A Conversation with @JumpmanBostic on Prolonging The Life of Your Sneakers
ThinkPiece #002 | Presented by sōlscience®
A true legend in his own right, the Detroit 313’s very own Mark “Jumpman” Bostic is known by many in sneakerhead circles for his collection of over 950+ pairs of Jordans. But as important, or even more important, is his character - JMB is an old school, Quadruple O.G. that is A) still heavy in the game and B) happens to also bring an unmatched level of humbleness, approachability and class to the game.
Whether it’s the competitive nature and sportsmanship he gained through basketball, the trials and tribulations he’s faced in various facets of life, or the character instilled in him by his parents, Mark “Jumpman” Bostic is truly in a class of his own. He is an example of the type of character a fan should be proud and feel good about looking up to.
In this hyper digital here today, gone tomorrow era, JumpmanBostic keenly adapts to the digital age (fast approaching 100K Instagram followers as of September 3rd, 2016), yet sticks to his roots and keeps it one hundred steadily cruising in his own lane. There’s an in-depth article on his personal background as well as what kicks mean to him on @sneakerbardetroit’s site first published in October of 2014 here.
After linking up with him at @sneakercon in Los Angeles this past June, we decided to rap with the man himself on his views of something we’ve wondered about - do sneakers last longer if you wear them (instead of DS'ing them)? We felt it was only right and natural that we get the viewpoints of prolonging the life of sneakers from the captain of the home team, #RockDontStock. Without further adieu..
Recorded from a phone conversation on 08/19 at 1:30pm PST…
sōlscience: When did you first realize that wearing your sneakers prolongs the life?
JumpmanBostic: Since day one, I’ve always been a person to always want to wear the shoes that I buy, never been one to to buy a shoe and stock it. Around 2000 is when people started hitting me up and asking me how my older shoes are still wearable because they don’t wear their shoes. I said, well mine are [wearable] because I wear them and it keeps the glue and the materials loose and not stiff or unworn. When you don’t wear them they tend to harden. And it depends on how you store your shoes. I store mine in a dark, cool, dry area. And I wrap my shoes in a towel. I did a youtube video on it and it seems to be a really good process of helping to keep your shoes cool, dry and that with wearing them, it prolongs the life of the shoe.
sōlscience: Do you know of any other sneakerheads that agree with this? And are their reasons basically the same or are they different?
JumpmanBostic: Well, @the_perfect_pair is a perfect example. He has some of the most expensive shoes that I know. He has some one-of-one samples that I’ve seen him in person wearing when I met him last year in Oklahoma City. He’s another person that believes in wearing your shoes.
sōlscience: Do you prefer to store your sneakers in the original box or plastic storage containers?
JumpmanBostic: I prefer to store them in the regular box that they come in. But the process I use is, the tissue paper that comes in the box - I fold it and put it in the bottom of the box - and I get what is a hand towel - and I buy my towels at a beauty shop. I just put it in the box and I put the shoes on top of the towel and with the remaining part of the towel I cover the shoes and then close the top on the box. Now, the plastic container part of it, I've used that when.. sometimes I have shoes where the box deteriorates or I’ll buy a shoe off of eBay and it doesn’t come with a box. Or, you know how the Nike outlet is, they will cut the top of the box - I hate that. I.. hate.. that. So I will replace that with the plastic cover boxes. Now, getting into why I drill holes into the plastic boxes, is because shoes are like humans. They need air. If you store shoes in a closed container or a closed plastic box with fasteners on it and it has no air, then the glue will harden a lot quicker and everything settles on the shoe and you try to wear it and that’s where the shoe starts to crumble on you. Shoes need air.
sōlscience: So those people that say you should wrap them in plastic or put them in plastic bags, that’s probably not the ideal way to store your sneakers.
JumpmanBostic: That’s suffocating the shoe in my opinion. I know they are trying to keep the soles icy or keep the mesh from turning yellow, but that is suffocating the shoe because they need the air.
sōlscience: Do you have some kind of rotation system to ensure your sneakers are all worn?
JumpmanBostic: Well, with.. nine hundred.. fifty.. eight.. pairs (laughs), I do have a cleaning rotation and from time to time I do take a hundred pair out just to get some air, clean them if needed, just to get them out of the box, because I can’t wear all of them.. I can’t wear every sneaker pair in a year, it would take me 3 years to wear everything. But I don’t have a particular rotation, I get dressed, I put on my clothes first, and then based on what I’m wearing, I’ll go look for a pair of shoes.
sōlscience: When you store them do you usually perform some kind of quick clean, wrap them in a towel usually, or is it case-by-case and just sort of based on how they look, or do you always brush them off before wrapping them in a towel?
JumpmanBostic: I kind of always wipe them off and I use the Reshoevn8r cleaning product. I believe in that product, that’s the only product that I use, but it’s seasonal here in Michigan - in the winter time there’s ice, there’s salt, water, rain, snow, so I do wipe them off, make sure they are dry before I put them in the box. I tend to let them sit out on the floor after I wear them for a day and then I’ll put them up the next day.
sōlscience: Besides storing of the sneakers to prolong the life, do you also use other products like a shoe tree or outsole shields, leather cream, sneaker shields or any other type of product in addition to the way you store them.
JumpmanBostic: I use shoe trees to straighten the leather, take out some of the wrinkles when I’m not wearing them, I get my shoe trees from Reshoevn8r as well. They sell those along with their laundry system for washing their shoes, but I tend to use those with the Jordan 4’s, the 5’s and the 10’s. They tend to wrinkle the most in the toe box area so I focus mainly on those. I’m really not big on crease prevention because to me, that’s part of showing that you wear your shoes. Some people hate to have creases in their shoes, but sometimes it’s inevitable. It happens from wearing your shoes, shoes are meant to be worn.
sōlscience: What type of materials or areas on sneakers are prone to aging the quickest. And have you noticed, like the midsole paint or the stitching or certain areas of all your sneakers needing more attention to make sure you’re handing properly - are there certain areas that you notice aging quicker than other parts?
JumpmanBostic: Yes, usually in the midsole area. The midsole and the outsole because that’s where the elements - either the rain, the snow, stepping in puddles, walking through rain or a little bit of snow.. there may be salt on the ground.. And salt eats up concrete so you know it’s gonna eat up rubber. So those are the main 2 areas.
sōlscience: Your oldest pair are the '85 Air Jordan 1 OGs?
JumpmanBostic: Yes, that’s correct. Still wearable and I believe they are still wearable because I’ve worn them since day one.
sōlscience: Have you had any of your sneakers fallen apart?
JumpmanBostic: Oh yeah, yeah, my ‘99 Retro 4’s. The white cement and the black cement.. in the midsole. And they’ve actually… I say, “I blew a tire wearing ‘em.” I remember the day wearing them they just started to crumble. It’s just due to age, but my 2001 3’s are still fine. But the 4’s are retired now. I don’t believe in the sole swaps or anything like that. Once they deteriorate, that’s it, they’re show pieces.
sōlscience: Now do you think that particular model was made from a lower quality foam or what do you think could be the reason behind that?
JumpmanBostic: I’m the original owner. I bought them. I wore them and I just think that they ran their course of time. I used the same techniques that I used on the 2000 black metallic 5’s and I still wear them to this day. The fire red 5’s from ‘99 are also still wearable. It’s just for certain shoes, their time just came. Those particular ones, the 5’s, they are still wearable.
sōlscience: How about the air bubbles, have any of them popped on you or deflated on you?
JumpmanBostic: Yes, that’s what happened to the 4’s. That’s where the deterioration started and the midsole started crumbling right at the back, at the heel of the shoe near the air unit.
sōlscience: That’s probably not preventable, just the use and age took its course.
JumpmanBostic: Yes, the force of your foot and heel going up and down. The materials just started to deteriorate and oxidize over the years and it was just their time to go.
sōlscience: It sounds like yellowing on the soles doesn’t really bother you. You seem to like letting it age naturally, but have you found any methods that might prevent yellowing?
JumpmanBostic: Yeah, there’s a lot of products out there. Sauces for the sole…. I’ve seen all of that stuff… I’ve seen videos on it. I like to let my shoes naturally age… what I call lemonade. To me, that’s a natural process of shoes back in the early 80’s and 90’s to turn yellow on the outsole and I understand what people are saying… they call them piss yellow and things like that, but to me that shows the natural age and character of the shoe. When you use those products, they’ll turn your soles back icy, but those are chemicals. And as they set into the shoe, it’s just gonna make your shoes crumble, and oxidize and deteriorate even faster. It’s gonna look good for awhile, but they are going begin to crumble sooner because of all the chemicals you are putting on the sole of the shoes just to turn them back white. It’s gonna eat at the glue and materials on the shoe. And people have actually made videos on using it and seeing that within six months to a year that their shoe was totally unwearable again. There’s a lot of chemicals to make that process happen. And then you put it outside in the sun.
sōlscience: Right, right.
JumpmanBostic: And the sun is the last thing you want to hit your shoes.
sōlscience: Have you had any experience where some of your Jordans with the icy outsoles… like, some people say that the paper inside the shoebox increases the yellowing faster, do you see any truth to that?
JumpmanBostic: Oh yeah, that’s why I said I wrap mine in a towel. I like to keep the paper, but I keep the paper underneath the towel in the box because I just like to keep everything together. It’s just something about having the total package of the shoe when it initially comes out. But I don’t let my shoes touch the paper in the box or the actual box, the cardboard box, because that also will help to turn your shoe [yellow]… because of the cardboard.
sōlscience: So you believe that the paper and the cardboard actually increases the speed of yellowing the outsoles?
JumpmanBostic: Yes, it oxidizes the shoes, especially with the nubuck and durabuck, and I found that on a lot of the… if you look at the black metallic 5’s… you start seeing in the toebox area mainly, you start seeing how it look like it’s peeling or chipping…
sōlscience: Yeah, yeah..
JumpmanBostic: That comes from people leaving it wrapped in the paper or taking the paper out, but setting it out on top, just leaving it in the box with nothing on top of it. They think that just taking the tissue paper out is gonna solve that, but the box is just the same as the tissue paper.
sōlscience: Like on my Air Jordan 14 Last Shots, I noticed the toebox area, it’s getting fuzzy… I don’t know if it’s deteriorating, but the leather is kind of like scuffing off I’ve noticed…guess it could be from touching the box.
How about people that feel those silicone packs, putting a bunch of those in the shoe box will prevent yellowing, do you find any truth to that?
JumpmanBostic: I know people that believe in that as well, but I still think that that is chemical as well. It might not be leaking physical liquid, but there are chemicals in that silicone pack that are coming out in that closed box and like evaporating into the box and I think that’s eating away at the materials. I like the process I use, it’s worked for me, with just wrapping them in towels and leaving them in the box and keeping them in a cool, dark, dry box.
sōlscience: How did you come up with that idea, wrapping it in a towel?
JumpmanBostic: I knew that leaving them in the box with the paper was a process that was helping to age the shoe and I can’t really say what made me wrap them in towels. But once I started that and I did a video on that, it just spread. People just started hitting me up and saying it worked, they tried it, they liked it. It was just something I just wanted to try because I had so many shoes. They were in my basement and I wanted to make sure I took care of them the best way possible.
S/S: So basically like a barrier. A nice barrier between the shoe and anything that is paper or the box.
JumpmanBostic: Correct, correct. Even the box top. Just think when you you close the box top and you don’t have anything on top of it, that box top is laying on top of your shoes and it’s just on whatever material. Leather, durabuck, nubuck, suede. It’s just right on top of that material - it discolors it sometimes and it also just makes it just age faster.
sōlscience: I know you have a few DS sneakers, do you store them a little bit differently? Anything different you do?
JumpmanBostic: I only have one deadstock pair and I have two of them. The only deadstock pair I have are the Last Shot 14s because that’s the last time MJ took a shot with the Bulls. So I don’t store that any differently. That’s one of the shoes I take to the shows with me and just like the Jordan 1 '85s, I take both pair. And that’s stored in a glass container.
sōlscience: Now getting into #RockDontStock. What’s the story behind that? Was it to prolong the life of the kicks or was it mainly to get people to wear and enjoy their kicks.
JumpmanBostic: It’s mainly to get people to wear their kicks. Nowadays, these young kids, a lot of people like to DM me on social media and say hey, I wanna wear my shoes, but people say I shouldn’t wear them because that takes away from the value. And my first question is, what value are you looking for out of them? Are you trying to resell them? Are you trying to keep them for "X" amount of years and then sell them? What is your reason or focus for buying shoes. And they say I buy them to wear ‘em, but I don’t want to mess ‘em up. So that’s why you keep them deadstock because you don’t want to mess them up. That doesn’t make sense to me. My thing for #RockDontStock is to show people that you buy shoes, you never know how long they are gonna last. I know plenty of people that bought shoes and now wish they had worn them. From as early as 2004, 2005. Even 2006 DMP pack, Fat Joe - he tried to put his on and stepped right out of them, you know, because they had been sitting so long. He just left them stored, and what it is now, 2016, 10 years later, after sittin’, now you want to wear them and it’s too late. So that’s why I say Rock, Don’t Stock.
sōlscience: So, generally speaking, the quality of the Jordans have gone down. I know there’s a few exceptions now and then, but do you feel that makes it even more important to rock your sneakers now?
JumpmanBostic: Definitely, definitely. It’s almost like immediately you need to wear them. You don’t know how long they’re gonna last. I would even go back to 2000, that’s 16 years right now. There’s people with shoes from 2007, 2008. Remember the 4’s back in 2006, the militaries and all of those where the midsole of the Lightning Thunders, remember how the midsole would start cracking and you start seeing people doing the repaint because of the midsoles cracking. You go to 2008, the countdown pack of the Black Cement 3’s and those are just, like every shoe, even mine, even my midsole, I wore them one time and they cracked. The shoes don’t last forever. That’s why, to me, I buy them to wear them. It may take me a month, 2 months, 6 months, is when I get the feeling to wear it, but I don’t buy it just to keep them as trophy shoes, except for 1 pair and that’s because I bought 2 pair and I just wanted 1 just for memorabilia, the Last Shot.
sōlscience: Now out of your collection, which one, I guess is the the least durable pair, would you say is the Jordan 4, correct?
JumpmanBostic: Out of the retros, yes. The 3’s and the 4’s. Those are the ones that I know that have a lot of quality problems as far as the midsole paint cracking and also you know, I’m a big 8 fan, and a lot of the 8's are the same way where they need repaint done on the midsole area of the shoe.
sōlscience: You had mention about the whole, dry temperature versus the humidity and I guess you’re saying dry, but is there a certain balance of that? Like, skin of course, if it’s too dry like the desert your skin gets cracked, whereas if it’s more humid, there’s more moisture and it’s better for your skin. I was wondering if there is a certain level of dryness or humidity that is ideal or… no matter what, dry is better than humid?
JumpmanBostic: You don’t want humidity. So, in the summertime, I run my air conditioner in the basement pretty much everyday to keep it cool which keeps it dry. You don’t want your shoes to sweat, you know, say if you’re in a hotel room and it’s 90 degrees, and the sun is beating up against the curtains and you still have the curtains drawn, your shoes are gonna sweat because it’s hot in the room. And what I mean by cool and dry is run your air conditioner and that helps to keep your shoes cool which won’t cause them to sweat inside of the box.
sōlscience: What’s the set temperature you recommend?
JumpmanBostic: The set temperature is 60 to 64 or 65 and you run that on a continuous basis that keeps the entire basement or area cool. If you’re sporadically doing it, you keep it at 60. Some people I know, keep their shoe in an attic or upstairs in a bungalow of a house and you know, heat rises and they won’t have an air conditioner running. Your shoes are gonna sweat because they are gonna get hot because there is nothing cool blowing in to help keep the temperature down in that room. So that’s what I mean by cool and dry. The dry comes actually from running the air conditioner to help you keep your shoes dry.
sōlscience: That perfectly leads into the next question. If you could come up with the ultimate shoe storage system, how would you design it? Would it be like a wine fridge? If you had all the money in the world, how would you create the perfect storage system?
JumpmanBostic: It would be like a cellar. You know, where you would store some vintage wine. You would keep them down in a dark area, underground, away from any warmth. You want to keep them as cool as possible. Run an air conditioner or even a fan. Something that would push moisture and heat out. And they would be in a cool, dry area.
sōlscience: So, basically like how you would store some fine wine? (chuckles)
JumpmanBostic: Yes, yes. Let your shoes age naturally.
sōlscience: Right, they’re gonna age no matter what, but you’re just basically trying to slow down the aging process as much as possible.
JumpmanBostic: Correct. That’s gonna prolong the life as well as wearing them is gonna prolong the life. I’m a firm, 100% believer in this. I have shoes that people post and theirs are totally crumbled. And they say, well, how are yours still wearable? What do you do? How can you still wear your shoes from 2000s? How can you still wear your shoes from 99? And it’s how you store them, and how you take care of them, and keeping them clean. You gotta wipe the elements off of your shoes if you live in areas, like I said earlier, where it snows, rains, and all of that. You wanna get all of the dirt off of your shoes before you put them back in the box.
sōlscience: So that’s a huge part, it’s not just storing them like fine wine, you have to also wear them. Wearing them is a key component also to prolonging the sneaker.
JumpmanBostic: People hit me up saying, I keep my shoes in a dry space and I still see the midsole cracking. Yeah, because you haven’t worn them. And the glue is set. It’s just like concrete. When you pour concrete, the ultimate purpose of concrete is to what, get hard. If you leave your shoes in a box for four or five years, the materials are gonna harden and when you put them on, they are gonna be so stiff, what are they gonna do? Crack because everything is set. The materials are set, they’ve hardened and there is no way of loosening up. They are done at that point.
sōlscience: So you gotta wear them to loosen them to contour to your feet to the way you walk and stuff. you can’t just let it harden into one shape.
JumpmanBostic: And the more you wear them, the more they loosen. And once they loosen, they can set for a period of time before you wear them again. You’ve already loosened them up. They’ve already molded to your feet so it’s fine. When you first get them straight from the factory, no feet are in them, so they’re just flat, they’re just perfect, and they’ve been unworn and you put your foot in them, and then you start to see the cracks in the midsole and the paint and all of that and the shoes are unwearable.
sōlscience: Totally makes logical sense.
JumpmanBostic: Well, a lot of people don’t think of that. A lot of people just think, okay these shoes are gonna last until I decide to put them on, they’re not gonna crack, as long as I keep them this way or keep them in this space here and I’m not gonna have them in the sun or anything, I’m gonna put them on ten years from now and nothing’s gonna happen. That’s not true.
After getting off of an hour long call with JumpmanBostic, we felt satisfied and also wondered, could we figure out a scientific reason and investigate further? We also read an interesting article on wired.com - a notable story that went viral involving Nagomo Oji, a Japanese sneakerhead who stored an unworn pair of "OG Air Max 95s" for 20 years, which crumbled after one step. While on the flip side, we see people such as JumpmanBostic rocking OG sneakers that are still wearable. Once we let our thoughts marinate on this subject, we realized that what JumpmanBostic told us resonated - no matter what you do, your kicks will not last forever. You can prolong its life, but you really can't stop the aging process. Kicks are ephemeral. Like many other things, they're meant to be enjoyed, appreciated, and taken care of. We're stoked we were able to get insight from a legend in his own right. And, we're proud to be members of Team #RockDontStock.