Meet the Artist Who's Poking Fun at Sneaker Culture

An interview with Portuguese artist Laro Lagosta discussing his viral sneaker artwork.

Sneaker culture is an interesting thing. As much as there is to love and appreciate about it, there are also a ton of little nuances that you cannot help but roll your eyes or laugh at. One man who has proven he is not afraid to poke fun at some of the brutal realities of sneaker and streetwear culture is Portuguese artist Laro Lagosta. Even if the name does not immediately ring a bell, chances are his work has been peppering your Instagram Explore page for the past few months.

Currently working as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in the city of Porto, Lagosta has been gaining notoriety among members of the sneaker community for his artwork depicting some of the more comical (and let’s admit it, relatable) traits of fellow sneakerheads and hypebeasts. He’s poked fun at your local 13-year-old Supreme fiend, the still-surging “dad shoe” trend, and even the far too common “L” many receive when trying to cop hyped-up releases each weekend. While some might take these subtle jabs to heart, it’s all in good fun for the Portugal-born artist. We recently got a chance to chop it up with Lagosta to discuss his earliest sneaker memories, where he gets his ideas, his opinions on sneaker culture, and more.

How long have you been into sneakers and what's your first sneaker memory?
I’ve always cared about what clothing and sneakers I wore. Since I was a kid I’ve chosen what I wanted to wear, my parents always gave me that freedom. It’s kind of hard to think that far back, but when I was a teenager it was all about the surfer, skater style. I remember a black chunky pair of Element sneakers with a velcro strap that I loved. But the first sneakers that truly got to me were a pair of Nike Dunk Lows in the "Chicago" colorway that I used until the toe was completely ripped. I didn’t wear any other pair for months. I was 18 years old, and I wore them with checkered laces in the left foot and white in the right foot. Today I’m still like that, when I love a pair of sneakers I wear it till I shred it.

What inspired you to make sneaker art? What was the first piece you made related to sneaker/streetwear?
The will to create something in a world where I feel confident enough to talk about, to express myself and to look for information and inspiration everyday. Also, the feeling that I can relate to others who like the same things as I do, and the ability to express what every one of us feels about this culture. I can’t remember exactly the first one because the majority of my drawings are character-based, and I’ve always liked to dress them up with different kind of styles that catch my eye. The first ones I’ve intentionally created thinking about streetwear and sneaker culture was the Hypermatter series in 2014/15, where I would paint over photos of people from Instagram accounts. I covered the skin with a white drippy mutant flesh called Hypermatter.

Would you consider the skeleton and grey characters you use in a lot of art your 'signature' characters? Is there a reason you chose those figures? 
I like to use them when talking about the inner thoughts people have about sneakers. They’re skeletons, they don’t have gender, they don’t have skin, you don’t know where they’re from, you only know they’re human, so you don’t have barriers or stupid prejudices about the character, anybody can relate to the feelings, that’s what is important.

You often make fun of hypebeasts. Why's that?
I don’t make fun of anyone, I make jokes about it, making fun is malicious, I don’t want to hurt anybody. I exaggerate a reality and that makes it a joke. For example, my illustration about the kid who cries and threatens to kill himself for a Supreme T-shirt or cried for a week for a BAPE jacket. That’s a reality, I know it because when I was a kid I’ve cried many times for a Playstation game until my father gave it to me, like a spoiled little brat. I was a kid who got very angry and listened to Limp Bizkit loud in the bedroom with a locked door because his mommy didn’t give him what he wanted. When you’re 13 and you’ve got a three-month salary of clothing on your body, you must be spoiled as fuck. The funny thing is that they are crying for Supreme and Gucci and not Pokemon cards and Xboxes. I’m laughing about how times have changed, how streetwear is like a fidget spinner between kids. That's not bad, that's just a reality right now, and I think it's funny. Like the illustration of the old Hypebeast in 2050, a old guy who takes a shit on the new generation like people shit on his generation now. I’m thinking about people and their relation with this culture and how funny it is sometimes.

Would you consider yourself a hypebeast in some ways?
My love for clothing and sneakers and the constant search for the hype definitely are part of me, but I don’t live in a way that a so-called hypebeast does. That reflects in my work, not the way I live. I never bought anything above the retail price, never used a bot or looked for the latest trend piece on the web. I respect people who do it, and i understand that they will, but it’s not for me as a principle. If I can't get it in the general way of shopping then fuck it, I don't care, keep it, there's plenty more sneakers and clothing out there. There are so many brands, so many little companies doing awesome stuff with affordable prices, why do we all have to buy and fight for the five brands everyone is wearing? I may want some of those pieces, I'm not gonna lie, but no way I'm gonna go the extra mile just for that. If it's out of my reach, I ain’t stretching for that.

What's the most ridiculous thing about sneaker culture to you right now?
People who buy five pairs of Yeezys, sell them for 300 percent more and think they’re entrepreneurs who started a business.

You made a joke about the Air Max 270. That shoe sucks, huh?
Not for me, I actually like it. That’s one of the Nike latest creations that I like. There is an illustration I made, Buyer's Remorse, that I created because I wanted to buy the Air Max 270, but I didn’t, I just bought a pair of sneakers and I thought it would be crazy to buy another in such a short period of time. I started thinking about how I would feel if I bought the Air Max 270 and the illustration is that feeling of regret after you buy something you shouldn’t. “When buyer’s remorse hits” I think, “What am I doing with my life?”

You also poked fun at the "dad shoe" trend. How do you feel about shoes like the Balenciaga Triple S?
I think like any other trend it has bad and good things. I like that high-end brands are creating sneakers and pushing boundaries in a way. Sneaker brands are using old models, changing materials, colorways, switching soles because its safe, because people can’t deal with something completely new. Brands give them something technologically advanced, with a new interpretation of a sneaker form and they shit on it. The "dad shoe" trend is that familiar feeling of the 90s, the big, chunky shoes, thats a type of sneakers I’m more into actually. I think now it’s getting saturated and we’ll be moving to another trend soon, as always.

Do people get mad about the things you say? What do they say?
People get mad when they feel the joke is about them and somehow they feel offended. I understand and respect that. People don’t realize that many of the things I joke about are about me. You must laugh about yourself, you shouldn’t take things so serious. But the majority of people are very cool with it, they comment “that’s me” or they tag a friend and they have a laugh together or they discuss the topic that the illustration strikes, that's what I aim for.

You recently showed off a custom Air Force 1 too. Will you be doing more custom sneakers in the future?
Yes, I’m working on it. Keep tuned on my Instagram for news in the future.