Rafael Freire has a degree in advertising and today he’s an copywriter at F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. He left Brazil with 16 years and lived in many countries with totally different cultures, but he returned here in 2011. While living in London he worked at Selfridges streetwear department, and it was at that time when he began to learn about and grow his interest in sneaker culture. For his interview he chose this iconic YO! MTV RAPS x PUMA CLYDE to tell his story and his journey in this universe.
“Rafael, I’m from Rio and an advertising copywriter working with creation. I like people, to talk with some crazy person on the street, I like different subjects, I like stories – listening, telling and holding on to stories – anything that will make me meet new people with stories, cool subjects and places I’m all in. Sometimes I catch myself watching some stuff on YouTube and I think to myself “dude how did I get here?” (laughs). In the end, my job is to tell stories, it’s what I do all day, so I see this as a collection, something that I just keep adding up and suddenly when you need to come up with some idea, you just pull something out of somewhere you’ll never imagine.
And to me, sneakers, fashion, and music will always be a rich universes with a lot of interesting people – people that are involved with music or even some sneakerheads, are usually people that have a good repertoire, they’re not shallow. They always have something to talk about or some stories to tell, I really attracted to this kind of interaction.”
Why did you choose to work in the creative area?
RafaelI think I chose my profession too early, I was always really communicative. Once, in this school I went to, every month a person from each profession would come to talk to us, there was the doctor, the lawyer, the architect. And one day an adman came, the guy was a mess, he was late, he sat on the table, cursed (laughs) and explained what advertising was. I did some research and found out that he did some commercials for the television, so I decided that was what I wanted to do without even knowing exactly what it was, but I grew up and life kinda pushed me in that direction.
I studied design for a while when I thought that I wanted something more towards visual arts, but in the end, I really liked writing. So that’s when I decided to go to copywriting and it really worked out great, I was right for the job – I think the cool part about advertising is that it allows people with different styles to find their place. Another thing that I like about my job is that we are exposed to new things all the time, we always have to be up-to-date with what’s going on, you have to be ahead of the trend so you can give your take on things and make something relevant. There’re so many things grabbing your attention that sometimes I just want to go home and just stare at a wall because I’m so tired (laughs).
Did you work with advertising in another countries?
rafaelI graduated in London but I hardly worked there, right after I graduated I was invited to work in China. It was a great opportunity because it was a really cool agency with really cool clients. I remember writing a movie script right on my first week and I had never done something like that before, you know?
Advertising is all about the culture of the place, you have to speak with the people, so making advertising in England is totally different than in China. What really helped me when I got there was that Chinese and Brazilians have a lot in common – we are both third world countries, we both have the culture of showing what we have – all this helped a lot and it was a really cool experience altogether.
What’s your relationship with sneakers in general?
rafaelDude, as most collectors, I get dressed starting with my shoes. Sometimes I wake up, and while still in bed I think “today I feel like rocking those camo Air Force 1’s”. Then while I’m taking a shower I’ll think what outfit goes with that sneaker and sometimes I just feel like wearing the same sneaker twice, it’s crazy. I pay a lot of attention to what people are wearing, and the first thing I look at is what they have on their feet – what we wear is an expression of what we are – and sneakers are especially specific. Sometimes I look at someone and the shoes they are wearing and think to myself “that has nothing to do with that person”, you can see that that person is not comfortable in those shoes.
I always liked this, since I was younger, but the day I started to really like it was when I asked my mom for some Air Maxes (laughs). Today my relationship on buying sneaker is a lot different, I’ve already gone through the phase where I just wanted to buy everything just because I wanted to buy everything. But sometimes I see a sneaker, a nice sneaker, then I go to the website, then they have it in my size, I add them to my shopping cart but I don’t buy – if I wanted to get them I could, but I’m way more mature now. (laughs).
When was the first time you saw a pair of sneakers and you just fell in love with them?
rafaelI remember asking my parents for some Air Maxes, I was just a kid, It was really expensive, but someone traveled abroad and brought me a pair. I remember sometimes I would turn on the lights at night and I would just stare and admire them thinking “these sneakers are amazing”. Later on, I really wanted a grunge pack Nike Vandal High – they were so expansive and after I got them I was like “am I ok with spending all this money on them?” (laughs). But when I wore them I felt awesome, so I was ok.
And what’s your relationship with this Puma Clyde x YO! MTV Raps 2006?
rafaelThis sneaker showed up in 2006 and I was already into sneakers, I had some friends from college who were sneakerheads and I they taught me a little bit about the game, but I didn’t understand that there was this entire culture behind it. To me, it was just like: there are these people who really like sneakers and that’s it. At the time I was living in London and there were a bunch of cool stores there.
One of my sneakerheads friends sent me a message asking me to take a kebab to him, I thought he was drunk somewhere. But when I arrived, he was actually sitting in a chair, in a line in front of a sneaker shop. I said “dude, what are you doing here?” and he told me, “waiting to buy a sneaker tomorrow.” and I was like “you’re in line so you can buy a sneaker? Are you crazy?” (laughs). There were about 20 people in line and he explained to me that he had arrived early because it was a special Puma with MTV. In the end I tried to buy one too but I couldn’t – but this was the sneaker that made me understand that there was this whole thing behind sneakers. Later on, I found out that there were only 50 pairs of this one in the whole world, it’s very little!”
And how did you get these?
rafaelLast year I looked them up on eBay and found one in my size, dead stock, in the green colorway, and I was siked when I saw them. I remember when they arrived home it was just like my first sneakers, I looked and admired them and thought “holy shit, I can’t believe I got them.” The sneakers were in great condition, they were perfect. The only thing I did was change the shoelace because they came with those fat laces that I don’t like so much.
The other thing I like about them is that they’re from MTV and this is so iconic, my adolescence was all about watching MTV every day, that was my internet. I would spend the entire day just watching, seeing how the guys dressed up, what they wore, it was so different from us.
Do you consider yourself a sneakerhead?
rafaelBy the definition on the dictionary maybe yes, but I don’t consider myself a collector because to me it’s just a wardrobe full of things I use, you know? I a way, I end up being a collector because sneakers are something I like to have and I don’t throw them away, no matter how much I use them. In the end dude, I know some people who are real collectors, who never take them out of the box, that their sneakers are kept away, people who put a pair away and buys another one just like it to use.
You started to get involved with the culture in 2002. What has changed from those days till now?
rafaelA lot has changed, but I’m very optimistic, so I always like looking at the good things and the bad. The positive side is that nowadays we have a lot of access to way more nice stuff when it comes to quantities, collabs, different stuff, everything. We have more access, but on the other side, it’s a lot harder to get the ones we want. To me, the bad side in all this is that there is this idiotizing of the culture that started with Yeezys, really like a mass of maneuver. People think it’s cool to wear them because they’re Yeezys – and to me, Yeezys are the Abercrombie of sneakers.
The people that I know that really know about the whole thing are getting less interested in the culture because it has been idiotized in a such a big way. When something cool drops you already know you’re not getting it, you know you’re going to have to sleep in front of a store to get it and bro, I’m getting too old for this stuff, you know? I’m working, I’m not going to leave work so I can sleep in front of a store (laughs).
I think people are crazy to find something that will bring them closer to other people. Back in my time, it was music, we would be here at Teodoro all the time playing in some studio, them it was skateboarding, then it was sneakers, there’s always going to be this kind of thing, people are always going to find other people that like the same things that they do.