Kicks & Cuts: Patrice Alexander

It is no secret that most sneakerheads like to look good from head to toe, so it should be no surprise that you see most sneakerheads with a fresh haircut to match their fresh kicks. For as long as I can remember the barbershop has been a place where you could see some of the best sneakers around, even at the risk of getting hair all over them. Most people would not admit it, but if you can get a reaction at a barbershop with your sneakers you have really made it as a sneakerhead. With the vast amount of types of customers that most barbers have, it is safe to say that they have pretty much seen it all at one time or another.

Let me introduce you to Patrice Alexander who is a 22 year veteran in the barbering and male grooming profession. He is currently providing his male grooming services at The Forum Baber Parlour in Toronto, Ontario. Yes…I said grooming…you can get more then just a haircut from this establishment, this is NOT your average barber parlour at all!

I can personally tell you that when it came to sneakers Patrice set a new standard in our neighbourhood because he always was seen with a different sneaker on all the time. If it was a sneaker that you had seen, he had it in a colorway that NO ONE had ever seen (this was before the bootlegging of sneakers took off). Most conversations that you would have with him would begin just like this…”Hey Patrice, what’s going on?…Ummm where did you get those kicks…?!?!?” Whether it was Nike, Adidas, Fila etc. Patrice always came correct when it came to showcasing his sneakers. So, it was a no brainer to sit down and have a chat with him to find out what he thought and felt about sneaker culture and the direction that it is going now.


When do you think you became a sneakerhead?

I think that I’ve been a sneakerhead since around grade 1. I was 6 years old and I owe a lot of it to my sister. My sister was highly up on fashion from an early age. So when everyone had Sparks or Winners, at least we had our Converse. You know when we used to take trips to Buffalo, Converse were the minimum. We used to take trips down to places like Detroit and buy Converse from there with all the crazy colors at a minimum.

Which Converse?

Ummm…the Converse All Stars…the high tops. My sister had the Converse Weapons. So, she was in grade 7, she used to go to J B Tyrrell and someone stole them out of her locker…my dad LOST his mind! That was in 1984.

So you have been a sneakerhead since 1984 then!

Yeah…she had the Converse Weapons and I had a pair of kids Converse that were a type of canvas joint. It was white and baby blue and I paid about $12 for them.

What was the first big shoe that you had?

The first big shoe…? (starts to think)

Think of the shoe that made you say to yourself “yeah I’m here!”

Oh wow, that’s a good question. I would probably say that it was in grade 7 and that was about…1989. Sorry this is how I keep track of the years, through the grades that I was in during school. It was in 1989, when the British Knights first came out. Yeah I would have to say it was the BKs.

I remember we went down to Atlanta and I got the black and white snake skins. But, the thing was with my pair I always paid attention to detail from a young age. On the side of the BK the majority of the people had a straight line just above the sole of the BK…mine actually had a ripple, a short ripple at the side of the BK. From then on I knew I kind of had an eye for choosing shoes different from everybody else.

That was grade 7, in grade 8 we down to Atlanta, Georgia again with the family because every year we would have one big family trip. We used to go to Miami (Florida) every October for Carnival. I remember we drove down and this was around 1990, we had to pass through Atlanta, Georgia. We had to stop there and I was able to get a pair of Fila Tertat 600, low-cut leather. And I remember coming back to school and everyone was asking me “what are you doing wearing tennis shoes?” That following year everyone had the high-top suede Filas…EVERYONE had the high-top suede Filas!

So, that’s when I kind of got grounded in the shoe movement.

“Nike Air is a staple and I feel that it is blasphemy that any one of these (Air) Jordans has a Jumpman on the back it looks terrible…it looks like S#$%!
I’m offended by this!”

What was the first shoe that you bought yourself with your own money?

(repeats the question to himself) The first shoe I bought myself with my own money…hmmmm…that’s a really good question! I think it was the Filas…I’m pretty sure that it was those shoes because I was working from I was 12 years old and I got a very harsh lesson when the (Air) Jordan IVs came out in 1989. We went to Atlanta and the (Air) Jordan IVs were there for $74.99 and my dad said that “there was no way in hell he was going to spend $74.99 on you when my shoes don’t even cost that much!”

So, I came home and got myself a paper route and was making about $75 a month. Then when we went back down I got those Filas with my own money. It’s funny because I had the bill and the same bag that I bought it in up until last year, but I threw them out. I paid $59.99 for those sneakers.

What is your favourite shoe of all time?

Uhhh…are we talking ball (basketball) shoe, trainer…?

Alright how about you give me your top 5 shoes of all time? It doesn’t matter what brand, what time, what sport, what style…

I had the Nike Air Carnivore in grade 11, in black and purple…it is an amazing shoe! It came up high on the ankle with the ankle strap. I went to catholic school, so you could actually let your pants fall into the ankle strap. It almost wore like a boot. That’s one…

Two was the Nike Air Zoom Flight ‘95 High. I think Alonzo Mourning was the only one to wear them.

 

Were those the ones with the bubbles on them?

Yeah, I think Jason Kidd was wearing them as well. He had them in a black, white and grey.

And (Damon) Stoudamire wore the low cut ones as well!

Yes he did…Uhhh…the (Nike Air) Huaraches Michigan wore…Jalen Rose and those guys broke them out. They were white with a blue colour on it…you know what? ANY Huarache for that matter…any
of them I like!

Just the whole (Nike Air) Huarache line?

Yeah man I’m big Huarache fan, I liked them all! Um, a big toss up between the (Air) Jordan IIIs and the (Air) Jordan IVs. The (Air) Jordan IV in black always struck a nerve with me because the “Nike Air” on the back of the shoe was just so big. That always struck nerve with me and the (Air) Jordan III whether it be in black, cement, the red, the blue…well it didn’t really matter I just liked that shoe.

As for the fifth shoe…I can say that it would have to be between 4 to 5 Andre Agassi’s.

You mean the Nike Air Tech Challenges?

Yeah, the Air Tech Challenge, Air Challenge, the Air Flare… actually had 2 pairs of the Air Flares. I had the Air Challenge LWT in black and copper. That one strikes a big nerve with me because I can remember my dad under the car with my shoes on scrapping the hell out of them.

“There isn’t anyone that can come through here and blow my mind shoe wise… I grew up in such a deep shoe culture”

I see you spoke about the Jordans, would you say that you are a Nike Air man or do you prefer the Jumpman on the back of the shoe?

Nike Air all the way! I actually have 2 Jordans right now; one is the Jordan III in white and mocha that I kind of bought just to kick around in and for collecting purposes. I also have the Jordan IV in blue and grey with the Jumpman on the back of them. I kind of just bought them to walk around in.

Nike Air is a staple and I feel that it is blasphemy that any one of these (Air) Jordans has a Jumpman on the back it looks terrible…it looks like S#$%! I’m offended by this!

So being a barber, which shoe or which person has come through here that has made you stop what you were doing to give respect to that person or shoe?

You know what…there isn’t anyone that can come through here and blow my mind shoe wise…I grew up in such a deep shoe culture…all the guys around me, all the guys I grew up with, all the guys I work with, all the stuff I’ve seen online and on TV…I have pretty much seen everything.

That’s why now I’m pretty much like a grandfather of sneakers. (laughs) Even you laugh at me when I come to work in what you call old man boots. You called my boots the other day that I came to work in the “Dodge Caravan” of shoes and I was trying to be fashionable…(laughs) I really haven’t seen anything that has truly blown my mind you know.

Actually, you know what…I did see a kid that came into the shop last year with a pair of Nike Air Mowabbs. Yeah, they were grey, rose and a yellowish orange. The only other place that I saw those shoes was in New York at the Kings Plaza in 1994 and my mom told me I couldn’t get them because I had already bought 4 pairs of shoes.
That hurt me…it upset me…

Who would you consider within your circle to be a big time sneakerhead? Whether it be a fellow barber, just a close friend of yours or people you just know.

Umm, I would say a close friend of mine Craig Mannix we call him “Big C”. He has a really nice “Shoeseum”. The thing that I really respect about Craig is that he is a size 15, so Craig has to search for his shoes. He can’t go into a store and get a pair of shoes off of the shelf like you. He kind of has to look around the world for sneakers per say.

I would also say for sneakers, my good buddy Kimani Lewis I call him “Books”. Books is the one that coined the phrase “Shoeseum” about 15 years ago. He used to work at Nike Canada, the employee store and back then it was almost impossible to be able to get into that store. Today, anyone can pretty much get into that store, but back then it was a really big deal. He has at least 15 pairs of dead stock (Air) Jordans on ice…at least 15 pairs. I think he still has at least over 100 pairs of shoes and he stopped collecting around 10 years ago.

And his sneakers are still relevant?

Yeah, he said that he is keeping them for his kids. They are 14 and 9 right now, so he wants to pass it onto them.

So, yeah those are 2 guys that I know have very extensive shoe collections.

As a barber, when you know you are going to be standing up for a long time, do you go for fashion or do you go for comfort?

Oh man, it is comfort all the way man. I stop doing that fashion thing a long time ago. You have been coming to me for a long time and I don’t think there has been a time where you have seen me cutting in a pair of shoes where you would say “OH MY GOD PATRICE LOOK AT THOSE SHOES!” I’m past that because when I was working at the barbershop at a young age, 15 years ago…everywhere I went I wanted to get that “Wow Factor” from everyone you know? I was that guy who said they had to have a different pair of shoes every week. But, now it’s all about comfort man.

What shoe does the “comfort thing” for you?

I can wear any flat shoes, but I’m a big fan of (Converse) Chuck Taylors because it has a very thin insole and I actually wear my orthotics inside my shoes. It really helps with my back because you know I work like 12 to 13 hours on my feet per day. I also have my stress mat to help out. So, the Chuck Taylors or anything really flat is what I prefer.

“Even as a kid you wanted to be exclusive and just have something that no one else had yet or at all.”

What is your brand of choice when it comes to sneakers?

This is funny because the older you get things tend to change. For sports it’s always Nike, but now for things like leisure or just walking I go with Adidas. I’m a big fan of the shell toes (Adidas Superstar). I must have an all white pair of shell toes in the camp at all times. It’s a timeless shoe and will always be around forever.
I had an uncle…well he wasn’t my real uncle he was actually my dad’s good friend and we used to go to his house a few times a week and he used to always have a pair of Stan Smith’s Adidas. He told my dad that he always had to have a pair of these shoes. He would buy them every September because he was a school teacher…it was the white ones with the green accents on them. He would have those sneakers every September for back to school time and I would laugh at him. Now, I find myself getting older I’m doing the same thing as him…

Is there any sneaker that you feel that you missed out on?

Oh my gosh…the Nike Air Mowabb. It was the mouse grey with the rose orange and yellow on them. The (Air) Jordan IVs in black, the (Air) Jordan VI in white and maroon…that was also a very heavy Jordan. I wouldn’t mind playing in the (Air) JordanVIIIs…all black.

You actually play in (Air) Jordans?

Yeah! Absolutely! I wouldn’t mind playing in those at all.

So, if each barbershop was a team which brand would you want to sponsor you?

(pauses and laughs) It would have to be Nike man. I would actually like to get with Nike in some sort of collaboration to come up with some sort of barber shoe. When this gets out to Nike through Sole Theory I would like to them know that I would like to work with them on a project! *HINT*

What would a barber shoe incorporate?

It would have a lot of comfort. I wouldn’t be going for a real sport look because I see it being for more casual and comfort. There was a brown leather (Nike) ACG (All Condition Gear), people used to call it an old man’s shoe, but I looked at it more like a walking shoe to me. It was very comfortable and if I had a shoe I would want to incorporate something like that in it. You know us barbers always have something to do after work or on the weekends, so it would be nice to have something that you can just brush off and then head out, but still stylish and fashionable at the same time. That’s the kind of sneaker I would like to work on.

Is there any sneaker that you have that you will not wear to the shop for the risk of getting hair all over it?

You won’t really catch me wearing (Air) Jordans to work. I think I’ve only worn them to the shop maybe once or twice and it was on a Monday or Tuesday when I knew that it wasn’t going to be busy. It is usually when someone would want a line up or a shave nothing too serious and it would be in the summer. Yeah…(thinking)…just the (Air) Jordans.

What on a sneaker appeals to you? Is there anything on a sneaker that makes you feel you have to have it?

We always used to have this term amongst us before people used it to talk about getting girls. People say things like “you chopped a girl” or “you chopped a beef”. We used to talk about “chopping a shoe”. It was our way of breaking down the shoe.

For example, when you looked at a shoe you wanted to know things like how were your jeans going to look when you were wearing the shoe? If I’m rocking (wearing) black socks how are they going to look? How far up on the ankle is the sneaker going? So when you break down the shoe you will just know if it is for you or not. There’s no doubt in your mind, you see it and you know. You will pick the shoe up and ask the guy at the store for a size 10…that’s it…done!

The colorway of the sneaker doesn’t matter to you?

Well, the thing was when we used to travel to the (United) States a lot and most of the shoes that they had down there we already had in Toronto. It was very rare when you would find a shoe that they didn’t have here…it was the colorways they had in the States is what made it so great to go down there. So when you would come back to Canada with a shoe in a colorway that none of your friends had seen you would get a huge reaction. It was the “Wow Factor” that you wanted to get from people. Even as a kid you wanted to be exclusive and just have something that no one else had yet or at all. It’s funny because like around 4 or 5 years ago I went to go play ball (basketball) over at a church close to Morningside and Sheppard (Toronto, Ontario) with my boy Mike. We got changed and started to shoot around, but in the background I could hear people whispering. At one point my ball bounced over to the other side where people were playing and when I went to pick my ball someone said to me “Hey, you’re that guy with all the shoes right? You used to play down at the Paradise Courts by Port Union and Sheppard!” Then my boy Mike was like “everywhere we go somebody knows about your shoes!”

That being said, what is the most you are willing to pay for a pair of sneakers? Are you a person that will pay the retail price for a pair of shoes, like $200 plus for the new pair of Air Jordans or are you a person that will be looking for that deal all the time?

I always like to get more bang for my buck, you can always find that quality shoe for that really good price. My rule of thumb was to try and not go over $100. I mean there are a couple shoes that you are going to have to drop some coin on, but I can honestly say that I had a crazy collection of shoes and at my height I had over 114 pairs of quality shoes. I got rid of a lot of my shoes around 4 or 5 years ago and sent them back to the West Indies. Some of them went back home to Trinidad I also gave some to some friends that brought some of my shoes to Jamaica for their families. But, I always try to get my shoes for under $100 always. I’ve found some gems for $49.99 and people lose their mind when they see them. My Nike Air Carnivores I paid $40 for them, I got a pair of Nike Air Zoom Highs for $49.99 and the thing is I am a numbers guy, that number always stuck in my head. I could go through every single one of my shoes and remember how much I paid for all it, where I got it, the year I got it and what store I got it from.

I remember when the Nike Air Max 95 first came out in the grey and yellow, I didn’t want to pay the full price they were being sold for. So, what I did was wear a pair of shoes a couple of times and when I got tired of them I would put them on the stove and have the heat pop the air bubble. Then I would call Nike to tell them that the shoe is garbage and the air bubble popped. They would say “no problem” and you would ship them the shoes and they would ship me back a pair of shoes in a couple of weeks. If they sent me back a pair of sneakers that I didn’t like I would bring them to a store in Fairview Mall (Toronto, Ontario) called Forzani’s (Locker). Back then, what you could do is take the brand new shoe that Nike sent to you and tell them that the shoes were a gift from your grandmother and you really didn’t like them. So, they would in turn would say “no problem” and give you a store credit for the value of the shoe that Nike had sent you. I remember that Nike sent me 2 pairs of shoes back that I didn’t like, I brought them both to Forzani’s and got the Nike Air Max 95s in grey and mustard as well as the 1995 Nike Air Penny’s.


So there you have it coming from a true sneakerhead. As you can see from all the areas Patrice covered he is not new to the sneaker game at all. I’m sure he could have gone on and on with more stories and various experiences he has had based on sneakers, but if would be better for you to experience them in person sitting in the barber’s chair.

If you are ever looking to get a great grooming experience take the time and contact Patrice at:

The Forum Barber Parlour
5519 Yonge Street, Suite #301
Toronto,Ontario
M2M 4H9
Phone: 416-569-2394
Twitter: @PatroneousForum
Website: www.theforumbarpar.com

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Sole Theory is a sneaker lifestyle guide that explores the social impact of the sneaker culture. Users can expect to gain insight on recent trends, historic brands and signature styles that have heavily influenced the shoe industry. Content will be driven by articles, interviews and reviews that will uncover interesting facts and stories that have rarely been told.