Marcus Brutus and the Nike Air Flightposite 1 for Hypebeast’s Sole Mates
The artist sheds light on what Air Flightposite 1 design aspects he’s drawn to and the parallels he sees between art and sneakers.
Marcus Brutus’s studio is a creative haven, one that allows him to render captivating and figurative paintings illustrating Black life. His richly-colored worksand pull inspiration from music, sports, literature, photography and socio-political history. “Black culture was always a subject that I would explore and read about”, Brutus tells Hypebeast. “So when it became time to decide what I wanted my work to depict and represent, that was the easiest choice.”
Much like his curiosity about his own people has remained constant throughout his life, so has his appreciation for sneakers. Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, 20 minutes outside of Washington D.C., he was always enamored by the impact that sneakers had on street culture. Brutus has amassed Air Jordans and retro
We visited Brutus in his Brooklyn studio to talk about sneaker culture in Maryland, his favorite details on the Air Flightposite 1 and the parallels he sees between art and sneakers.
Who or what got you into sneakers?
Basketball. I grew up watching the sport, especially in the late ‘90s when MJ and the Bulls were dominating. Eventually, I transitioned to watching the Washington Wizards given that they were close to home. Naturally, I started to pay attention to what shoes the players were wearing and it all took off from there.
Do you remember what some of the first silhouettes that caught your attention were?
Air Jordan 13s. That was one of the craziest silhouettes I had seen at that time. I remember being drawn to obscure models too as opposed to staples like Nike Air Force 1s or Reebok Classics.
What was sneaker culture like for you growing up in Maryland?
Sneakers were huge in Maryland, especially in the DMV [DC, Maryland, Virginia]. I couldn’t really afford “nice” sneakers growing up, but I remember always seeing the cool kids rocking the latest and greatest whether it was Jordan retros or Nikes. Foamposites were also huge where I’m from. However, it wasn’t until getting my first job as an administrative assistant that I was able to connect with people online and actively be on forums to cop sneakers.
When did the Nike Air Flightposite 1 first come into the picture for you, and what was your reaction?
It was during the post-Jordan era, so around ‘99. I recall just seeing them on the shelves when I’d walk into footwear stores and being so drawn to all of the colorways that they had. I love all of the metallic ones, the “Eggplant” colorway, the cream ones and this one PE that Nike made for Mike Bibby.
“I remember Tim Duncan’s ad posters where he had his arms out. That imagery has always stuck with me and was one of the reasons that I’m into art in the first place.”
When Nike was marketing the Flightposite 1, its slogan was “Made of Many Hard to Define Things.” As an artist, does this resonate with you?
100%. My art is about blending elements from different parts of the world and different time periods. Images from wherever and whenever have influenced my work whether it be music, politics, sports, literature or photography.
Nike also made commercials with Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan for this silhouette, as well as the “Freestyle” spot — one of the most iconic sneaker commercials of all time. Did these strike you in any way?
Definitely. I remember Tim Duncan’s ad posters where he had his arms out. That imagery has always stuck with me and was one of the reasons that I’m into art in the first place. Visually, everything that Nike was doing during that era was on point.
What are your favorite design details about the silhouette?
I love the zipper and how it gives the shoe a sock-like wrap-around that can either be closed or styled in folded fashion. They sort of remind me of Gary Payton’s Air Zoom Flight. I love the “Metallic Gold” colorway that I have: it almost looks like a trophy because of its yellow metallic sheen.
If you could describe the Nike Air Flightposite 1 in one word, what would it be?
Does having an art background give you any deeper appreciation for the way sneakers are made and communicated?
Yes, because sneakers are essentially miniature sculptures that are wearable. I’ve read up on the process behind creating sneakers and learned about designers like Tinker Hatfield and how he gathers inspiration from various things in the world to help design them, and you can definitely draw a parallel there.
Do you think Black creativity gets enough credit in sneaker culture today?
I’d say that we are well-represented from a cultural standpoint. However, when it comes to the actual designers and creatives that are working hard to bring these sneakers and initiatives to life, I still think that there’s more room for credit to be given there. I believe that has a lot to do with the fact that there still aren’t as many opportunities in the space, but I can see that we’re working towards it.
Why are sneakers and their stories important to you personally?
I’ve always been into the storytelling aspect of anything because it gives things an extended lifespan.