Opinion // Jerry Lorenzo is the Most Influential Man in Sneakers in 2016

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words by // Darren Griffin

This past weekend, Jordan Brand released their highly touted Air Jordan 1 “Shattered Backboard Away” to much fanfare. The shoe expounds upon a story that dates back 30 years, when Michael Jordan shattered a backboard during an exhibition game in Italy following his rookie season in the NBA in 1985. But floating below the surface this weekend was another release that may be even more intriguing. And, with a wider and more diverse buying audience.

Jerry Lorenzo, founder of high fashion meets streetwear brand Fear of God, released the second installment to his masterful collaboration with Vans. The heavily branded Era juxtaposing white and tan shades glows in understated bravado, much like Lorenzo does in a life far removed from that of a typical fashion designer’s existence. That grounded lifestyle, a life far from the trappings of fame and delusions of grandeur, are among the many reasons why Lorenzo has made a massive impact on sneaker culture this year.

Lorenzo founded his brand, Fear of God, in 2013. He has since released four collections, the last of which featured original sneaker designs. His musings have been synonymous with the pace of sneaker culture; what we’re wearing and how our sneakers coincide with those garments. Because now, what you’re wearing with your sneakers is just as important as the shoes themselves.

photo via JPMV

In the past three years, throughout the course of Jerry’s subtle overtaking, flannel shirts, bomber jackets, vintage tour tees and ripped jeans have arguably been the biggest wardrobe staples for the youthful consumer and the modern man alike. Lorenzo has been at the forefront of this movement, forecasting the viability of these pieces while simultaneously showing an entire culture how to style them with their favorite sneakers. He’s found a unique aesthetic space where kids want to dress like him and middle aged men find him grounded and relatable, making it easy for them to wear a cropped flannel shirt with Ultra Boost and not feel as if they’re chasing their youth. He’s also a self-taught designer. Another reason why he’s easy to rally behind.

Perception, too, is huge for the former retail worker whose dad played professional baseball and after managed both the White Sox and Mets in the late ’90’s and throughout the 2000’s. Lorenzo, though firmly cemented in his faith, family, and work, is seen as a global jet-setting superstar with the world securely within his grasp. All of which is entirely plausible. But what sets Lorenzo apart from others is being rooted in a foundation with substance. A foundation that helped shape his relationship with Kanye West, whom he currently works with as a part of West’s creative team. A foundation that afforded him the opportunity to design Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour merch – a wildly successful collection not only sold in arenas across the world but also at Barney’s New York. And, currently, a foundation that drives his sub-label produced in partnership with and available exclusively through Pac-Sun.

There is also the fact that all of his famous friends support him as much as the average consumer does. West is often seen in Fear of God when not wearing his own collection(s). Bieber, by all accounts, wears Lorenzo’s designs year round. The list of supporters extends to the likes of Kevin Hart, Russell Westbrook, Travis Scott, Scott Disick, and plenty others. Lorenzo is influencing from a very high vantage. In the case of West and Westbrook, they’re styling their own signature sneakers with his collection. Lorenzo is wielding power few in his field could even hope to grasp.

In recent times, propelled by the globalization of digital media and street style photography, Lorenzo has been widely seen and subsequently deemed one of the most stylish guys around. His sensibility is based largely in constant movement, proportion and comfort. In the past, he’s single-handedly taken adidas Y-3 runners from the discount racks into the spotlight. His denim designs with zipped leg closure have changed the way we style our sneakers, much like tailored sweats and joggers did in years past. His keen eye for layering and playing with proportions has completely shifted the fit and length of our clothes which, in turn, influences our sneaker choices. But maybe even more than than, his laid back yet bravado fueled style also plays towards the modern cozy coup, perfect for a sneaker culture heavily framed around running sneakers both vintage and contemporary.

image via GQ

Then there is Lorenzo’s Vans collaboration, which some are already mentioning among the best sneaker collaborations of the year. Both his Sk8-Hi and Era renderings sold out immediately. Now, they’re going for upwards of $800 on the secondary market. This, in and of itself, is an odd but very measured right of passage in the sneaker community: the ability to double if not triple retail value of a shoe with your name attached. Lorenzo has done that, and dished out a major assist to Vans in the process. This jolt of popularity will only see more cult fashion brands angling to work with Vans.

Lorenzo, by his very nature, is similar to Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders. Where those past legends were able to inflict their will in football and baseball, Lorenzo is doing so in a different arena where apparel and sneakers reign. Sure, he’s plugged in with Kanye West, Virgil Abloh, and several others, but there’s a reason for that. Like minded individuals typically share the same air. Lorenzo is breathing it in with the cultural legends of our time. Right where he belongs.

Lead image by Hypebeast

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