Sole Provider: How John Geiger Carved His Own Lane In Sneaker Culture

Meet the sneakerhead who made a name for himself by literally cutting up Nike’s checks.

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Complex Original

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At 6'4", John Geiger is able to stand above his criticisms. The 30-year-old designer from Pittsburgh is as divisive as they come with what he’s done to sneakers. In no order, his highlights include: cutting the straps off Nike Air Yeezy IIs, jumping into a swimming pool with a pair of “Red Octobers,” mix-matching the soles and uppers of various pairs, and his most recent venture: the creation of the “Misplaced Checks” Air Force 1s with the help of The Shoe Surgeon. The latter has been a series of Air Force 1 Highs that feature the application of multiple Swooshes in exotic materials such as python skin. As the sneaker’s name suggests, it’s also a metaphor for everything that’s happened to him so far.

Geiger’s ascent to popularity is closely tied to his relationship with his childhood friend, Darrelle Revis, who’s the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL and also a native of Pennsylvania. The two grew from close friends into business partners, with Geiger serving as Revis’ manager and helping him ink big-time deals with multiple brands. He was also closely involved in Revis’ first signature sneaker with Nike, the Zoom Revis.

He’s become a sneaker celebrity of sorts, much because of his recognizable look — draped in high-fashion brands — and attention-getting antics. But along the way, with his social media following growing, Geiger has assembled a loyal group of supporters and the buzz around the past few sneakers he’s designed is a testament to him breaking through and resonating with a larger audience. His most-anticipated sneaker will release today, an all-white pair of “Misplaced Checks” in collaboration with FourTwoFour Fairfax, a boutique located in Los Angeles. With the rumblings in the background, Geiger is still poised as ever to make a big impact.


How did the collab with FourTwoFour Fairfax come about?
Through the relationship that me and Guillermo [Andrade] have. Plenty of stores have asked me to do a collaboration before—probably like 10 stores, and I felt like his was the right one. They don’t have a Nike account, and on the creative side they’re probably one of the coldest out right now. There’s no equal. You walk in there’s another door to the back room, and there’s another room after that. The aesthetic to the store is all white and black.

Did you and Guillermo design the shoe together?
No, I know he liked white and black, and I was going to do all-white next. It just made more sense to do it with him. I think he doesn't really want a Nike account. He wants to stay different from everybody else.


Have you heard anything from Nike about these shoes recently? Have they said anything to you?
No, I’m cool with a couple designers still there and they like what I’m doing, but at this point they can’t do anything. I changed it enough to [be able] do it.

Nike never threatened to hit you with a cease and desist?

Does that surprise you?
I would think they‘d try to start something. They did 70 pairs of red NIKEiDs for me. They had to have my name in the system. So if they really wanted to they could’ve just stopped all those.

How fast have the shoes sold for you?
Well, the red ones were the fastest [selling out in] like two minutes. We had 169,000 views on the website.

Do you plan to make more pairs for future releases?
I could probably make more, but I would have to space them out. My whole goal is to have my own shoe eventually, which I’m working on. The customs that I’m putting out are basically just ideas that got turned down and I was told that they weren’t good. I might as well just put them out.

What’s your relationship like with The Shoe Surgeon?
There aren’t many people in the industry you can trust with money. We sit down, I tell him what I want to do and we pretty much do it. We both have made a good amount of money from this and also did something cool for the culture. That’s really all it’s about.

I’m sure you’ve seen that Victor Cruz got his own Nike sneaker recently. What are your thoughts on the deal and the shoe itself?
I think it’s well-deserved, and I think it’s going to do well. People didn’t really get the first colorway, but as soon as they come out in all-red and all-blue, people will understand it. When my shoe first came out, people were like: “That shit is ugly as hell.” If you’ve never seen something before, your first reaction is either you like it or you don’t. It’s either going to grow on you or it’s not.

What was it like when you were working with Darrelle Revis and you guys did the Nike Zoom Revis?
It was really cool for him to get his own shoe, but there’s way more publicity for Victor’s shoe. He’s got commercials coming out and social media is way bigger now. Nike didn’t give us any commercials, any billboard, anything creative. Victor’s shoe is under Nike Sportswear and Darrelle’s was under Nike Football, so they didn’t really give us that much room to do anything creative. They just wanted it to be a football shoe and that’s it. The colorways we got to do showed the other side of that.

How involved were you in making that shoe?
I was pretty involved. We would have meetings. It would always be me, Darrelle, veteran Nike designer Ken Link, and Nike product director Trent Casper. Ideas would flow and things would get done. You would hear stories about people producing songs and whoever’s in the studio gets studio credit. Kind of like if I give you an idea and it gets used. I was getting royalty checks for [the Zoom Revis], so I was getting paid for it. But I would never come off and say I was the designer of that shoe, and I’m sure Nike would never let that happen.

What was your  role in working with Darrelle specifically besides being his friend?
We were with each other every day. I got him the Range Rover deal, I got him the Google deal, those were through my relationships. When he had his Nike shoe or anything with Motorola, I was the one getting those situations done. I was the manager of the day to day stuff: Whatever he had to tweet, if he had appearances. He was my best friend, so it wasn’t like a job for me. I was getting thrown in the center of huge deals, bringing deals, and he would say yes or no to them. The agents just felt a little bit funny about all of it. I don’t really know what they were doing.

How are things between you and Darrelle right now?
​It’s kind of still hard to talk about. If you’re really close to someone for 12 years, talk everyday, and actually worked for him, to not talk to him now is a little weird. When you’re at that height of fame in sports and you just won a Super Bowl, there are so many people on the other side grabbing you and pulling you other ways. I think his agents didn't want me around him anymore, and everybody else that was around him didn't like that I was doing my own thing. We were going to do a store together, and that didn’t happen. I worked on [the store] six months beforehand. He told me he wanted me to be a part of it. Then I was told they didn't want me to be a part of it. I just feel like I’m creative and talented enough to do my own thing. When I started doing that, we fell off. I’m not saying that’s the total reason, but from my side that’s what happened.

Do you think other members of his team had it out for you?
His agents didn’t want me around on the business side of his football career. When the store was going on, everyone was just filling his head with things. It’s my understanding that his agents were just filling his head and saying that I shouldn't be doing stuff outside of the team we have. It’s going to sound really funny to people, but I don’t really know how else to put it. I was told I shouldn’t be doing my own shoes and it should be for the store. I felt like it would help the store, if anything. Instead of pushing me to do it, they were basically trying to hold me back. They have a big influence on players. If I'm your agent and I’m getting you $40 million, you’re probably going to trust me with your life.

Was it an overnight sort of thing, or did you see it coming?
It hit me all of a sudden. I was at the Super Bowl [XLIX]. He won the Super Bowl, and I tried to get on the field after and I couldn't. I didn’t talk to him for a week after that. When I did talk to him it was like, “I’m coming to get the keys to the store, and we’re not talking.”

Have you tried to reconcile with Darrelle since?
I haven’t, because I feel like I haven’t done anything to where my best friend wouldn't be talking to me on from a personal or business standpoint. I put my time in that business. I started doing my own thing, and I’ve been successful doing it. So obviously I wasn't wrong.

Do you see yourself ever getting back into that world?
I don’t think I can, because there are so many avenues of other people pulling you around. If I say “I think you should do this with that,” they can say something else, and someone in the person’s family can say they want to do something different, too. You’re probably going to lose. It doesn't matter how close you are.

What’s next for you after the Misplaced Checks?
I got like two more designs that I’m working on. People don't really know my background. They think that I didn't really design anything. I’m going to release a couple more Misplaced Checks. I’m still going to put out another shoe, and then I’m working on my own shoe. It’s just going a little slower than usual because I’m using a custom sole.

Would you rather build your own brand or be the kind of guy where a brand hits you up and says, “We want a John Geiger collaboration?”
I’ve been turning down just about every collab possible. I just feel like I want to build my own brand first. I wouldn't want to sit with adidas and do a Forum High. I would rather build my brand with my own shoe, and then my own shoe has a collab with adidas. That’s how I want to do it. A lot of people make shoes and they gain a following. I’m kind of doing it the other way around.