Sole Mates: Troy Douglass and the Air Jordan 4 “Cool Grey”

The founder of Portland’s Ball Was Life vintage shop on how hoops helped mold his adoration for sneakers.

Footwear 
17,278 Hypes 1 Comments

“I may be past my prime, but I’ll still give you buckets!” This captivating sentence graces the top of Ball Was Life’s Instagram page — a shop based in Portland, Oregon that regularly stocks meticulously curated vintage clothing, retro sports jerseys and hard-to-find sneaker samples. It’s a cheeky motto that Troy Douglass — the store’s owner and founder — came up with to express his profound appreciation for the sport of basketball, and it also serves as a metaphor for providing his consumers with a memorable shopping experience.

For Douglass, sneakers are more than just objects that you put on your feet to get you from point A to point B. They’re treasures, packed with nostalgic stories that are associated with all of his favorite NBA players and memories, and innovations that he praises for their unique design elements. He wasn’t necessarily the kid who grew up buying Jordans every Saturday, but he was the die-hard hoops fanatic that always stayed close to the culture, and this deep-rooted affinity for the sport has led him to start his own clothing brand, open up two storefronts, and build lasting relationships with those in the Greater Portland community.

HYPEBEAST sat down with Douglass to discuss what it takes to run a successful vintage shop, what rare 1-of-1 kicks he’s seen come into his shop, his love for the Air Jordan 4 and more.

HYPEBEAST: Who or what got you into sneakers?

TD: The game of basketball is what first introduced me to sneakers. It was the love of the game, I was into all of the intricacies of the game, the details, the footwork etc., and as I started to develop that passion for the game, my obsession with sneakers kind of grew with that.

As a kid, I used to nerd over basketball cards and other basketball memorabilia, and now that love has definitely translated into sneakers. I always love tying in sneakers with big basketball moments such as the Air Jordan 14 “Last Shot” and how Jordan rocked those in his last game with the Bulls. That type of stuff is what I nerd out on and has allowed my love for sneakers to show in an authentic way.

I know you were born and raised in Portland, what are some of your fondest memories growing up watching the Portland Trailblazers?

I was born in ‘89 so the late 90s were my sh*t. The Rasheed Wallace era was crazy. A lot of us little guys really looked up to Damon Stoudamire. A memory I’ll never forget is Game 7 of the 1999-2000 Western Conference playoffs where we lost to the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. Blazers fans always come into the shop and we always talk about it. Portland is an emotional city man.

How would you describe sneaker culture growing up in Portland?

It’s definitely strong here. Growing up, all my friends out here were pretty much into sneakers. It’s crazy because out here we’re literally next door neighbors to Nike’s headquarters and adidas’ headquarters and that’s so crucial to my business. I have a ton of crazy kicks now, some of which are adidas Kobe 1 samples that I probably wouldn’t have been able to get if I was based out somewhere like the Midwest. And because we’re so close and so many people are into the culture here, we always see 1-of-1 or 1-of-3 samples get brought into the shop.

What would you say is the craziest pair that someone has brought in?

The one that springs to my mind is this unreleased adidas Kobe 1. It was a wild red and black colorway that had an almost all-over tie-dye type pattern to it with block sock liners and hot pink laces. My homie from Index Portland usually helps me authenticate items like that.

“I wanted something clean but also something that had nodes of youthfulness and spoke to a love for the game.”

Would you say that Portland has sort of an omnipresent sneaker silhouette?

I would say the Nike Air Force 1 in either white or black, depending on what part of the city you live in. That shoe has just remained consistent within the communities out here since the 2000s.

Give me some back story on how Ball Was Life was ideated and brought to life?

It was an idea that popped up at the park. I used to host what I called “Hoops in the Park” which was essentially a glorified pickup basketball game. We used a love for basketball to bring creatives and entrepreneurs and go-getters to just hoop together and us, being out of shape playing, had this running joke that we always said, “ball was life” and we’d keep laughing about it. I’m pretty sure it was me who said it first and one week I bought the domain name for it because I knew it was special. I wanted something clean but also something that had nodes of youthfulness and spoke to a love for the game. In 2017 I thought it was going to be a clothing brand but it ended up turning into a store just by opportunity.

“I would say that we’re definitely in the prime of vintage but I think that it will continue to evolve over time. As a shop, we’re in the business of good memories and nostalgia.”

How did it evolve from just being a clothing brand into a vintage shop?

I actually have another store called Cultural Blends and that took on an evolutionary process of its own because it went from being a headquarters for all of the apparel that I printed and sold to me gradually adding vintage and sports vintage. From there it started to really take off and then I eventually added sneakers into the mix, so Ball Was Life just followed that same cadence.

What is the criteria for products that are sold in your store?

We just take a good look at the vintage stuff. I would say it could even be newer basketball stuff, it doesn’t really matter because we try to bridge the gap between old and new. As long as it’s basketball related as long as it’s cool, but we’ll take mostly vintage stuff from the 90s or early 2000s, that’s our jam.

What role do you think vintage has in streetwear/sneakers right now and do you think it’ll ever die out?

Yes and no. I would say that we’re definitely in the prime of vintage but I think that it will continue to evolve over time. As a shop, we’re in the business of good memories and nostalgia. When people walk into our stores, they’re always so taken back by it because it’s such a basketball fan’s dream and that’s so important especially in the last couple of years because of COVID. We’ve been taken out of that reality and a better time. I don’t see the nostalgia factor of vintage dying out. You look at famous vintage destinations such as the Rose Bowl Flea Market and you see how strong the culture is.

“There’s something about the overall silhouette that screams funky, screams hip-hop and screams “this is me.”

What about the Air Jordan 4 resonates with you?

It’s the nostalgic feeling for me. The 4’s dropped in 1989 and I was born in 1989 and I’m a big fan of when things line up in that sense. I really like to dive into the design of shoes too, and I just really love how the Air Jordan 4 looks aesthetically. I haven’t really heard anyone talk about this before but the wings essentially look like the top part of a 4 and I love that element. There’s something about the overall silhouette that screams funky, screams hip-hop and screams “this is me.” Another thing is that I have wide island feet and models like the Air Jordan 1 are slightly too narrow for me but the 4’s fit great.

What makes the Air Jordan 4 “Cool Grey” specifically so special to you?

For awhile it was the “Cool Grey” that was the only pair of Jordans that I owned so I definitely value this one and as you can see I beat the sh*t out of it. I was fortunate enough to pick these up for retail at a Dick’s Sporting Goods surprisingly and fell in love with them once I saw them on the shelves. I wore these everywhere. I wore them on the court and at school.

On top of that I just love the color-blocking of these. I’ve always been a fan of greys, and this is the perfect blend of grey, black and white, you just can’t go wrong with it.

Any other favorite AJ 4s outside of this colorway?

I’d say the “Black Cat,” “Bred” and the original “Oreo” colorways.

For someone who is hoping to open up a vintage shop one day, what’s the best advice you can give someone who is looking to start?

Definitely make sure that you have your influx of inventory. You want to make sure of this because you’ll be pushing through that as fast as possible and you want to always have something left in the holster. Additionally, have your own inventory that you source for low so you have high profit margins and then supplement the store with a handful of vendors that are trusted and who you have good human relationships with so they can consign stuff at the shop and they can bring their own energy and their own people into the shop.

Why are sneakers and the stories they hold important to you?

It’s the history of the game that’s most important. I’m such a huge basketball fan at heart and the sport and sneakers go hand in hand for me. There’s just so much context between players, their stories and the shoes they rock that I’m super passionate about and will continue to follow.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Sole Mates: ArrDee and the Air Jordan 4
Footwear 

Sole Mates: ArrDee and the Air Jordan 4

From a hometown rapper to a homegrown talent, ArrDee speaks on authenticity, style, sneakers and ‘Pier Pressure.’

Sole Mates: Kevin Concepts and the Air Jordan 4
Footwear 

Sole Mates: Kevin Concepts and the Air Jordan 4

The Portland-based maker sounds off on his earth-conscious creative journey and the importance of curiosity.

Sole Mates: Ipam Evil and the Air Jordan 11 "Bred"
Footwear 

Sole Mates: Ipam Evil and the Air Jordan 11 "Bred"

The Indonesia-based sneakerhead and brand owner on how Tinker Hatfield’s iconic design influenced his life.


Sole Mates: Cole Richman and the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Smoke Grey"
Footwear 

Sole Mates: Cole Richman and the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Smoke Grey"

The Bottom Bunk founder shares his mission to reintegrate former inmates back into society one sneaker at a time.

Meet The Clothing Brand Challenging Established Surf Culture
Fashion

Meet The Clothing Brand Challenging Established Surf Culture

A representation of European city “WILDLIFE”.

Reebok Digs Into Its Archives to Revive the LT Court
Footwear

Reebok Digs Into Its Archives to Revive the LT Court

The 1980s style has been reworked in premium leather and suede for Spring 2022.

Louis Vuitton Is Raising Prices and Twitter Will Let You Tip in Ethereum in This Week’s Business and Crypto Roundup
Tech 

Louis Vuitton Is Raising Prices and Twitter Will Let You Tip in Ethereum in This Week’s Business and Crypto Roundup

While Snoop Dogg is turning Death Row Records into an NFT label.

Wellgosh Highlights Some of Its Favorite Japanese Labels
Fashion

Wellgosh Highlights Some of Its Favorite Japanese Labels

Including Wacko Maria, Engineered Garments and more.

Oi Polloi Heads to The Local Arcade For Its Latest Editorial
Fashion

Oi Polloi Heads to The Local Arcade For Its Latest Editorial

Clad in an array of its favorite gear.


Tarvas Has Your Next Pair of Winter Boots Sorted
Footwear

Tarvas Has Your Next Pair of Winter Boots Sorted

Tackle tricky terrain with ease.

ANA's Second 'Demon Slayer'-Themed Jet Takes Flight Next Month
Automotive

ANA's Second 'Demon Slayer'-Themed Jet Takes Flight Next Month

Celebrating the nine Hashira.

TELFAR Closed Out New York Fashion Week With a FW22 “PERFORMANCE”
Fashion

TELFAR Closed Out New York Fashion Week With a FW22 “PERFORMANCE”

Presented in a live-streamed, mega-collection format.

NEIGHBORHOOD x RUSSELL ATHLETIC Rolls Out High-Performance Apparel Collection
Fashion

NEIGHBORHOOD x RUSSELL ATHLETIC Rolls Out High-Performance Apparel Collection

Neutral-toned hoodies and sweatpants with moisture-wicking benefits.

Cool Crypto Kids Drops NFT Collection From Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Design Tech

Cool Crypto Kids Drops NFT Collection From Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

The limited-edition NFT collection will feature artwork created by the kids themselves.

More ▾
 
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Looks like you’re using an ad-blocker

We charge advertisers instead of our readers. Support us by whitelisting our site.

Whitelist Us

How to Whitelist Us

screenshot
  1. Click the AdBlock icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Under “Pause on this site” click “Always”.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the AdBlock Plus icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Block ads on – This website” switch off the toggle to turn it from blue to gray.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the AdBlocker Ultimate icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Switch off the toggle to turn it from “Enabled on this site” to “Disabled on this site”.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the Ghostery icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Click on the “Ad-Blocking” button at the bottom. It will turn gray and the text above will go from “ON” to “OFF”.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the UBlock Origin icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Click on the large blue power icon at the top.
  3. When it turns gray, click the refresh icon that has appeared next to it or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the icon of the ad-blocker extension installed on your browser.You’ll usually find this icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. You may have more than one ad-blocker installed.
  2. Follow the instructions for disabling the ad blocker on the site you’re viewing.You may have to select a menu option or click a button.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.