New York City is a fashion incubator. Though styles may vary from one neighborhood to the next, the world looks to the City at large for style innovation, especially when it comes to streetwear.
Trends start within the five boroughs because of the inspiration the city streets provide and the countless creatives who call NYC home. One such creative is streetwear trailblazer Jeff Staple, born Jeff Ng, the founder of the STAPLE clothing label, host of Hypebeast’s The Business of Hype podcast and a frequent lecturer and keynote speaker in the industry. Staple grew up exploring Manhattan and made waves in the arts community of the Lower East Side, where his Reed Space retail store stood for 15 years. His work draws inspiration from ’80s hip-hop culture, the gritty urbanism of NYC and, of course, the contentious winged New Yorkers living among us: pigeons.
Staple’s avid appreciation for New York City sidewalks has culminated in his latest footwear collaboration: the Sidewalk Luxe Classic Clog, designed by STAPLE in concert with Crocs, launching April 12. The limited-edition clog will feature Jibbitz™ (charms) that playfully highlight NYC street and sidewalk grit. Staple and Crocs will also be supporting New York City’s arts and cultural organization by donating to the NYC & Company Foundation nonprofit, which works to sustain the nonprofit arts community in the five boroughs through cultural tourism development, audience education and outreach projects.
Courtesy, Museum of Art and Design
We asked Staple about the origin of his pigeon emblem, his love for NYC arts and the ethos behind the upcoming Crocs collaboration.
Your brand STAPLE is representative of NYC street culture. How did the pigeon iconography originate, and how does it segue into the Sidewalk Luxe design and the other Jibbitz™?
Jeff Staple: The pigeon not only represents STAPLE as a brand but also serves as the unofficial mascot of New York City. This city is all about the day-in, day-out grind, where everyone is working hard to chase after their dreams and moving at a mile a minute to make it happen, no matter the obstacles. When I started STAPLE 25 years ago, the pigeon was the obvious choice as the best way to represent the culture of New York City. We’ve stuck with it ever since.
Lower East Side. Photo: Elizabeth Bick
For this collaboration, we drew inspiration from the streets and sidewalks of New York City. If you look down at the sidewalk, oftentimes it will be littered with pigeon poop—it’s how the birds mark their territory. We took that pattern and called it Sidewalk Luxe to play off the monograms that you will see with luxury fashion brands. It’s our Louis Vuitton “LV,” but STAPLE style. For the Jibbitz™, we turned NYC trash into wearable treasure. We created Jibbitz™ of a Greek coffee cup, a cockroach and even a matchbook like you would pick up from your old favorite diner. They’re all cool New York–centric things.
The smaller Jibbitz™ are fun, but the icing on the cake has to be the giant talons. We created massive pigeon talons that literally turn the wearer into the pigeon! They are the largest Jibbitz™ Crocs has ever made.
Courtesy, MoMA PS1
Your work here directly benefits the NYC & Company Foundation, which provides support for art institutions across the City. Why do you think it’s important to bolster New York City arts and culture right now? What are some museums, galleries or other art spaces that you find the most inspiring in NYC?
JS: New York City’s energy has made it the undisputed global epicenter for arts and culture. It’s important that organizations like NYC & Company formally organize and support the ability for us to showcase that energy to the entire world.
The Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo: Victor Llorente
You’re no stranger to collaborations. Where do you see this collaboration with Crocs fitting into your overall influence on New York City fashion?
JS: In the last few years, Crocs has emerged as a true player in New York City street fashion and sneaker culture. I’ve been working in and around this world for the better part of two decades, so it’s great to be able to collaborate with Crocs on a totally different type of product than we have ever done before. Our collaboration helps to redefine what is traditionally known as sneaker culture—in a way, this collection broadens the definition of what that is.
In past interviews, you’ve mentioned growing up in and exploring parts of Manhattan at a young age. Which neighborhood do you feel most connected to, and why?
JS: Definitely the Lower East Side. It has traditionally been a melting pot for creatives due to lower rents and slower commercialization. I’ve always been drawn to the LES. I lived there for many decades and had my first retail store there, Reed Space, for over 15 years. Even when I go there now, it still feels like a home. To me, it’s one of the last remaining areas of New York City that still feels like a neighborhood.
You not only design for NYC but your studio is also right in the heart of the City. How do your surroundings inform your creative process?
JS: New York City accounts for more than half of my creative energy. If it weren’t for the hustle and spirit of the City, I don’t know where I would be today.
Jeff Staple, the visionary designer behind streetwear label STAPLE, and leading casual footwear brand Crocs have teamed up to create the limited-edition Sidewalk Luxe Classic Clog, embodying the spirit of NYC street culture in its design. Following its release, an exclusive NFT will launch within the Stapleverse on April 15 at 11am ET. The cost of the NFT will be 0.1ETH ($325 USD) and, alongside the purchase, fans will receive a pair of the STAPLE X Crocs Sidewalk Luxe Classic Clogs. In connection with this partnership, Crocs will make a donation to the NYC & Company Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization whose cultural tourism development, audience education and outreach projects help sustain our city’s extraordinary nonprofit arts community, providing vital support to the arts and cultural organizations that contribute to the diversity of and dynamism of New York City.
Visit Crocs.com for more information.