I learned a lot about athletic footwear via the Beastie Boys. For a child growing up outside of a British big city, being in the Beastie Boys circa the group’s debut album Licensed To Ill, which turns 30 today, looked like living the dream. Compared to the woken mindstates and whimsy of their work over the decade to follow, the hedonism that Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA lived three decades ago was aspirationally wild. In the UK, the tabloids jumped on them when they arrived to perform in May 1987, accusing them of any and every atrocity. Their popularity seemingly led to a number of Volkswagen car badge thefts, simply because fans wanted to wear them around their necks to emulate their bratty heroes. It goes without saying that we wanted to rock the shoes they were wearing, too.

While most rappers were keeping their sneakers pristine, the Beasties always seemed to exist in a realm between worlds. Their fresh three-finger gold rings met scuffed sneakers, sometimes worn ultra loose in a b-boy style, but often strangled at the ankles. It was a party where Run-D.M.C., Minor Threat, and Slayer could co-exist, and the dress code reflected that. And the shoes were usually from Puma or Adidas.

The latter brand had recently signed a pioneering endorsement deal with Beastie mentors and tourmates Run DMC, negotiated by the Beastie’s Def Jam jabel boss, Russell Simmons. Adidas played a heavy role in the trio’s shoe picks, but there were moments of dissent Gleefully blending brands in a 1985 Josh Cheuse shot used on the cover of 2005’s Solid Gold Hits compilation, Ad Rock breaks out a beaten, strap free pair of Nike Air Force 1s with switched out laces.Mike D (who, completely breaking with old school convention, would also go on to wear Air Rifts) was prone to wearing the Nike Sky Force Hi at that point in their career.

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