David and his New Balance x Sneaker Freaker 997.5 'Tassie Tiger' F&F. Photographs by Jar Concengco
Style Style Profile

Martin David and the evolution of the Filipino sneakerhead

Having seen the rise of the local sneakerhead community, the Solemovement.com founder is easily one of the foremost experts on the field of sporting shoes. Now all he wants is for sneaker fans to be smarter and see through the hype.
Josh Buenaventura | Jun 22 2019

Unlike what would be most people’s typical image of a sneakerhead these days, Martin David prefers to keep it simple. In an age where hype is king, he keeps his personal style discreet and the sneaker-talk only to what's essential.  

David’s fondness for shoes began when, as a kid, he saw Michael Jordan lace it up for the Chicago Bulls. “I remember seeing this shot of Michael wearing the Air Jordan 3s, the White Cements. It did not look like any other shoe at the time and it was so cool,” he tells us in his Ayala Heights home. The way the sneaker model was marketed, any kid would dream to be like Jordan. Jordan was special. “I just wanted to be different. I realized there were brands and shoes that were different. And innovation played a key role in what I appreciated in shoes.”

David with a few of the pairs in his collection.

In grade school, he built on this passion for sneakers. His brother was a varsity player, and David would be entranced—and envious—whenever kuya came home with a new pair. “Back then, it was all about Nike because they represented something different by going against the grain.” 

 

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One pair that really stood out for the young boy was the Air Trainer SC Lows, Mr. Bo Jackson. “I wanted to stand out, so I got them from the States because nobody here had it. I think for everybody back then, you only had just one pair for a whole year. Not like today where people are fortunate to have five, six, even seven pairs to wear.”

 

Sneakers through the years

While one would think David has already amassed a lot of pairs since childhood, in truth he only got his first ever Air Jordan 1 in 2009. “Before that, I only got to wear those Team Jordan shoes growing up, not the signature ones such as the AJ 3, 4, or 5. We couldn’t afford it and I felt hindi talaga siya bagay sa akin.”

Adidas Samba custom commissioned by Capital for Solemovement.com

But he did stock up on sneaker knowledge over the years, familiarizing himself with the brands since the 1980s. “Basketball played a huge part in footwear in the 80s, regardless of brand. The decade was all about the bigness, all about the flash,” he explains. “The Air Force 1s, the Reebok Pump, and the Air Jordan—all of them were chunky. It was trying to veer away from the classic basketball sneaker like the Puma Clyde and adidas Superstar. It was a movement toward the high cut sneaker.”

If the 80s was the beginning, the 90s was definitely "the sneaker’s Golden Age,” as David describes it.

“For me that was the time when the Generation X started becoming designers, artists, and employees of all these brands. They were the ones who changed the game. Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar, and Sandy Bodecker became the backbones of design at Nike. But Adidas also did well, as they released the Feet You Wear, the Torsion, and the EQT,” he shares. “A lot of innovation during that time is also what you see in shoes today. There were so many things that was nostalgic, but also ahead of its time.”

The new millennium brought about refining the innovations of decades previous. Retro was slowly emerging, and there was great storytelling from the brands as they looked to improve on the technology. “There was now this shift toward lighter, more comfortable, more flexible footwear as seen in Lunarlon and Flyknit technology,” explains David.

The 2010s are then about pushing things further, he says, through more collaborations, innovations, “…and unfortunately, more hype."

This Ateneo alum says he was lucky enough to have worked within the world of sports, which gave him the opportunity to interact with different sneaker brands on a regular basis. Aware that collecting was an expensive hobby, it made sense for him to think of ways to work with sports brands and continue his passion for shoes. With social media still in its early stages in the early 2000s, websites and word of mouth were the sources of the latest information. But he recognized early on that brands were already making their presence felt in the Philippines more than ever, and that one need not leave our shores anymore just to cop the latest pair.

The New Balance X Staple 'Pigeon' 575

“Back then, sneaker sites were few and far between and it was a great avenue to tell Filipino aficionados that the selections were growing,” David says. “Nike was always in the game. Adidas originals started to pick up. There was a way to get shoes here.” The need to tell people about these developments led to the creation of Solemovment.

These days there are more stores, more options, and bigger quantities when it comes to sneakers—especially when it comes to special pairs. “Retailers have become more specialized. They are now more category-based. Before, you only had box stores like Toby’s Sports and Planet Sports. Today, we have Titan, Sole Academy, and Commonwealth. They are specific in terms of what they offer, which is good. Now people know where to go.”

 

Looking to the future

As more and more retailers spring from just about every corner, there has also been a re-emergence of several brands that have been missing in action. “It’s the right time for brands like Converse and New Balance to make a comeback. At the end of the day, it’s still adidas and Nike who go head-to-head, especially in basketball. But the 2019 NBA Finals is a good indicator. Majority of the players wore Nike, but they were not the stars. The signature players wore other brands. That only means others can also put out good products.”

Another recent topic of debate in the sneaker communities is the entry of high-fashion labels. David says he is not a huge fan of designer sneakers but he quickly concedes there is a market. “It just goes to show that these brands have recognized that people want to be comfortable, but still want to be fashionable. But it’s not for everyone. My personal take though is: sneakers are meant to be worn heavily, and it can get dirty. Question is, are you willing to spend 50 grand for shoes that will get dirty? To each his own. But it’s not for me.”

Holding the Atmos X Nike Air Max 1 Deluxe ‘Animal 2.0’.

Martin now sees himself as one of the “old dogs” in the sneaker community. He also now works together with other aficionados, like Kickspotting and Buhaybasket, plus some sneaker retailers to properly educate everyone, including those who are just getting into the game. “We’re trying our best to come up with videos that are more editorial in nature, that aren’t what you usually see now online. We try to be more aware, more ‘woke’ if you want to put it that way,” he says. “We want our voice to ne heard. We’re not going to do the usual unboxing just because a shoe is cool or hyped. Why? Because I feel like you should not buy into the hype as much.”

And this is exactly what his group is against: the normalization of hype. “We don’t just follow the trend. We’re not going against the grain, but we try to give you a better understanding of what you’re getting yourself into. For every person like me, there’s always five more people that are just only getting into the game. So the sneaker game does not die. It just grows even further. And that’s good. We can only hope that the audience can develop to be smarter about it.”

 

Photographs by Jar Concengco