Sneaker Steve Patino is a very influential man in footwear. You may not know his name because it’s not on the actual sneaker like a certain basketball great, but you damn sure have seen his work, wore his vision, or proudly rocked an effort of his. He’s made some massive moves that have changed the way we view fashion in general, quarterbacked collaborative efforts between skaters, rappers, luxe designers and rock stars, and it really all began with a lot of passion, and a little bit of square footage in Elmhurst Queens, NY.
Picture the late 80’s/early 90’s in the city that never sleeps. Rows and rows of squalid brick housing, Chopped Cheese selling Bodegas, (if you don’t know what Chopped Cheese is, find a noose pal.) boxy BMW’s weaving lanes blasting A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang, and Gangstarr. This was back in the era when all 8 Mc’s on the track had 32 bar verses dedicated to metaphorically slaughtering you, being street kings, and iconizing Nikes, Reeboks, Filas and Adidas joints. Autotune was only for Cher, and spray paint made you a civil engineer of sorts.
If hiphop, as a culture, were a person, then that punchy drum machine sample loop would be the heartbeat, but the outer shell was more than the uniform. It was a red badge of courage, a purple heart for the ego, and there was no source of validation more important than the sneakers.
The more rare, the more expensive, the more outrageously colored or tightly matched, the better. Nike was a blood diamond mine for the culture. This is the womb Sneaker Steve was born from. He was at the onset of an emerging life force that was changing America in a great many ways. He loved hiphop, but specifically, the sneaker thing that came with it, well, that just spoke to his soul.
“Air Max revolutionary. It was the first time sneakers had a layer of air on them”
Patino was in love with sneakers. He spent his time researching them pre-internet, and hung at the local sneaker shop Sprint 2 in Queens in Elmhurst.
At 16 he began working in a sneaker shop. For free. He asked the owners for a special arrangement. “Just pay me in kicks, every week give me a new pair and I will work for free.” They agreed. Sneaker Steve became the coolest motherfucker in high school, and the store got the hard working, dedicated and emboldened employee they ever had.
He became a buyer for the store a year or two later, then the manager, and then partner.
At the same time, his relationship with the skaters he grew up with got him involved in skate shoes, skate culture and extreme sports. The skaters just happened to be budding legends.
“Peter Bici. Peter Han from UXA and Zoo York. The Supreme crew. Geo was the manager of Supreme and a lot of the cast of the movie KIDS basically, the dudes that were OG Supreme. I looked up to them because they were older and they let me hang out with them, even though I wasn’t on a skateboard. We were all hiphop as hell, and the cultures blended. Some of these cats lived in my apartment and neighborhood area.”
“At 17 I had the hookup for these hot urban lines and was wearing multiple thousand dollar outfits, networking with much older cats, and really riding the wave of this super exciting time in hip hop NYC nightlife club culture. The skaters and the Graffiti writers were starting to make their own clothing lines and so did the rappers. I was in all three of their worlds”
Patino was now full on immersed in this world. He would sell so many shoes out of the little Elmhurst sneaker store that the company reps he would buy from would start asking him to consult, to find out what’s hot on the streets on NYC, and together they would form and build relationships that would grow into expansive networks on both coasts.
He was also one of the founders of Gawsie, a street sports meets high fashion line, and started heading to California, selling at Fred Segal making friends with other likeminded creatives, rappers, skaters, and young entrepreneurs in this new, collaborative convergence wave we call “streetwear” today. Artist like Kanye, Nas, John Legend, Dave Chapelle were wearing Gawsie.
Back then the owners of companies like Creative Rec, Crooks & Castles, Force, Clae, Alphanumeric, then later brands like the Black, Scale, Hundreds, Diamond and more became the homies, exposing to him the Cali street sports lifestyle, where skating, BMXing, and surfing was a huge influence.
“When I got back to NYC, I was the plug for that Cali style to the East Coast. DC Shoes, Etnies, Lakai, Alphanumeric, Nike SB all that. Because of my unique background I was the only NIKE SB account in Queens. The East Coast loved it. I was movinghundreds of pairs of DC skate shoes a week to the hood. That was unheard of. DC Shoes sent reps to see if it was real. They learned it was.”
Through his store relationships he created the first ever deal with New Era cap company and the action sports industry, this deal created and opened up the opportunity for the hats you see today with new Era and action sport brands like Supreme, Undftd, DC Shoes, Red bull, Quicksilver, Volcom, Staple, Black Scale, and all other industry giants, expanding his rolodex, and realizing that streetwear / skate was the new wave he predicted this fashion trend and connected East Coast meets West Coast fashion.
This was now around 2002-03, and the extreme sports lifestyle company Quicksilver bought DC Shoes, and Steve was brought on to consult for the whole new empire.
Patino moved to San Diego and was quickly raised up the ranks to become the global director of DC SHOES, of Lifestyle and Special Projects brokering special project deals and working with Ken Block and Damon Way on their lifestyle, music and art special projects.
He used his background in both hip hop, and his intriguing love for skate and So Cal sports culture life to start to curate the future of youth culture fashion. While at DC/Quicksilver, he and his lifestyle design partner-in-crime Jon Buscemi of DC shoes (currently the founder of the brand Buscemi) were a part of working incredible sneaker projects. Together Steve and Jon put together industry changing deals for DC shoes with stars like Travis Barker, the Andre launch at Colette, the JB Classics launch at Barney’s, the first New Era sneaker shoe in history, SSUR, The Spotted Pig shoe for Mario Battali’s NY famous restaurant, the Apple Store SOHO shoe, PK Ripper BMX Anniversary, Rob Dyrdek, and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Mighty Healthy, Lemar and Dauley and much more.
After being part of the team when DC shoes grew from 90 Million to 500 Million +
“In four years I decided I wanted more and was ready to move to LA/ Hollywood.” Reflects Steve.
“I was at the forefront of a new wave, I left San Diego and headed to Los Angeles to start a new company where my partners were one super investor, a huge sales guru in fashion, a son of a TV and Entertainment legend a LA Laker player, one of my friends from Queens and one of the most powerful attorneys in music. We were doing TV entertainment and fashion deals.” Steve was living in a real life version of the show Entourage. After two years of this Steve decided to move in a new direction.
It was later in LA that Steve re connected with visionary marketer and designer Javier Laval, and also met Javier’s business partner at that time that is now Fear Of God creator Jerry Lorenzo, part of Kanye’s inner circle and a highly respected fashion mind. Those were some of our most fun times when Javier and Jerry were partners in their legendary LA night life business “JL” Nights.
What Steve didn’t know was that a few years later after that Steve and Javier would to partner in Android Homme in 2009, a company that Javier founded. It was futuristic footwear company with a positive message that its never too late to REPROGRAM. Patino was dedicated to truly learning the ins and outs of the global sneaker market, and sought to raise the bar with Homme, aesthetically, and functionally.
During this same time Steve and his business partner Matt Germaine also partnered up with a second brand, with renowned celebrity fashion stylist Leo Velasquez to be a part of the brand named EVIDENT FUTURE. Steve and Leo were friends for over 15 years and Patino was one of Leo’s mentors from back in the day in Queens NY were they both grew up. Steve was instrumental in helping Leo with setting up his company Evident Future and introducing him to all of the movers and shakers that Steve built with in the industry. Steve and Leo traveled the world looking to expand Evident Future. Leo was one of the most talented and creative people Steve ever saw design. Leo’s designs were ahead of their time and desired by so many stars and celebrities around the world. Leo inspired many of the biggest designers out right now.
“Leo was one of the most incredible people that I had ever met in my life, and it inspired me to reach new heights personally and professionally.” Said Steve.
Patino then moved to China soon after, learned Chinese, and began brokering deals with Chinese factories for mass production as well as discovering the amazing Asian fashion space that most American buyers were unaware of at that time. From China, Android moved their production to Italy and became immersed with luxury design, which allowed Android Homme access to the finest leathers on earth, and the company then started selling to exclusive storefronts like KITH, Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Isetan, Patron of the New and next month launching with Bergdorf Goodman.
Now, Steve is currently focused on paying it forward, fostering a new generation of creative entrepreneurial visionaries, and being an evangelical voice for the culture. From the streets of Queens to the fashion shows of Milan, he has seen and crafted a lookbook for a lifestyle. It’s important to him that as street wear and footwear become more and more opulent and luxe, we never forget that rappers and skateboarders gave us this wave. The birth and OG influences of everything Wanderset and Patino do now were far more concrete than marble, if you will.
Patino is now turning 40, and is considered a world Sneaker expert and authority on sneakers and footwear culture. His mission is to leave legacy in the footwear industry and change footwear forever. Not bad for a kid who worked for free in a little sneaker shop in Queens not too long ago.
You can check him out on his podcast filming and recording next month “ Kickin It With Sneaker Steve produced by Snkr Inc media company. Make sure to follow him @sneakersteve