Sole Mates: G Ming and the Air Jordan 1

The SOULGOODS founder discusses his favorite Jordan model and the rise of sneaker culture in Beijing.

Footwear 
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From an early age, G Ming quickly realized that he had a fervor for three things: basketball, sneakers and hometown pride. Growing up in Bejing, it was a goal of his to find a way to flip these passions into a business model, and that’s when the idea dawned on him to cook up SOULGOODS — a streetwear and sneaker shop that opened in 2016 and now has four total locations in Bejing, Sichuan and Shanghai. As a tier zero account, SOULGOODS has become a hub to cop coveted products like the Off-White™ x Nike collaborations, Ye‘s popular adidas YEEZY offerings and more

Ming credits his love of basketball and sneakers to the NBA. Growing up idolizing Michael Jordan, he naturally gravitated towards the six-time champion’s signature sneaker catalog. And of all the iconic models in the GOAT’s cannon, the Air Jordan 1 is the silhouette that resonated with the SOULGOODS founder most, which is why it serves as the centerpiece of his Sole Mates feature.

Hypebeast had a chance to catch up with Ming to discuss what he loves about the classic Jordan kicks, his thoughts on the rise of sneaker culture in the past two decades and more.

Hypebeast: What got you into sneakers?

G Ming: It all started out in elementary school for me. Our school would encourage us to participate in sports, and that’s where my interest in performance shoes and the NBA started to develop. Sneakers became novelties for myself and my peers around me, and I fell in love with their designs.

Can you remember what the first pair of sneakers you copped was?

My first pair of sneakers were the Converse RAW ENERGY basketball shoes, which [Phoenix Suns guard] Kevin Johnson wore. They were equipped with a full-foot RAW (REACT At Work) oil pack system and they had the iconic five-star insignia on the heel. I remember buying a pair for about 500 yuan, which was considered pretty pricey at the time.

“Even over 30 years since [the Air Jordan 1's] debut, it still serves as a symbolic figure within sneaker culture. Everything from the shape to the OG colorways are special.”

Why is the Air Jordan 1 important to you?

I love the Air Jordan 1 because it’s representative of a lot of things. It’s one of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes ever. Even over 30 years since its debut, it still serves as a symbolic figure within sneaker culture. Everything about it, from the shape to the OG colorways, is special in its own way.

Which pair of Air Jordan 1s is the most precious or meaningful to you?

I think I can speak for most footwear collectors when I say this, but the Air Jordan 1 Hi ‘85 is one of the most treasured models, especially the pairs that are either deadstock or still kept in wearable condition. All of the history that’s tied to that sneaker being MJ’s first signature, the marketing campaign that said it was “banned” from the NBA and the fact that it’s still sought after today is what makes it so important.

When did you first think about opening your own sneaker store?

The idea first dawned on me when I was in junior high school. After I visited Yaxin 1990 — China’s first premium boutique — for the first time, I was blown away. From that moment on, I dreamed of owning my own sneaker store one day.

Now that you’ve actually had experience running your own shoe store, do you have a new perspective on the sneaker industry?

As time has passed, I’ve realized that sneakers have become a way for many people to meet and build real relationships. You can meet new friends and participate in many communities through sneakers. Wearing a pair of sneakers or collecting sneakers can make many people feel confident and find another way of life. I didn’t realize that when I first got into sneakers.

What’s your take on the rapid development of sneaker culture today?

Twenty years ago it felt like sneaker culture was very small and niche, but now you can see people wearing all kinds of sneakers in the street. Nowadays there are also so many sneaker events and media platforms that are highlighting the culture and pushing it forward. I actually feel very relieved and honored that it’s headed in this direction, and I hope that this circle will continue to grow and that more amazing products will emerge.

In your opinion, what does the perfect sneaker store provide?

I believe that if you own a sneaker store, then you have a couple of responsibilities. This includes educating its consumers on the history of sneakers and their culture — and providing them with an extensive-yet-curated assortment of different brands and silhouettes that they can’t find anywhere else.

You’ve been in the sneaker game for over 20 years. Do you still have any unfulfilled goals that you’d like to accomplish?

My enthusiasm for sneakers has not diminished in the past 20 years. Whenever I see my favorite sneakers or talk about sneaker history, I still feel just as excited as I did when I first stepped into the game. Personally, there are still a ton of rare sneakers that I hope to track down one day. On the business side, it’s a dream of mine to one day collaborate with Nike to design a pair of sneakers that fully represents Beijing and Chinese culture.

This issue of Sole Mates was originally posted on HYPEBEAST CN and has been adapted accordingly.

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