Katsushige Kamamoto moved to Tokyo when he was 18. He opened SKIT when he was 22 inside a multi-tenant building with just 10 pairs of sneakers to display. 18 years after its doors first opened, SKIT now has 4 store locations, one each in Tokyo, Osaka, Miyagi, and Fukuoka. Kamamoto has a history of living through the evolvement of street fashion, so here we are delivering Kamamoto’s attraction to archive fashion in two parts. In Part 1, we will uncover how archive fashion can be further enjoyed.
---Sneakers are all the rage right now. What made you start igniting a passion for sneakers?
“For me it was after watching Genki Ga Deru Terebi (Japanese TV show). There was a time when people would do the same kind of dances and 3on3 that was done in the TV show. I think this was back in 1991. Around the same time, Shonen Jump began the SLAM DUNK series. And there was also the NBA dream team that played in the Barcelona Olympics, which I was completely drawn to. So, it all started more as me gaining interest in basketball and the sports culture. This was also when magazines like Street JACK and Boon were extremely popular, and when I was in high school there was the whole Air Max 95 deal. There were so many things going on that inspired me to start a sneaker obsession.”
---What was the turning point for you to become an owner of a sneaker store that grew to have 4 locations in Japan?
“At first, it was basketball and the Air Jordan IX (pictured at the top). I first learned about Air Jordan when I was in middle school, but at the time it was not something a kid could afford. That strong feeling of desire I got when I couldn’t afford what I wanted led me to dream about starting my own sneaker store in the future. I saved up my New Year’s gift money for 2 to 3 years, and I was finally able to buy my first pair in 1994 or 1995. That was the pair that started it all. I used to think that I could become Jordan himself by wearing these kind of signature shoes (laughs).”
“I started to try more variety of sneakers after getting to know more about ASICS (pictured in the middle). These were exclusively made for a boutique in Amsterdam, and I got them in 2008. Up until that point, I had worn a lot of NIKE and adidas, but I had never worn ASICS, and these shoes caught my attention. ASICS TIGER was popular in Europe back then, so I asked a friend who was visiting Japan from Europe to get me a pair. And that friend said to me ‘I can’t believe you’re Japanese and don’t know ASICS.’ And I was like, wow you’re right, and I felt disappointed in myself. I was ashamed that I considered myself a sneakers expert when the truth was I still had so much more to know about.”
“I personally love Air Force1 (pictured at the bottom) and I collected them the most. In 2007, there was an issue for Street JACK on celebrating the 25th anniversary of Air Force1, and I had the honor of helping on publishing that feature. There was one part that took up about 70% of the page with my personal collection, and I talked about the background behind each of them in a timeline. It’s definitely a model that I’m very attached to.”
“Other than the Air Force1 25th anniversary feature, I was also involved in publishing a ‘mook’ for the Dunk series. Long story short, we never got to release this to the public, but it was distributed to those who were involved in the making. There were two booklets: the Generation Book and the Culture Book. It showed a lot of my personal collection. I was happy to have been a part of it since Air Force and Dunk are both starting points for my career. I hope that people of the next generation will carry on this legacy by publishing things like these.”
---You seem to be very well-versed in the culture aspect too. What led you to gain all this knowledge?
“I didn’t know anything about the culture at first, but it all started from imitating what cool people wore. Being cool was all that mattered. But music was what introduced me to different values.”
“I loved the kind of music that was playing in Dance Koushien (dance competition in Genki Ga Deru Terebi), street ball, and in NBA broadcasting. I wanted to bring my own boom box to where I played street ball. I would try to buy all of the records that had the song titles that were played in the NBA broadcasting. I also used to be a DJ when I just moved to Tokyo. But my senior at the shoe store I was working for at the time told me that he was embarrassed by my DJ style. I asked why, and then I realized that I didn’t understand any of the English being used in the music. Each song has its own story, but I was purely choosing them by its melody. Like I was unaware that I was playing a song about black history right after a song that was about giving oral. I had zero understanding about culture, and realized for the first time that I need to dig deeper. For a long time, I only cared about shoes that looked cool or music that sounded cool, but my life changed from there. My music taste changed, and I started to understand that the artists’ fashion each have its own meaning to it. Then I started to see that shoes have their own story as well. I used to think that ‘cool’ came from the design, but it’s actually because of the culture valued by the person wearing the item.”
---So music was what inspired you to gain interest in culture?
“Yes. There’s a lot of things that I didn’t know at first but learned about later, like for example, in this record cover (pictured on the right) the person has their palms together to mourn the death of a dancer. This was produced by Pete Rock, who was the cousin of Heavy D. Pete later released a song written in memory of the late dancer. There’s so much meaning and background behind this one record. Records and music was what inspired me to explore cultural backgrounds, but it didn’t take me long to start doing the same for shoes.”
“I think it’s okay to like something from its design first. It’s okay to wear Yeezy even if you don’t know who Kanye West is. But I think what’s lacking most right now is the deeper understanding of culture, especially from those who claim to be a shoe fanatic and show up in the media. They seem so superficial. All they know about is little snippets of information they found online, and not something that they have learned through real or personal experiences. They just assume that they know about it after hearing it from someone else. I know that it’s impossible to go back in time and experience what actually happened, but what I’m trying to say here is that the most important thing is to dig deeper. I think that your passion for shoes can grow with culture acting as a mediator. I think this applies to everything, not just for shoes.”
---It must be a dilemma for creators if consumers don’t understand the culture or the story behind the creation.
“I can’t argue if someone tells me ‘I’m happy with how it looks, why do you care?’ But I’m just trying to emphasize how you can make it more interesting. It can open new doors for you too.”
“For example, there’s the 1985 Air Jordan1, which is said to be the most highly valued in the market. Normally, NIKE shoes are sold with the shoe laces all the way up, but Air Jordan1 always came with two different kinds of shoe laces, and you can choose which one to put on first. Therefore, they are sold without the shoe laces on. There’s the OG re-release version sold in the same way right now, and those who know about the culture would immediately notice how close it is to the original. If you dig deeper into the background of the creation, you would know about why Air Jordan 1 OG is sold without the shoe laces on. I think this will rekindle your passion for shoes or anything for that matter.”
Knowing the history, background, and culture behind the brand can help us find new values that the mass market hasn’t defined yet. We can know more about why it became so popular or viral, and should grow a bigger attachment for things we already love. Kamamoto has taught us the fascination of exploring beyond “cool design”.
In Part 2, culture connoisseur Kamamoto will talk about how he sees the archive market and the secondary market.
Archive Stories by Katsushige Kamamoto,
The Owner of SKIT (Part 2 of 2)
Business hours: 11：00～20：00
Address: Tokyo, Musashino, Kichijoji Minamicho, 1 Chome−18−1
D-ASSET Kichijoji 1F
Born in 1978 in Aomori Prefecture.
Owner of sneaker shop “SKIT”. Currently has four locations in Japan.
Carrying rare items at reasonable prices,
SKIT is being noticed by sneakerheads from all over the world.