Sole Mates: Ralph Suguitan and the Nike KD 4 "Easter"

There’s no denying that the strength of sneaker culture today is at an all-time high, and it’s certainly driven by all of the trends that we view on social media and capture from our favorite brands and high-profile athletes, celebrities and artists. For the modern consumer, it’s natural to get wrapped up in it all, but for Ralph Suguitan — a Seattle-based creative — he’s never let the hype dictate why he fell in love with sneakers in the first place. It was the technology and innovation in basketball shoes that intrigued him, encouraged him to want to learn more and eventually lead him to his current career as a digital content creator that hones in on footwear.

Turning a passion into a profession is rarely ever an easy task, but Suguitan was gradually able to accomplish this through his whimsical style of crafting unique sneaker content. On Instagram, he’s amassed a substantial following of over 20K, and he’s made a name for himself in the sneaker community through his breathtaking photography, eye-catching short videos and moodboard-worthy, vintage

Ralph Suguitan

“Technology is what intrigued me first before the styles and aesthetics.”

Who or what got you into sneakers?

When I was in middle school, my older cousin would come over all the time and he’d always be researching sneakers whether that be on blogs or watching YouTubers talk about performance sneakers. That was my entry point. I played basketball growing up and this is when I really started to get into learning about basketball shoes, traction, Air bubbles and why it made a sneaker good. Technology is what intrigued me first before the styles and aesthetics. My older cousin always bought the new [Nike] Hyperdunks and he had the adidas D Rose — which I was in love with when I first got interested in sneakers.

What was one of the first memorable pairs that you got?

My cousin gifted me a pair of Jordan Dub Zeros and I loved those. I remember him telling me about the history behind all of the sneakers that were drawn onto them and that was mind blowing to me. I wore those on-court for basketball and to school and thought they were the coolest things. I grew up in the suburban parts of Seattle so I wasn’t necessarily surrounded by sneakers a lot. I remember my first two pairs of retros were the “Cardinal” Air Jordan 7s and the “Fire Red” Air Jordan 5s, and during that time it was also peak Nike Basketball era which I really got into.

How would you describe Seattle sneaker culture now that you’re more in tune with the culture?

The community out here is very strong. You can definitely tell you who is into sneakers here. No one out here is standoff-ish about sneakers like how I’m picturing how some other cities would be. Everyone’s super inviting, the community’s dope and even all the shops around here share that strong love for sneakers.

Would you say that the Seattle sneaker community has a staple silhouette?

Not really. It’s pretty mixed out here and you’ll always see a variety of sneakers. However, I will say that a lot of people here lean towards tech-y shoes that have GORE-TEX because of the weather. Everyone out here is forced to beat up their kicks because of the rain, and when Summer time rolls around, that’s when they bring out their fresh pairs. My beater would probably be something like an Air Jordan 1 “Bred,” and then I’ll save some nicer things for the Summer. I always see people in New York rocking nice kicks all the time, we can’t really do that here in Seattle.

“My main thing is to create stories with my artwork whether that be through the photography or short videos that I make. I love creating concepts behind just the actual sneakers.”

What would you label yourself as right now?

I’d say an artist or creative.

Walk me through your creative journey. When and why did it start?

It started in high school in my photography course where I fell in love with Photoshop, making things look cool, clone stamping and taking photos. I tried to kill every project and my photography teacher actually displayed multiple projects of mine in the glass cases around the school. My parents noticed this and ended up buying me my first Canon T3i SLR and I went to work with that camera and fell in love with taking photos.

College came around and while I loved photography, I still put it on the back burner and went to school for computer science. As a typical Asian kid, photography and art isn’t valued in my household so I only pulled out my camera once in a while. But my college jobs really helped fuel where I’m at right now because I worked as a graphic designer on campus and I worked at Champs selling sneakers. Since I was buying so many shoes on discount from work, I started to really pay attention to the store’s marketing tactics, the mannequin displays and figured I should just start taking photos of the sneakers I was buying and of my friends and their sneakers, and that’s how sneaker photography started for me.

Ralph Suguitan

Was there a certain point along your journey when you felt like you knew you were headed in the right direction?

I’d say when I first got seeded by Jordan Brand. Shout out to Marco Negrete who used to work at Jordan, he sent me the Russell Westbrook Air Jordan 10s. No content was required from me but I made sure to make an opportunity out of it and so I took them to this cool staircase here in Seattle and made sure the content was dope.

How would you describe your creative style?

I always want to make sure I’m having fun with what I’m doing. I like to make sure my content is fun and vibrant. My main thing is to create stories with my artwork whether that be through the photography or short videos that I make. I love creating concepts behind just the actual sneakers.

Talk to me a little more about your obsession with the performance aspect of shoes because I think that’s really rare.

I still love sneakers because I love what performance and innovation can bring to the table. I actually have a funny story. So when I was first getting into sneakers, my cousin advised me that the CP3 5 had the best herringbone traction, and I remember going to the mall to Finish Line wanting to buy a pair and asking the store employee if they had any. He said they had sold out, but then transitioned to showing me that the shoes on his feet — the Kobe 7 “Big Bang” — were still in stock. I said no to the Kobe’s because I just knew they weren’t the best performance kicks to buy at the time despite all of the hype around them. I was laser focused on getting those CP3s.

What else do you remember about loving signature basketball shoes during that time?

I thought D-Rose’s line was fire because he had the adidas D Rose 1 and the adidas D Rose 1.5. This era was crazy because aside from all of the things coming out from Nike Basketball, guys like Josh Smith and Dwight Howard also had signature shoes and I remember wanting all of them because I wanted to try them out.

Let’s transition to your Sole Mates silhouette of choice: the Nike KD 4 “Easter.” What is it about this shoe that resonates with you?

That was the first signature sneaker that I remember buying with my own money. The KD 4 in general is probably in the top three best looking basketball sneakers. I wore that shoe so much. I remember rocking it for pre-season during Spring and although it hurt my foot so much because my pinky toe would rub up against the side, I didn’t care because they were so fresh.

Do you love this shoe for any reasons other than just the color palette?

Other than the colorway, I just really love KD because he represents Seattle since we were the city that drafted him. Another reason I love the shoes is because this one was easily accessible and it dropped during a time where I finally had the funds to buy them. This was back when KD’s were still priced under $100 USD. On a scale of 1-10, the performance of these is a four though [laughs]. But the silhouette is just so good with the strap.1 of 2

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Ralph Suguitan

Do you have any other KD 4s that you’re trying to track down right now?

I’d say either the NERF collaboration or the “Weatherman.” I love stories behind sneakers and I think the “Weatherman” is dope because that’s what KD wanted to be if he wasn’t in the NBA. The NERFs are also special because they came with a mini hoop to represent his childhood.

“I feel like stories are why people should care about sneakers. Every sneaker has a story to tell and every sneaker is made for a purpose so why not enhance the story. For example, the Nike Dunk is a vintage basketball shoe, but not many people know that and I feel like it’s just a trend now.”
Why are sneakers and the stories they hold important to you?

I feel like stories are why people should care about sneakers. Every sneaker has a story to tell and every sneaker is made for a purpose so why not enhance the story. For example, the Nike Dunk is a vintage basketball shoe, but not many people know that and I feel like it’s just a trend now. But it should be known that that’s what hoopers and skaters wore back in the day. People sh*t on certain types of sneakers and colorways but they don’t know why. I tend to give every sneaker a chance because I know it was made for a purpose and I know there’s a designer that did it that way for a reason. It’s shoes like the Union x Air Jordan 4 that I really appreciate because Chris Gibbs reworked the tongue because it bothered him growing up. I love stuff like that.

Do you have any advice for anyone creative that wants to work in sneakers?

I would say first get into retail because you get to see what the customer likes, what the customer understands and what they look forward to when purchasing a sneaker because it’s not all about the hype. Also, keep practicing your craft and pretend your situation or big opportunity is coming tomorrow and do your best work to prepare for that. Those are my two.
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