A cultural revolution began in England at the start of the millennium. Garage was past its zenith and a new movement was making its way to the forefront. The clubs were filled with energy that slowly started manifesting into raves. Expensive outfits became less important in the long nights in clubs and they were soon replaced by comfortable sneakers and baggy trousers. And that’s how grime, sometimes referred to as punk 2.0, was born.
From the corner to the center of attention
If you wanted to timestamp grime’s beginning, it would be the 21st of July 2003, which is when Dizzee Rascal released his debut album, Boy in da Corner. Apart from pioneering a genre of music, the album relays another message – through its legendary cover.
The tricolored cover art perfectly describes the first four words Dizzee said on the record more than 20 years ago: I’m just sitting here. The apathy that emanates from the track is in some ways identical to the record’s cover. While the image of US rappers was based on designer outfits worn in luxurious clubs, the boy in the corner chose a tracksuit, hoodie and a pair of Nike Air Max BW’s instead. And this became London’s unofficial uniform.
What better to personify London’s streets then everyday clothing. Grime reflected the daily life of London’s lower middle and lower social classes. The negative bias towards high fashion is confirmed in the track That’s Not Me by JME and another pioneer of grime, Skepta:
Yeah, I used to wear Gucci. I put it all in the bin cause that’s not me.Skepta
The fact that today, Skepta is taking his Gucci back out of the bin is a different story. But still, grime is evolving and to limit it to tracksuits and hoodies would be a mistake.
The Air Max monopoly
The sneaker game of grime MC’s is often diverse, but one pair that is very well represented would be the Nike Air Max. During the first decade of the millennium, the 90’s OG models were a big favourite. Some of them even have their own slang names. For example, the grime community refers to the Air Max 95’sstrictly as “110’s” – a reference to their price in pounds. It was AJ Tracey that said the words “Air Max is grime”, ending any discussion about the topic.
Air Max is grime.AJ TRACEY
Grime signature models
The list of signature grime models, based on global brand’s collaborations with grime MC’s, is dominated by Skepta, who has had four collaborations with Nike, creating variations of the 97, 97/BW, Deluxe and Shox TL silhouettes.
But Skepta wasn’t the first. When Dizzee Rascal was releasing his fourth album, Tongue and Cheek, in 2009, he and his court artist Ben Drury prepared a special colorway of the Nike Air Max 90. If you have money to spare, the colorway costs about 4000 dollars. At first glance, the sneaker might seem inconspicuous, but it’s the details that make it such a gem.
I personally really enjoy the logo of Dizzee’s label, Dirtee Stank Records, which is on the sneaker’s sole. Dizzee himself feels the same way about it:“I love the logo graphic on the bottom. The big fly makes it official. No one really sees the bottom but it’s one of them little touches that a sneaker pimp would like.”
Grime sneakers at Footshop
Grime is proof that fashion and trends start at the bottom. If you’ve finished reading, it’s time to take a listen, too. And while you’re listening, check out some of our other articles – for example the one about space technologies in adidas sneakers or about Asics’ 2019 boom.