Lead image by @indexfinger88
Today is Air Max Day and you won’t find a collector or creative much more dedicated to the tech than Justin Ronne, better known as Bubble Koppe on IG.
The South African Air Max enthusiast is all about Swoosh silos with an Air bubble in the back, but while the tech and holiday generally circle around the genre of running, the Cape Town collector prefers the cushioning when packaged on basketball and training favorites.
Hear about him, his collection and favorite Air Max models below.
Nice Kicks: Hi Justin, Tell us a bit about yourself and your Instagram account @BubbleKoppe.
Bubble Koppe: Hi there! Before we start I would just like to say I am a big fan of Nice Kicks I have been a reader for years, shout out to Matt and all the good work he does.
I am a designer and sneaker collector from Cape Town, South Africa. I have been pretty much obsessed with Nike and Air Max Technology for most of my life. I grew up in the ’90s and played a lot of basketball in my spare time, I collected basketball cards and idolized the NBA stars as well as their sneakers. I have always had a thing for Bubbles, I remember having some interesting and unusual Nikes that weren’t really mainstream however I never really got the ones I really wanted. When I started working I started to actively search for those models that I remembered and today I still look for vintage models and interesting display pieces.
In 2011 I started a passion project called “Bubble Koppe” pronounced “Khop -pah,” an Afrikaans term for “Heads” essentially meaning (Bubble Heads) which is unique to my country – people are crazy about Air Max technology over here. I started a Facebook group where I began posting photos of as many Air Max models as I could find, it sort of grew from there. Week by week I would find models that I have never seen before. To this day my followers DM me photos of models and vintage finds which I’ve never seen. The whole emphasis of Bubble Koppe was to shed some light on all of the weird and wacky models that Nike has produced in the past, the forgotten and obscure. Most people know about the Air Max 1, 90 and 95 but I wanted to show how deep the rabbit hole goes. It really is an exploration of Air and I feel like Bubble Koppe is my gallery or museum. I have had many famous people like and comment on posts, it really is just a fun platform for collectors to talk and exchange ideas. I know that I have connected buyers and sellers all over the world just from the comments on my posts.
A I R M A X ?: @jamixx08 . . . . . Keep Tagging #bubblekoppe #bubblekoppeworldwide #niketalk #bubblegang #airunitmafia #vintageheat #complexkicks #airbubble #nike #nikerunning #nikevintage #nikeog #nikebasketball #sakicks #igsneakercommunity #kickstagram #nikesouthafrica #nswza #walklikeus #kicksology #sneakernews #kicksonfire #nicekicks #solecollector #modernnotoriety #sneakerfreaker #airmaxdeluxe #airunit #airmax
Nice Kicks: How is the Cape Town sneaker scene?
Bubble Koppe: Sneaker culture has grown tremendously here, there are events and meet ups regularly and the collectors increase by the day. People down here wear Air Max and Air Jordans, those are the most desirable and most popular, it’s been like that for over two decades and hasn’t changed. I collect many things — I’m a bit of a hoarder. I collect anything with a Swoosh on it, the hangers in my wardrobe are Nike, I have a Nike vintage watch collection, lights, chairs, signs — you name it I probably have it or I am trying to get it.
My sneaker collection consists of about 200+ pairs at the moment and I must say it’s a bit difficult to maintain and wear all of them. I converted an old laundry room into a sneaker vault and put on a security gate, crime out here can be pretty bad. [Laughs] I collect Air Force 1s, Air Max, Air Jordans mostly but have a few different brands in there, too. My hustle is a bit different to other people in my city, I wear size US13 which is an unusual size here and rarely is available for sale, it makes getting my size a nightmare. I have done a lot of importing over the years and have gotten pairs from various friends but lately it has become even more difficult to secure pairs because I have to contend with 13 year old hypebeasts and sneaker raffles which I seriously hate. I’m glad I have been collecting for some time, you wont believe the gems that I have found at the outlets here. In 2009 I found a pair of Air Max 95 x Parra “Running Man” for the equivalent of $40! I remember buying Air Force 1 Supreme Max Air “Toronto” for the same price. I recall seeing the Air Max 1 x Parra x Patta “Cherrywoods” for a stupid price as well. Sneaker collecting was an oddity back then and most of the time they didn’t know what they were selling.
Nice Kicks: We love your Instagram page, how did the “Name the Bubble” feature come about?
Bubble Koppe: Thank you! A couple of years ago I had this idea of posting some of the weird Air Max finds that I couldn’t name to my Instagram and called it Name the Bubble? Within an hour I saw someone reply with the name of the model, I found this as an interesting way to draw on the knowledge of my database of followers and every now and then I enjoy posting models or close ups of the details of the models just so I can see if my followers know it and that they are on top of their game.
Nice Kicks: Sounds like an interesting project. You seem very passionate about what you do. What would you like to achieve in the future?
Bubble Koppe: Thanks. I am busy finalizing things for the launch the Bubble Koppe website, it is way overdue. I plan to have a successful online store selling clothing, sneakers and accessories as well as a blog and an archive of Air Max models. I just think there is so much that can be done, an ultimate meeting place for people as nuts as me. [Laughs]
A major goal for me would be to visit the Nike World Headquarters and meet with Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar and check out the Innovation Kitchen and Air Unit manufacturing plant. Also I would love to work with Nike on a collaboration, I don’t think it gets much bigger than that in the sneaker world. I teach underprivileged 11th Graders in Cape Town schools about the History of Sneakers, Branding and Logo Design in an initiative in conjunction with Metropolitan (MMI) called Metro Kick Starz, it’s a pretty cool project, I love working with the kids and sharing knowledge so hopefully it will grow and we can travel to other schools all around Africa.
OG Air Nomo III Sample – First time I see a photo of these, incredibly rare! ?: @shinnosukensuke . . . . . Keep Tagging #bubblekoppe #bubblekoppeworldwide #niketalk #bubblegang #airunitmafia #vintageheat #complexkicks #airbubble #nike #nikerunning #nikevintage #nikeog #nikebasketball #sakicks #igsneakercommunity #kickstagram #nikesouthafrica #nswza #totalair #kicksology #sneakernews #kicksonfire #nicekicks #solecollector #modernnotoriety #sneakerfreaker #airnomo3 #hideonomo #nikebaseball
Nice Kicks: Since running your Instagram, what are your most memorable moments?
Bubble Koppe: The time I was interviewed by Hunting For Kicks on Air Max Day 2015 in front of a live audience in Johannesburg — shoutout to the homie Mkay. That was awesome. I also got to take a personalized Nike directors chair home not too shabby either. [Laughs] Showcasing some of my Air Max collection for Nike South Africa at Air Max Day 2016 in Johannesburg and being named a ‘Master of Air.’
I think the greatest compliment of all was the comments and likes from some of the biggest Air Max collectors in the world and getting to talk to some of them. Creating an Air Max 95 inspired Bubble Koppe cap and sending it to a customer in the United States was a big deal for me. Being inboxed by a Nike WHQ employee asking for some help with the name of an original colour of the Air Max Deluxe that they were busy with last year has got to be up there, too. Getting to fly up to Durban and display a part of my collection for Sneaker Exchange — shoutout to Zaid. Being featured in local Cape Town rapper Youngsta CPT’s video entitled “Takkies” — a South African slang word for sneakers — shoutout to the Cape Crusader. Winning a South African competition called “King of Kicks” in December last year and getting the equivalent of $5,100 credit to spend at Shelflife a sneaker store in my city. More recently I was sponsored by Crep Protect SA, a really awesome brand that I am ecstatic to be involved with. I am so grateful to accomplish all of these personal goals but I am sure the best is yet to come.
Nice Kicks: Are there any Air Max models that you wish you owned? And are there any Air Max models you would like Nike to retro?
Bubble Koppe: Ah man, where do we start. There are so many that I would love to own. I am a big fan of Nike Designer Eric Avar’s work, so any original release designed by him. Air Total Max Uptempo Neons are my grails. I have the 2009 retros but don’t own the OG’s from 1997 — but I’m a US13 so holla! Other ones just off the top of my head are the Total Air Bus Max, Air CB4 II, Air Muscle Max, Air Total Max II and Air Ubiquitous Max. I love the bulky futuristic aesthetic, Nike needs to look into those back catalogs and give the collectors what they want and don’t change the colours. [Laughs]
Nice Kicks: What is your pick for Top 10 Bubbles of All Time?
Bubble Koppe: This is a very difficult list for me to put together because I’m pretty sure by the time this is posted online I will have missed a model or would have wanted to change one or two. There are so many great Air Max Bubbles but these are the ones that I could think of that resonated with me and that had true nostalgic value to me.
10. Air Penny II
9. Total Air Foamposite Max
8. Air Max Uptempo
7. Total Air Pillar
6. Air More Uptempo
5. Air Max TL
4. Air Max Uptempo III
3. Air Max2 Uptempo
2. Air Pippen
1. Air Total Max Uptempo
Nice Kicks: That’s quite an interesting selection! Do you have any thing to say to our readers?
Bubble Koppe: Yes. Never ever ever give up, all things are possible. Do what you love and love what you do! A big Thank you to Nice Kicks!