they have, I can’t answer that. A July 1985 article mentions their equipment manager traveling to Beaverton to aid in the design process, even picking up two prototypes of the shoe, which they ultimately rejected. He expected more samples roughly ten days after leaving Nike HQ. His suggestion to Nike was to call the shoe the ‘Nike Aristacat.’ Early mentions of their ‘exclusive’ gear, which would eventually become College Colors, is referred to as ‘Wildcat Wear.’ 

We made a pair of the WILDCATS dunks for Virgil. We saw you post that you guys chatted a bit and he was a man for the people. What did you guys chat about? 

Often it is was just sharing one of my posts, and talking about the subjects in it. He loved the obscure, and that always seemed to grab his attention. He told me the information that I find for IG is an important aspect of sneakers and regularly encouraged me to always keep sourcing. I am in no way claiming to know him well at all, but I’m thankful that he wanted to follow me and the work that I do. I was obviously a huge fan of his, and the work he did. So for him to know who I was, and to be a fan of the ‘work’ I do as well…is something I’ll hold close as long as I’m here. He didn’t have to take time out of his day to respond to my stories, but he did. He inspired so many people and always had time for everyone, even us little guys. 

Wanna tell us something most of us don’t know? 

Michael Jordan was not the first person to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing Air Jordans. He made his first cover appearance as a pro in December 1984, but was wearing the Air Ship. He appeared again in November ‘86 wearing the AJ2. However on the October 7, 1985 issue, Tennessee Volunteers Quarterback Tony Robinson is wearing the white/natural grey AJ1. A shoe he wore anytime the Volunteers played on turf that season.  

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

Yo Fox! Meet Binh, an OG Jordans collector

We spoke with an OG collector about the Black Toe Model

So we connected with @Binhecxit through IG before covid, where we would talk about vintage Jordans every day. We found a common love for back stories beyond sneakers and often fantasize about building what we call “unicorns”… like a pair of 84 Bred Air Ships (MJ P.E) with a Pro circuit sole. He’s also a really chill guy who’s very generous with sharing info and connecting us with the community. You could even say that our collaborations with Binh sparked the creation of the Fictional Archives concept.
I’m gonna say that Binh collects vintage with a very pure approach and we are gonna learn about his journey today. 

Hey Binh, thanks for giving us the honor of interviewing you. Would you introduce yourself to the community? 
First of all, thanks for having me! It’s such a great honor to share with you guys my love and passion for sneakers. My name is Binh Tran (aka @binhecxit). I’m a Vietnamese guy and also an OG collector. Basically, I’ve been collecting original Jordans shoes & memorabilia like clothes, tickets and magazines. Also some vintage non-Jordan shoes.

Looking at your Chicago-color-scheme IG feed, it is obvious that you love MJ a lot!Can you tell us when and why you started this obsession?

To be honest with you, Basketball was not popular in Vietnam back then so I didn’t know who Michael Jordan was when I was a child…. The first time I saw him was in the music video “Jam” when he’s playing basketball with the other MJ, Michael Jackson, whom my dad is a huge fan of.After that, I saw MJ again when the movie Space Jam came out. It became one of my childhood favorites and I loved his character. What’s funny is I really thought he was just an actor … then I grew up and realised he’s a legendary basketball player! So I started watching his videos on YouTube and absolutely fell in love right away by the way he played & the passion he has for basketball.

I believe that you got most of your collection before the Last Dance phenomenon, could you tell us how different it was copping shoes back then vs now? 

Before, we could easily find good stuff on ebay or other market places for decent prices, which is impossible now. The only way is getting directly from the owner. They’re not affordable anymore, and it’s really hard to find a good deal on the markets. Fortunately, I copped most of my shoes before “The Last Dance” and so did you along with me! As MJ’s fan as well as vintage collectors, we love and appreciate the documentation. But the OG game has changed. Suddenly, everything related to MJ got hyped with the prices skyrocketing, essentially Jordan 1 OG 1985.

I noticed that you collect a lot of MJ / Bulls memorabilia beyond sneakers, what is the most interesting item you own? And how and why did you choose to own it? 

I’ve been collecting not only vintage shoes, but also MJ and Bulls memorabilia. But I think the most interesting items are my 1984 Life magazines. I found them back then and got 2 for $6, pretty cool. Nothing special, until I saw the “jumpman” photo which is similar to the iconic jumpman logo so well known today. The original photo was taken in 1984 by Jacobus Rentmesster who sued Nike later on for violating copyright law.  It’s really an interesting story behind that picture.

Do you know what shoes MJ wore in that pic? 

Its’ a pair of New Balance’s but I don’t know the model name, been looking for those for a long time.

One of the posts that attracted me to link up with you were pictures of your Black Toes, can you tell us just how rare they are and how you got yours? 

Black Toe is my favorite original colorway of Jordan 1, Not Chicago or Black/Red! In my opinion, it’s the hardest non- metallic colorway to find. Not too many collectors own them & they didn’t show up so often. That’s why it’s challenging to find a pair of Black Toes, especially in good condition. I was blessed to find my pair from an auction in Japan. I didn’t pay cheap to be honest, but I think it’s absolutely worth it.

I remember us talking about the different versions of Black Toes, what is the rarest version and how many people own them? 

There are a couple versions of Black Toe made back then in 1984- 1985. MJ’s PE (Player Edition) pairs are different from GR pairs with the black tongue, mid-cut, bigger swoosh… etc… you guys can also check out @channelkris for the detail comparison posts & videos  . He’s the owner of PE Black Toe (only right shoe), one of PE Black Toe shoe that still exists today. It’s interesting cos another guy (@holygrail23rockieshoe) owned the left shoe which is game-worn & signed by the GOAT himself. It was on the auction for $50k a couple years ago if I’m not mistaken. However in my opinion, the rarest version of Black Toe is the pair that MJ signed and gave to his friend with “Air Jordan” on the side instead of the wings logo. I believe they’re the earliest sample & similar to the pair MJ wore in the Jumpman photo as well as the pic of MJ with the Black Toe over his shoulder.

How fun was it to recreate a pair of Black Toes with black tongues and can you describe how you felt when you received the custom we made together? 

For a medium collector like myself, owning game-worn or PE Jordan 1 is impossible. So I thought it’d be cool to make a version for myself, and fortunately I met you! You are the one who made my dream come true with awesome works on my Black Toe Black Tongue! It’s fun & the process enjoyable. I’m always pumped when we talk about some new details we discovered, learning something new everyday. It’s incredible to have that beautiful pair in my collection. They’re definitely one of my favorites.

How do you feel about 1985 accurate rebuilds? 

I love 1985 accurate rebuilds. I’m glad to see people bring back the right shape, big swoosh that we all love from 1985 OG Jordan 1. Original Jordan 1 1985’s are not affordable anymore, so more people can have chances to own the accurate pairs throughout rebuilds with decent price. We’re able to bring to real life some rarest sample OG jordan 1 which are just being seen on magazines. How amazing it is! I was so happy to see talented people like you, Max & @mecurymfg recreating those beautiful shoes.

Lastly, what else would you like in your Fictional Archive? 

Now, I’m happy with what I’m doing & I totally enjoy this journey. It’s not just about shoes or money: it’s all about love, passion, friendship & history. My ultimate goal is to complete the whole Original Jordans set from 1985-1999 (Jordan 1 – 14). Then I wish I could own some gamers one day!