A tiny love letter to “sneaker culture”

It would be hard to explain exactly when I started loving sneakers. My family used to joke on me all through high school that I only liked guys who wore black chucks and had glasses since I was 5 years old. But really, it was always a love of art. It is always so hard to explain where you come from.

With the passing of Virgil, it did make me reflect on why I love one area of art that is often just referred to as “sneaker culture”. It is so much bigger than that. The overlap of pop culture, sneaker design, Japanese artistry spanning dimensions and decades, street art, sports, community, food, animation, innovation, gaming, graphic design, stickers, fonts, spray paint, music, robots, high and low fashion…how deep is the ocean?

And… it’s a complicated love, like all good loves. Certainly not without flaws.

I have always been into art and almost all of my friends are all artists of various sorts. Whether it’s music, poetry, writing, fine art — the whole spectrum is represented. Sneaker culture is, at it’s soul, a celebration of art. And it IS specific in many ways, but it’s a celebration of art nonetheless — and there just aren’t many of those at this scale, this mainstream, this alive, and this global — that is accessible to everyone.

And that is my point. My small celebration of Virgil. He really represented every single level of art and accessibility. He connected worlds that used to have very wide gaps between them, and honestly, mostly still do. But he scaled them all up and down and sideways.

When I was younger, I slept on a mattress on the floor for YEARS- poor to the core (ages 15–23). But we all (my friends) really didn’t care. We worked our butts off, made tons of art, read a lot, went to college, listened to music, cooked for each other, and laughed our asses off — we had an actual community. Like, IRL lol. I was 22 when my friend Poppy starting talking about HIGHEND culture and fashion and trying to peek in to those crazy expensive stores in SF. Walking through Chinatown, I confided in her that wanted to have enough money to own a real Louis Vuitton bag someday, one day. Major, seemingly impossible, goal. It was like a secret dream I had. We hunted for and finally found used, fake LV bags at salvation army. We destroyed them to make them into art to both inspire and as a funny commentary on the process of money. One still hangs in my office.

Well, Virgil was kinda everybody. Every person that wants to be part of a larger creative moment. An artist that made it over the line to mainstream… and REAL mainstream. LVMH gave him an office. IN PARIS. Thank god for him. So glad we were alive at the same time. What an inspiration. And honestly, how relateable. We have all had terible bosses at one point or another, so even seeing that he came from that public conflict and STILL up he climbed. What a human.

Major thanks and props to Complex for existing and celebrating this community that is global and literally in every part of the world. It’s super fun.

I bought my first, real Louis bag a few year ago. And then the wallet. And.. and.. and.. who knows. Maybe eventually I will frame the real one too.

Anyway… like I said, just a tiny, little love note for “sneaker culture”.




Global SVP, Client Innovation @Jam3. Trusted advisor to brands for innovation & strategy.

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Lori DeBortoli

Lori DeBortoli

Global SVP, Client Innovation @Jam3. Trusted advisor to brands for innovation & strategy.

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