Shooting the Shit With Bobbito García
The New York City icon talks his new sneaker collab with Piola, basketball, and supporting local artists
I never actually knew Bobbito García personally until around ‘90, when my ex said she was seeing him and that he told her he knew of me from playing ball in the parks. I was mired in a pathetic mourning period at the end of that relationship, but was oddly buoyed that Bobbito knew who I was. When I finally did meet him soon after (the specifics of which are lost in my jumbled memories of that time), I knew I could never hate on him. He always was and always will be two steps ahead of me.
Bobbito came up in a seminal period around numerous legendary graf writers and artists. While maintaining friendships and allies, he stuck to drawing for himself and pursuing his passions for basketball and music. These two things also dominated my life in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Working in clubs led me to meet DJs, musicians, and record industry heads while leaving my days free to hit the park and work on my game. Of course, being into rap and sports, I was into kicks. I can claim to have been asked by Bobbito, “Where’d you get those?” long before the book came out.
Music, movies, books, basketball, sneakers: Bobbito is well-versed an accomplished in a variety of fields. And he is still that dude. Of course, when it came time to link up, I made the trip uptown to Martin Luther King Playground. After a long game of 21 and some photos with fans in the park, we found a lone hoop and shot around while shooting the shit.
Mass Appeal: You had to remind me that in your book, Where’d You Get Those? (which I did read cover to cover when I got my personalized signed copy back in ’03), that you’ve been drawing for 30 years. Do you have a stash of all your old sketches that you pull out to reminisce on and even critique?
Bobbito: I wish! My book was so time consuming that after it came out in 2003, I couldn’t look at it for some years. It was a helpful resource in designing the Bobbito for Piola “Por Fin” model, as my goal with the brand was to create a classic, but original, ’70s-styled silhouette, applying their premium manufacturing to the process.
For the Piola line, how many sketches did you submit before the final designs? How many styles and colorways will there be?
I might’ve sketched 15–20 model concepts. Piola didn’t like all of them at first! It was important that what I designed was in line with what their brand already represents, which is premium shoes inspired by sneakers. The “Por Fin” was a combination of my foundation with their tailoring/finishing.
We’ll have white, navy, and green in the first Spring 2016 collection. More to come in fall.
You’ve done collabs with major brands, and I’m sure you will again, but how did the guys at Piola convince you to get down with them?
Piola didn’t have to convince me at all. When they approached me, I did my research on them, and was amazed. They have an economic development program for independent Peruvian farmers. The brand’s ethos is being transparent, earth friendly, and creative. They’re young and not well-known, least not yet. And they gave me the opportunity I had dreamed of my whole life, which was to design my own model from scratch. Considering all that, they didn’t need to twist my arm much to combine forces [Laughs].
How did growing up in the ’60s and ’70s Uptown influence you creatively and as a man?
Readers, buy my book Where’d You Get Those? New York City’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987 (Testify), I can’t explain any better than what I wrote in those pages.
Did/do you have any mentors or people that inspire you?
Constantly, but ultimately I listen to my own voice, purvey what’s missing, and try to fill voids. That’s always my strategy.
For the Stretch & Bobbito movie, it was an inspired choices to show José Parlá, LEE, and Haze painting live. You go back with all of them, but I know you’re especially tight with Jose and he’s a true B-boy from back in the day so it does seem like a perfect fit. What do you feel it added to the film and where is the piece he made?
José said he wasn’t going to sell the piece he painted for our film. It’s in his personal collection! What Parla added was abstractness. Every other artist in our film painted the lyrics in literal fashion. José just took it somewhere else, true to his art form.
Who’s in your art collection?
I have some José Parlá paintings, one from LEE, and a couple from Coco 144 and Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo. I am by no means a collector. I just support real friends of mine who happen to be INCREDIBLE on the canvas.
Having a young child, do you worry that there is not enough arts education in schools?
We’ll be home schooling him.
Best thing and worst thing about the new New York?
Best: Summer. Worst: Winter.
Best thing and worst thing about the old New York?
Best: Flavor oozing everywhere. Worst: Getting robbed.
General worldview: Optimistic or are we fucked?
Optimistic. We are constantly evolving and progressing, even with all the set backs and dummies we’re surrounded by.
Do you have a personal mantra or ethos?
Live life to fullest, no regrets, out work everyone. Have fun.
You’re always putting something together any hints at what projects we can anticipate from you?
Next film will be an autobiographical documentary. It will take a while to finish. Also do a summer basketball tournament in four continents: FullCourt21nyc.com. Full info on all I’m up to at KoolBobLove.com. Honestly, I forget most of the stuff I’m up to, so much going on [Laughs].