Sole Mates: Ghetts and the Reebok Classic Leather
Following his “Life Is Not A Spectator Sport” campaign debut, HYPEBEAST speaks with the grime artist about his love for all things authentic.
What makes something a classic? To many, it’s something that stands the test of time, remaining faithful to its roots without a need to change its core meaning. It’s a word that’s thrown around the footwear and fashion industry carelessly, little more than a buzzword to make something sound more important than it actually is. However, this is not the story for Reebok’s Classic Leather, a sneaker that appeared during the 1980s’ fitness boom but soon found fame among the ‘80s casuals subculture, the ‘90s hip hop scene, early noughties grime artists.
Ghetts is a big believer in this. Speaking to HYPEBEAST for Sole Mates, the grime artist said, “To be able to create something, to do something that other people – the consumers – regard as a classic, that’s an amazing thing.” As one of the leading rappers in his field, his work is on its way to becoming considered classic, and his love for authenticity doesn’t just run through his lyrics, it also filters into everything he stands for – particularly when it comes to style.
Following on from Reebok’s just-launched “Life Is Not A Spectator Sport” campaign, which stars Ghetts alongside creatives such as Arca and the sporting legend (and Reebok family member) Allen Iverson, HYPEBEAST spoke with the rapper to understand more about his involvement in the campaign and what it means to him, his love for Reebok, and to learn more about his life in sneakers.
HYPEBEAST: What got you into sneakers?
Ghetts: It was probably when I was single digits, I’m talking seven or eight. I had these red and black Patrick Ewings that I thought were sick. I remember wanting to have different colors of that trainer, but I couldn’t afford to have a collection.
[When I was a kid], Nike 110s [otherwise known as the Air Max 95] came about and then there were Reebok Classics with the ice bottoms and all the different colors. But you had to have a pair of 110s or 120s, as we used to call them back in the day. They all cost £120 back in the day so that’s why we called them 120s, no matter what they were.
How important were sneakers in London’s grime scene, especially when you were coming up?
The uniform was an Akademiks [tracksuit], a NY hat, and white Air Force, but they might have had a Tasmanian Devil painted on the side. It was the uniform of the grime scene in East London and then that spread out into the midlands a bit, it was definitely an MC’s uniform.
When you used to see people dressed like that, you knew. You could guess what kind of music they were into, what MCs they liked. It started because a few MCs were wearing it – Dizzee, Wiley – the biggest. Everybody knows their impact, and that impacted the way you dressed as a youngin.
Is that identity still evident today?
It’s changed but there’s still an identity, there’s always an identity within hip hop culture, grime culture, even Black culture. Now, the clothing’s a lot more high-end in terms of what we rappers like to wear today, but you can definitely look at somebody and tell what they’re into or what they do for a living.
How did you come to be involved in Reebok’s “Life Is Not A Spectator Sport” campaign?
First and foremost, I like Reebok because it’s a British brand and my favorite MCs growing up repped Reebok very hard. Reebok was the sought-after trainer when I was growing up as a yute. The ice bottoms were a mad trainer to have when I was growing up, it was the trainer to have. So to me, Reebok being a British brand, it’s just a no-brainer for me.
The quote “Life is not a spectator sport” is amazing. I feel to really get the best out of life you have to get involved and live life to the fullest. To me that represents someone who’s going all out, going for it, reaching their goals, and that’s what I represent as a person.
A big part of the campaign is focusing on classics. What does “classic” mean to you?
The word classic is something that’s timeless, it’s stood the test of time, made years ago, but you look back and listen to it or look at it and you feel like, this is one of one.
Put it this way: if you’re creative, if you want to create something that people regard as classic in this lifetime. To be able to create something, to do something that other people – the consumers – regard as a classic, that’s an amazing thing.
What message do you want to give to your audience by being a part of this campaign?
British and proud.
The campaign centers around the Reebok Classic Leather. What’s your relationship with that particular sneaker?
You had two types of Reeboks for the culture: the Reebok Workouts and the Reebok Classic Leathers with the different colors in the Reebok sign, they were popular and if you were fortunate enough to have them you looked like you were doing things!
This sneaker has continually evolved, but at the same time, it’s maintained its core look. Why do you think it’s important to evolve?
Times are changing. If you don’t grow, that means you’re just stationary. You can’t be in the same place for the last five years, which means you’re not growing as a human being. I think that’s what life’s about. Grow the relationships, you can’t be 30 and stay on what you were doing at 15. Evolution is important.
What have you learned by being in the grime scene?
Individuality. Sounds are going to change, but what you’ve got and your own force is important. Something that might be successful might not be successful tomorrow, but don’t go copy other people.
With the campaign, “Life is not a spectator sport” is a very, very powerful statement.
And finally, how will Reebok continue to inspire the culture?
It’ll be sick if Reebok gives more artists from Britain like myself collab deals, in terms of creating their own shoes or tracksuits, things like that. We’re creatives. The creative juices don’t stop at music.