20 May New Balance, Reebok, Nike footwear designer recognizes value of sneakerhead collecting
If there was a Sneaker Designers’ Hall of Fame, Steven Smith would have a spot.
Smith’s is an established name in Oregon shoe design, a community that includes 90 designers at Nike and at least double that number scattered around Portland at Adidas America, Columbia Sportswear, Danner boots, Keen footwear and elsewhere. One of his shoes has been displayed in the Design Museum in London as well as The Smithsonian. Some of his designs show up in the coffee table book, “Sneakers: The Complete Collector’s Guide.”
Twenty years ago, he made a name for himself designing the Reebok Insta Pump Fury, which remains a hit with bloggers and collectors because of its styling, carbon fiber midsole base and lack of shoelaces. After graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art, he took a design job with New Balance, before moving to Reebok, then Nike, followed by Adidas. On Monday, he began working as innovation director for Keen footwear.
Famous local shoe designer, Steve Smith, talks about passion for shoes Steve Smith is an established name in Oregon shoe design, a community that has 90 shoe designers at Nike and at least double that number scattered about town at Adidas America, Columbia Sportswear, Danner boots, Keen footwear and elsewhere. One of his shoes has been displayed in the Design Museum in London as well as The Smithsonian.
His home office is filled with bric-a-brac — military toys, sketchbooks (one of them signed by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman), gadgets, a one-of-a-kind shoe designed for his friend, Rick Nielsen, lean guitarist for the rock band Cheap Trick. Not in the house: shoes he designed for Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
And the office has boxes of shoes. Boxes and boxes of shoes. He’s sold some of them on eBay. A buyer in The Netherlands recently paid $900 for a pair of New Balance Tracksters from 1967.
“It’s sick, isn’t it? For sneakers,” Smith said, though he acknowledges those kinds of prices help fund some his hobbies.
“It makes you feel good, and its an accessible collectible if you can get it in the $100 to $200 range,” Smith said. “It’s almost like art for a lot of people.”