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Sole Man: Kish Kash

Sole Man: Kish Kash

Sneaker archivist, brand consultant, DJ and Instagram personality, Kish Kash has dedicated his life to sneakers, streetwear and music. An authority on all-things sneaker-related and a big personality, when we speak on the phone his enthusiasm is seriously catching. I ask Kish to summarise what exactly it is he does. ‘Crikey’ is his response – there’s no easy answer.

Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a red Supreme hooded sweatshirt and a black Supreme beanie
Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a red Supreme hooded sweatshirt and a black Supreme beanie

Kish grew up in the small market town of Aylesbury. Like many a suburban schoolkid, he spent his youth on the periphery of London and nurtured big city dreams – making the 45-minute journey by train to the capital at weekends to peruse the comic book and record stores. Later, he worked at those very same record stores, before launching his own streetwear distribution venture. Struck down by the recession, he hustled, tapping into the huge network of people he’d met and drawing on his own niche knowledge of the streetwear scene to make it. “When I worked in the record stores we all wore street clothes – skate wear, hip hop brands, or even brands like Polo (Ralph Lauren) and YSL (Saint Laurent). We matched it up with brands like Stussy, and it was a pretty cool vibe. Now, I’ve turned into a bit of a brand marketing consultant. Also, I utilise my platform to draw attention to and highlight cool products that I like. It’s about my lifestyle.”

There’s a satisfyingly cyclical shape to Kish’s story. Having started his career in a store on Soho’s Poland Street, he DJs every Tuesday night from Soho Radio’s Poland Street studio – the very same street that is now home to FLANNELS London. Which brings us up to the present. “I do the radio show every Tuesday night, just down the road from the FLANNELS store. It’s really cool to keep it local, because Soho is my heart, basically. Even when I was living in Aylesbury and jumping on the train to come down to London, the first port of call was always Soho. It had the record stores, the trainer shops, the clothing shops, the comic shops. Everything I’m in to. It’s always been my heartbeat.”

Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a black Y-3 adidas sweatshirt with white graphics, white and black Y-3 technical jogging bottoms with red edging and a black Y-3 belt bag and bucket hat
Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a black Y-3 adidas sweatshirt with white graphics, white and black Y-3 technical jogging bottoms with red edging and a black Y-3 belt bag and bucket hat

You can still spot Kish most weeks pounding the pavements of Soho, always looking dapper in a fresh pair of sneakers and the kind of vintage streetwear most people can only dream of. I don’t want to offend by calling him an old-timer, but he’s been in the game for a while, over which time he’s amassed not only a vast collection of sneakers, but the insider knowledge and considered perspectives that make him an industry go-to. When I refer to him as a collector, he’s quick to correct me. “I’m into trainers, I have an accumulation, I have an archive, is what I’d say. The distinction I’d make is that when people collect, it’s a conscious effort to have things for the sake of it. For me, it’s more of an accumulation because it’s just stuff that I want to wear, and it’s gone a bit mad.”

He tells me an almost unbelievable story. 15 years ago, he lent some friends of his at Adidas a rare vintage Adidas Run DMC jacket he’d picked up at a vintage store that they wanted to reproduce. In return, the team gave him the secret 35th pair of all-white Adidas Superstars made for the shoe’s 35th anniversary – a style only ever given to family and friends. He counts these the most valuable pair in his collection of thousands. “I don’t know how much they’re worth, but to me, the story behind it, the relationship behind it is bigger than the shoe. It extends beyond monetary value. They’re super sentimental.”

Kish attributes his sneaker habit to his two greatest loves. Hip hop and football. “It’s a cross between the love of hip hop and basketball, and the love of football and casual culture, the collision of the two. And that informs my style.” Sneakers and streetwear are a by-product of the subcultures they exist (or existed) in, be it the casuals of the North of England or the American hip hop scene. “I think sneaker culture exists within street culture as a subset of that. If you grew up in northern England in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they had their own brands, their uniform and style, and trainers formed a big part of it, especially when the away fans were going abroad and coming back with trainer styles and colours which weren’t available over here. It was about one-upmanship. And it’s the same with the hip hop circles, because even though that style is informed by the street sport of America and New York – basketball – the whole look is about re-appropriation and putting things into a new context.”

Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a red Supreme hooded sweatshirt and a black Supreme beanie
Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a red Supreme hooded sweatshirt and a black Supreme beanie

The appropriation of luxury and premium brands formed the basis of the streetwear look. From the casuals and dressers of the North who wore premium Italian sportswear (Stone Island, C.P. Company), to the Lo Life Crew of America who borrowed from the Preppy Polo Ralph Lauren look, the way in which these subcultures took and repurposed pieces to tell their own story was defined by the street. Now, everyone is in on the game, with luxury brands from Gucci to Valentino tapping into what has become a global trend. “Street culture was only street culture because everyone in the scene aspired to have luxury brands. Hence half the rappers name checking lots of luxury brands, it was an aspirational thing.” High fashion is now appropriating the very look that was once borrowed from them.

On the evolution of streetwear and sneaker culture from when he started out, into the digitally driven, hyper-luxury phenomenon it is today, Kish explains the differences, for better or worse. “There was less available, and some of the stuff you really wanted was hard to find. You’d be lucky if you went abroad on occasion like I did, to visit family in the States and Canada – that’s when you’d come back with stuff that wasn’t available elsewhere. It was all about being individualistic and having your own look – being the first to have something, or having something different, and you’d be admired for that. These days, it’s all about conformity. You’re not someone unless you’ve got latest Off-White release, or the latest Supreme box logo. It’s gone from being a few people in the know to a much bigger thing. I would argue that street style has got less to do with the street than it ever has done, because most of the people who are wearing it now aren’t from the street, but they want it to look like they are, which is quite funny really.”

In a bid to sustain a more authentic and off-line version of the sneaker and streetwear culture he holds dear, Kish got involved with Milk Collective and Sneakerness. The former is a group of in-the-know writers who authored the first ever book on sneaker culture back in ’98 Sneakers: Size Isn’t Everything. Kish’s involvement is a statement – honouring the original stories of the scene to better understand what is happening today. The latter is the London edition of the global Sneakerness convention. “It’s to draw community to the culture and provide a platform for likeminded enthusiasts to meet up and get some bargains, and have a chit chat. Because if everything is all social, via the internet, then how do we interact apart from virtually?” For Kish, the joy of sneakers is IRL, not Instagram. From the thrill of getting your hands on a sought-after pair of kicks, to meeting a likeminded obsessive to coo over a rare collab with. Thanks for keeping us connected, Kish, a true Sole Man. We’ll be staying in touch for sure.

Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a black Y-3 adidas sweatshirt with white graphics, white and black Y-3 technical jogging bottoms with red edging and a black Y-3 belt bag and bucket hat
Sneaker archivist and connoisseur Kish Kash on a street in London's Soho wearing a black Y-3 adidas sweatshirt with white graphics, white and black Y-3 technical jogging bottoms with red edging and a black Y-3 belt bag and bucket hat

QUICKFIRE ROUND:

Sneakers or trainers?

Sneakers. As a kid, it was trainers, but the term sneakers actually pre-dates trainers. I think trainers is a cooler term, but everyone else in the world gets a bit confused.

Sneaker head or sneaker freak?

Sneaker connoisseur.

Your most expensive pair of trainers?

It’s what’s personal and has value to me. My limited edition Adidas Superstars.

How many pairs of sneakers do you own?

An obscene amount. I don’t actually know. More than a couple of thousand.

What was your first pair of sneakers?

Probably a pair of Puma G Vilas.

Your favourite sneaker brand?

I can’t answer that one. Too political.

What did you do on your last day off?

Visited my parents

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

My mum’s curries

What is your biggest indulgence?

We’re talking about it. Sneakers. It’s got to be. Or my vinyl music collection. I’ve got even more records than I’ve got sneakers. Music’s the reason, you know what I mean? Let’s go bigger than sneakers, let’s say music.

Photography: Matthew Brann, Interview: Florence Trott