Joel Stoddart from London | Grailify
Joel Stoddart from London

Joel Stoddart from London

At 22 years of age, Joel Stoddart is something of a sneaker success story. After working his way up the workshop, he now works on marketing materials for some of the biggest brands in the industry. We sat down with Joel to talk about how he turned his childhood passion into his profession.

Hello Joel! For those of us who don't know you yet, please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm Joel Stoddart, born and raised in East London, I haven't gone anywhere since - hold on tight, E17! I'm just a guy who loves food, sneakers and generally anything nice. For the past three years I've been working at U-DOX, a creative agency. It's been an interesting experience so far, I've learned a lot and seen things from different perspectives that I was blind to before. Having worked in retail before, I was once on the other side of marketing - being marketed to - and now I'm the one behind it, which is a bit weird to be honest because I'm still out there buying products. I guess I'm kind of on both sides now.
Everyone seems to have an anecdote about the moment their sneaker obsession started - tell us yours.

Well, when I was a kid, around 7 or 8, I started watching stuff other than Dragonball-Z, like MTV Base. Of course I liked the music, but I always paid attention to what people were wearing - I was always interested in other aspects of the music, not just the song. So I was heavily influenced by how these rappers dressed, and for a while I wanted to wear the sneakers I saw these guys wearing and wanted to wear. But when I got a little older and got into high school, I started wearing sneakers that other kids didn't wear, because if you came in with the same pair as someone else, you got ripped! Back then it was all about competing with the others in the class. Then I tried to get pairs that no one else could find. I started leaving Footlocker and JD and browsing Carnaby Street and Newburgh Street, where I stumbled into No.6 - the old adidas concept store - and met Paolo [Caletti - former store manager] for the first time.

You mentioned that you used to work in retail. How did you go from working in the shop to working behind the scenes on marketing materials for U-DOX?
After I discovered No.6, I went there maybe three times a year: for my birthday, Christmas and when I had money saved up in between. I built up a relationship with Paolo because every time I went in I chatted with him. He'd say, "Hey man, you're so young, how do you know about these things?" A few years later I was working at Tiger [the Danish general shop] selling plates and pens and stuff, and I would take my earnings and spend it in No.6 during my lunch breaks. One day I must have said something to him that got through, because about a month later he called me and said, "I was wondering if you wanted to work at No.6?" And I said, "Yeah man, one hundred percent!" So I resigned and did my two weeks. Just before I started, I went to Portugal on holiday, and the whole week all I could think about was coming home and working at No.6!

U-DOX did all the creative designs for the Consortium releases back then, so every time a shoe came out they would come and do the vinyls for the window and the displays in the shops. That's how I met Matt [Tarr] and Chris, and they saw that I was into the products, and from then on we talked about everything. About two years later, Niranjela [Karunatilake] joined us and she was putting together the second Sneakers book, but the team was quite small at the time and a lot of them weren't really interested in shoes, which they really needed for the book. So she asked me to come in as an intern first, and I said, "Yeah, sure!" After doing that for three months, I went back to No.6 and after a while Niranjela called me and asked for more sneakers for the book. When I came in to drop them off, Russell [Williamson] spoke to me and offered me a job. After that, all I had to do was call Paolo and tell him that Russell had just poached me. He noticed as soon as I called him and freaked out in Italian! I was sad to leave No.6, but I had to move on - you can only stay on a part-time salary for so long.

What has been your most exciting moment in your professional career so far?
Definitely visiting the adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach. I went out the night before and we had booked a taxi for 3am, so I hardly slept. I was so wired that I couldn't sleep anyway! I was so tired but I had a smile on my face the whole time I was there. I walked around the offices, met some of the designers, saw samples ... I was just thrilled! People said I looked like a toddler in a sweet shop, and I said, "I am!" When I was there, I got a sample of my favourite collaboration of all time: the BAPE Super Ape Star from 2003 in an unreleased colourway. This collaboration set the bar very high: The packaging was very appealing, the story behind the shoe made sense, and there was mutual interest from both sides. Anyway, I was talking to Jeff Metal - the graphic designer for the Originals and Statement collections - and he said, "Look through the trainer stack behind me." And in between all that, I saw an embossed monkey head. I pulled it out and thought, "Oh shit, this pair isn't even on the market yet!" When he handed them to me, I had to stand there for five minutes and keep asking him if he was sure! I just walked through Herzo with that one shoe and everyone looked at me.
In the sneaker community, U-DOX is perhaps best known for the two encyclopaedic books you've published. That must have been a huge undertaking - can you give us an insight into the process behind it?

The first book came out in 2005 - I can only imagine how hard it was to get all those shoes together back then without social media helping to source them. As I said, I was recruited to help put together the second book and track down specific shoes we needed. Every day I would scour the Crooked Tongues "Today I'm Wearing" section looking for someone who had a particular pair, ask if I could borrow them, and then arrange couriers to pick them up and bring them here for the shoot. Phil [Aylen], our photographer, literally slept in his studio for months while we shot all these trainers that came in! The brands were also very helpful. We called them and they sent us loads of old samples; Reebok was very helpful and Vans too - they sent us loads of Syndicate stuff. And Mubi [Ali] - how could I forget - he gave us access to a lot of his stuff. Most of the pairs in this book are actually from him! In the end, we actually had too many shoes for the book and had to cut it down to 256 pages in total. Then we sat around a desk and argued about which shoes to leave out - it got heated! Then it was on to copywriting and researching for each model to find out the names of the colour variations, years of release and locations - so there was a lot to do.

Next came the app, and that was even more work. We took 360s, which is 51 individual photos, for 537 shoes and then detailed photos too. Phil never wanted to see shoes again!

How would you say working behind the scenes has shaped or changed your personal taste?
I don't think it has changed - I still wear exactly the same sneakers and clothes as before - but I have become more selective about what I buy, which is good for my bank account! If anything, it has given me a greater appreciation for some of the things I already liked. For example, I saw what went into the 35th anniversary adidas Superstar campaign that Chris Law and Chris Aylen worked on, with the DVDs, the flipbooks and the sale items. Last year we worked on part of the 45th anniversary campaign and that was big, but nowhere near as big as the one before it. When you see people sweating and crying over these ads and posters, you realise all that went into it. It makes me see some of the shoes I own in a different light and it adds another memory to them.

London is often described as a melting pot of cultures - do you think that also applies to the sneaker culture here?
Yes, that's why I love London so much, because of the diversity of people and cultures. I mean, when I was growing up, a lot of kids my age were inspired by the US, and even the older guys wore super wide jeans and 4XL t-shirts. Akademiks, Avirex, all that shit! But gradually that faded and we went back to the sporty look: the slightly slimmer track trousers, the Nike windbreakers ... New Era caps were still in for a while. Jordans were never really hip in my area, there were only Air Maxes - 90s, 95s - although I never saw people wearing Air Max 1s, which is crazy. Air Force Ones too. The only adidas people wore were Stan Smiths, and only the blacked-out ones.

So even though Londoners come from many different cultures, there is still a unique look that belongs to London?
Yes, although I wouldn't say it's unique to London anymore. With the rise of grime and Skepta being in the spotlight so much, that look has found its way to other countries. In Japan now there are guys dressing like street workers, it's kind of funny! But I would say that was, and still is, our look. But back then it wasn't very popular, it was frowned upon to look like that, you know? The sweatpants, the black look ... that wasn't style, that was a uniform. I got nasty looks and was followed by security when I went into shops. I said, "I'm not going to steal anything!" Now it's crazy to see a once frowned upon style entering the fashion world. It's crazy to see high-end brands picking it up and turning it into 600-pound jackets and track trousers.

Preferred brand?
Honestly, it's hard for me to say. I grew up with Nike and for years I only wore the 90s and 95s, but adidas has been around for years now too. My first pair of adidas were these disgusting Stan Smiths from the "End-to-End" project. They were white and covered in graffiti, oh my god they were bad! I think it's a 50/50 split between the two because I have a lot of memories of adidas before I even worked for them, but Nike was just the staple in my childhood.

What is the biggest thing for you in the world of shoes right now?
In terms of one project: adidas Futurecraft. This 3D-printed sole and the customised fibres are fantastic. The etched leather Superstar was also good. The Parley for the Oceans project is cool; I always like to see new technologies and reused materials look good on a shoe.

What are your favourite shoes to wear at the moment?
The adidas Ultra Boosts because they are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes ever. I also run with the Energy Boost. Sock Darts because I love that shoe and it's also very comfortable. It also has a bit of the Presto, which is also one of my favourites. A lot of the adidas Equipment line - I love them all. Everything still looks modern today, and considering it was made in the early 90s, that's a good sign. I also really like the SPEZIAL line; I love passion projects because they always shine through. The little details that go into the shoes - right down to the insole, the little details on the tongue tab - everything is perfect.

Greatest bargain? Rarest find? Top five pairs you own?
Well, I can answer the first two questions with one: I went to Paul's Boutique in Berlin and this shop is just insane. Before you go in, you expect it to be neat and tidy, but it's the complete opposite; they have floor to ceiling drawer shelves and it's just crammed with sneakers, no matter which ones or how rare they are. I don't even know how it's possible to get them in there! I rummaged there for three hours and just sat on the floor surrounded by shoes. As I was about to leave, I spotted this golden shamrock and thought, "No, that can't be the shoe." I went over and got it out and it was the 2000 Kegler Super in ostrich leather, made to commemorate Adi Dassler's 100th birthday. Only 100 pairs were made, all individually numbered and with an etched 24-carat gold bar on the side. I think there were only 20 pairs available for purchase, so I have no idea how they got here. The best part was when I looked at the price tag and saw they were only 44€ - considering they retail for £600, that's quite easily my biggest bargain.

The top five pairs I own are: Hideout Footscapes in grey, canvas Air Force Ones from 2001, the No.6/No.74 Stan Smith Vintage made for the opening of No.74 in 2008, neon Air Max 95s, and then the ZX 500 in general. I don't like buying the same shoes over and over again, but I have about 15 pairs of them.

If you could bring one shoe back to the market today in its original form, which would it be?
Ahhh, one is too heavy! I could name three: the Air Max 2, I just always remember that fat bubble - like the 93, only bigger. I even voted for it in the Air Max Vote Back campaign. Then the Air Max Deluxe from 2000, which is very similar to the 97 but with a crazy gradient upper. This shoe is tough. Then probably the ZX 220, which is a pretty basic nylon running shoe with a pigskin toe cap, but I'd love to see it again. I'm sure Gary Aspden will at some point!

Collaborations still seem to be all the rage when it comes to queuing up and selling units. Who still makes you sit up and take notice as a collaborator?
I'm still excited about Footpatrol collaborations - always have been. Solebox, Hanon, Sneakernstuff or Titolo have been consistently good with all their projects. The same goes for Highs & Lows - I'm wearing their EQT supports right now.

What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2016?
Travelling - I'm going to Canada for the first time in 14 years. Also, there are some exciting things coming up at U-DOX that I can't quite talk about yet, but hopefully you'll see soon!

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