The pair of sneakers clanging around in the washing machine is not going to come out any cleaner. The shoes, which have already been doused with coffee and motor oil, are not in there to be rinsed, to be made new again. Quite the opposite, in fact. They are pressed together in a laundry bag, locked in a centrifugal embrace with spare nuts and bolts that beat into their leather and wear them down while the cycle winds. The abrasion is the point.
The shoes belong to Nike SB’s latest collaborator, Magnus Walker, who is a difficult character to explain to the uninitiated. Based only on looks he could be a wizard, a shaman clutching a staff, were it not for his flannel and head-swallowing beanie. His name is more fitting for a hero in a roleplaying game than a man releasing his own pair of limited edition Nike SBs. And yet, despite appearance and moniker, his history with the brand runs deep.
“As a kid, I was a runner, cross-country middle-distance runner,” Walker says, “and this is going back to the late ‘70s. And I used to run in some Nike Waffles, and at the time, one of my childhood heroes was Sebastian Coe, who was a Nike athlete.”
Coe, a tall figure in the world of track and field, gave him a congratulatory certificate when the 11-year-old Walker finished third place in a local race. He says he still has the memento over 40 years later. The racing, if not the running, has endured as a passion for Walker.
He was obsessed from a young age with Porsche. He is most famous for this, best known as the long-bearded collector and customizer of vintage sports cars. He is the subject of Urban Outlaw, a short documentary from 2012 exploring his love for motorsport. He was at one point a peddler of vintage clothes and a fashion designer in Los Angeles—where he’s been based since leaving his native Britain in 1986—distressing his garments much in the same way he’s now doing his soon-to-release Nike shoe.
The shoe, a Nike SB version of the classic Dunk High basketball sneaker, is not his alone. It was made in partnership with Ishod Wair, a Nike-sponsored skater who connected with Walker over a shared interest in rare automobiles. It is fashioned after the Porsche 277, the custom car Walker is most closely associated with. It is the latest in a line of recent Nike SBs inspired by famous cars, this one using the red, white, and blue color palette of its muse. There is a Union Jack detail on the heel and tartan lining, both references to Walker’s roots in the United Kingdom. The white leather of the upper is made to wear down, peel away, and reveal a gold base like that of his Porsche 277.
Walker is keen to accelerate that process, which explains why he is letting one of his personal pairs tumble through an aggressive spin cycle. He will not be offended if other wearers of the shoe don’t want to do the same.
“The shoe is versatile and you can take it either way,” he says. “You can sort of baby it and it’ll still look relatively new, or you can wear the crap out of them all the time and get them really bedded in.”
The beat-up look has been polarizing so far on Walker’s social media, where some commenters position it more as shoe abuse than legitimate wear. His Instagram has recently become focused on the sneakers. There, he’s shared detailed looks and updates on their arrival. The latest is that the Magnus Walker x Ishod Wair x Nike SB Dunk High (retail price $120) will release on June 25 via the SNKRS app and skateshops in North America.
In an interview with Complex, Walker offered more details on the project, discussing how he first connected with Nike, his friendship with the late Sandy Bodecker, and the many requests for the shoes he’s received since their unveiling. The conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, appears below.
How far back do your sneaker interests go?
Well, I’d like to start the story with how I sort of got involved with Nike, which went back to 2012. So in 2012, we’d released the trailer for what became the Urban Outlaw short documentary film, which is a 32-minute film on the story of, sort of, my journey.
So we put a three-minute trailer out that came out in June and we actually received a—or I received—an email from Sandy Bodecker, who at the time was the president of Nike SB and the whole action sports division.
And he was interested in the film. I’m like, “It’s kind of strange because the film has nothing to do with sneakers.” But he was a Porsche guy, understood my passion, and long story short, asked if we could host a design summit seminar meeting for 30 of Nike’s designers and merchandisers, and would I give them my tour of the space? And would we be able to screen them a rough cut of the film before it even came out?
So all of those three things ended up happening. We hosted this event for Nike over two days, they rented the Soho House. We screened a rough cut of the film Urban Outlaw, and at the time it was kind of like, “Wow, I guess we’re onto something here,” because we didn’t know how the film was going to connect with people. Certainly we’d never thought about how it was going to connect with people outside of the car enthusiast, automotive world.
And when Nike approached us, straight away it was like, wow, there’s something going on here. Even though there wasn’t really a connection between me and Nike, it was sort of like, “Do something you’re passionate about and do it to the best of your ability” was the connection. And then we sort of never really heard from Nike up until probably 2018 when I got approached by [Steve Pelletier], who was in charge of SB at the time, who said, “Hey, how do you feel about a sneaker collab?”
And he said, “With one of our pro skaters, Ishod, who’s a fan of yours and he’s a Porsche collector.” I said, “Sounds great, but you know I don’t skate.” And he goes, “It doesn’t really matter. It’s more a combination of your outlaw style and our pro skater, and freedom from movement and that type of thing.”
So that was the beginning of how the sneaker was really born, was the connection with Pelle back in 2018. But I don’t think that might not have happened if we’d never met Sandy six years prior.
And Sandy was something of a Porsche guy as well, right?
Yeah, Sandy owned a 996 GT2. So he’d seen the trailer and was sort of inspired by this spark of creativity of which I was demonstrating I guess, in that trailer. Sort of thinking outside of the box, doing things your own way, not necessarily following the norm, was I think where he found a common bond of inspiration to the point where he set up this whole design summit and had me part of it, giving a little tour and I suppose a baby TED Talk at the time, to 25 or 30 of these Nike employees. So that was the original connection.
How aware were you of the stuff Nike was doing at the time? Was this whole limited sneaker space on your radar at all?
I was aware of it, my background as a kid, I was a runner, cross-country middle-distance runner, and this is going back to the late ‘70s. And I used to run in some Nike Waffles, and at the time, one of my childhood heroes was Sebastian Coe, who was a Nike athlete. And he ran for the same club that I ran for, the Hallamshire Harriers, probably five years ahead of my time.
But I met Seb Coe when I was 11 years old, and to this day, I still have this certificate of, I finished third in this cross-country race. And all it said was, “Well done, Sebastian Coe,” but I never forgot about the motivation from—at the time, Sebastian Coe, it was ‘78, so it was before he became Olympic world-record holder and Olympic champion in the ‘84 LA games.
But just the fact that I was 11 years old and he wrote, “Well done” was a pretty motivational thing for me. To this day, I still have that certificate. And when I went to visit Nike for the first time in 2018, they had a whole Sebastian Coe exhibit there.
I think they have a building named after him.
Yeah, so to answer your question, I wasn’t necessarily one of these Nike guys, just everything has to be Nike, but I’d worn Nike as a kid. One of my childhood heroes was Sebastian Coe, who ran in Nikes. And to answer your question about Nike and limited releases, I’ve watched every episode of Entourage, so I couldn’t help but not relate back to the Fukijamas where Turtle goes to Undefeated and goes all over LA trying to get a pair of Nike sneakers.
So I was aware of the subculture of the whole Nike sneaker world. It’s a little bit like Star Trek fans, everyone’s super passionate about it. So that was kind of my awareness level of all things Nike up to that point.
Now you’re kind of in that same position of, you made a shoe, and I assume there are people hounding you about how to get the shoe or where to find the shoe.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. The process of designing the shoe was super creative and we’ll get into that, but what’s happened in the past month, Nike had a moratorium on releasing that was supposed to be June 12, for the whole press release. But obviously things sort of got sneaked out a few weeks earlier with some unofficial photos, but there was still no release day. And then probably, I don’t know, last week or the week before, it sort of became everywhere with everyone writing about it, from Hypebeast to Sneaker Pimps this, to SB Features that.
And my Instagram sort of DM over the past week, there’s been hundreds of people reposting all those same images, whether it’s here or in Japan. It seems to have gone sort of global to the point where everyone’s hitting me up for, “How can I get them? Where can I get them?” Everyone’s bitching about how you can’t get them on the SNKRS app, because it’s a raffle and no one’s ever lucky enough to get that.
So there’s definitely a lot of that happening right now. And I would say for me, it’s going to be exposure into a world of people that maybe don’t know who I am. I think there’s definitely a car culture, crossover skate culture thing, because it happened with Sandy in 2012, and it happened with Pelle in 2018.
Steve Pelletier is the whole link on this thing to me, because he is the embodiment of, I think what you just mentioned, between car culture, sneaker culture, and skate culture. You guys must be related, too, looking at the photos.
With the beards, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d actually never met him prior to when he reached out, then we flew up and we actually went to Sandy’s, not funeral, but I suppose the remembrance gathering after. And so we were there for that, we met a lot of Nike employees. We actually toured the campus, went to the Kitchen, and that was just at the early days of discussing the shoe. It was one of those, “Yeah, it sounds great. Why don’t you come up? We’ll fly you up, tour you around.” Met a bunch of Steve’s buddies, they’re all car guys. I hosted an Outlaw gathering that November. And then we went up another time and hosted an Outlaw gathering in 2019, on the Fourth of July, at the OMSI Center in Portland.
And then sort of hung out with those guys, went on quite a few drives. And the sneaker was sort of, not a stop-start, but you go up there then you don’t hear anything for six months. “Is the sneaker still on?” “Yes, it’s still on.” “When are we going to start working on it?” And that process took probably 18 months. And the very first drawing that I did was actually early days of COVID. I did two illustrations and I dated them, and one is March 30, was the first illustration. And Pelle basically said, “Do whatever you want to do.”
And my way of designing things, my background is fashion and then automotive re-interpretation of cars, but I’m visual, I see things clear in my mind, but I’m not the guy that that can sit at a computer with Photoshop or Illustrator and do a CAD illustration. So generally what I do is I’ll do like a photocopy of a photo. And then I literally get out the Sharpies and stuff and start doing colorings right on the black and white rendering.
And that was how I did the Nike, truth be told. They sent me some drawings, and then I just colored them in. And then basically, there were a couple of changes, but not too many. The shoe didn’t really change drastically. It became a little bit more of a white shoe as opposed to a red, white, and blue shoe, with the Union Jack on the back and then the whole purpose of the shoe, distressing like the car distresses.
The shoe is made to age, made to have patina, and made to distress. That’s part of the whole process of how the actual shoe is put together, because the ground color of the shoe is actually gold, which is the same color of the car. So the goal was to have the white paint on top fade and crack back to reveal the gold underneath.
The distressing kind of ties back to your own practice in fashion, too. You talked about it in Urban Outlaw, how important it was to take sandpaper to leather, to give these things a real human quality.
So the shoe was really no different. We made a video with Nike that comes out next week, where I talk about how I like things to be old and beat up and have character, and the shoe essentially is the same thing. So that was one of the things we wanted to incorporate into it straight away, was that the shoe would age and distress pretty much right out of the box, depending on how much you wanted to wear it in and break it down, type of thing.
So that was the ultimate goal of the shoe. And then we received the very first sample last August, which for me was great. And we only changed maybe one or two little things on the first sample. And then the second one was just a case of trying to match the blue right, which took to the third sample, and that was it. It all came together really seamlessly.
And the goal was to incorporate my fashion background and a little bit of the punk rock DIY attitude of what I’d put into my Porsche builds, by incorporating the tartan interior, which are things that I’ve added my own touches to my automotive builds on the seats and interior, like plaid interiors and plaid doors strap pulls and stuff like that. So that was how the shoe got it’s tartan interior. One side’s red, one side’s blue.
So that’s kind of the backstory as to how the shoe came together and the process of how pivotal it was having Pelle involved in the whole process. And I think in the end, we were kind of lucky that the shoe went through, because once he was let go from his position at Nike, we weren’t really sure as to where does that leave us in the shakeup.
So we were fortunate that they moved forward with the shoe, and it seems from the conversation I’ve had with Nike and various other people, that the shoe up to this point has been super well-received.
Where is Ishod in all these conversations in terms of the design that you were working on, sketching out and sending back and forth to Nike?
Well, I first met Ishod literally right before COVID hit, like early March, before I’d even done the sketch. So he came down, brought his Porsche, we hung out, and that was sort of the pivotal moment to, “Yes, we clicked, we’re going to move forward with it.” So that was kind of like a meet and greet to see how were we going to get along.
Did you go skateboarding?
No, no, no. I usually don’t skateboard. He came down in the Porsche, and then at a later date we went driving. His involvement in the shoe is, I think he sort of was favoring the shoe to be more of an all-white shoe with colored accents as opposed to my original renderings. The shoe itself was different red, white, and blue leathers, and then the tartan and then the plaid and the canvas, because I think this is one of the few SB Dunks that Nike’s done with combined canvas, leather, and tartan together.
And then with the deconstruction seamless sort of raw vibe to it, which some people either love, or some people hate. So that was Ishod’s involvement in the process right there.
The reference point is the Porsche 277. For people who don’t understand the nuances of why that car is important or important to you specifically, can you explain that?
The sum of the parts of 277, it’s nothing special. It’s a 1971, 911T, 50 years old. I bought it in 1999 at the Pomona Swap Meet for 7,500 bucks. So I’ve owned it 22 out of its 50 years, but the relatability of a car is all my sort of aggressive street driving, which I took to the track and then became a sort of, I guess, an amateur racer time-trialer, the car was developed along the way with the sole role of just increased performance, in the sense of, it wasn’t something that I just went out and threw a bunch of money at, like a lot of people do and said, “OK, I’m building a race car.” This was a track car that I would drive to the track, race, and then drive back. And as my skill level advanced, I would make performance upgrades to the car with suspension, wheel package, brake and tire, not so much, “Let me put the biggest, fastest engine I can put in it.”
So I describe 277 as, it’s like my favorite pair of old shoes, old jeans, it’s the car I’m the most comfortable in. And by modern standards, it’s not the quickest, most powerful car, but the relatability is the fact that I’ve owned it for 22 years and it developed over time with the purpose of doing track days, i.e., you can still drive it on the street, you can drive it on the track.
And I think that’s what people relate to with the car and why it’s become sort of well-known, is everyone has that story where they built their dream car or they built a car with their granddad, or it’s the father’s car, or there’s some memorable connection to it—has nothing to do with paint to sample, hanging out at cars and coffee, going to your local Porsche dealer and just ticking a few boxes.
So I think that’s the relatability to the car. The car’s become, out of all my collection, it’s the one I’m most associated with. It’s the one I’ve owned the longest, it’s been in the Need For Speed video game back in 2015. Hot Wheels has made six different versions of it. So the car has become a signature car that’s become identifiable, recognizable and relatable too, throughout the Porsche community.
You mentioned being comfortable in the car and how that was an important thing to you. When you’re driving or racing, are you thinking about the shoes you’re wearing? Does that play into it?
Yeah, it does, because you have to be comfortable. You drive the car essentially with your two feet, your two hands, your brain, and your two eyes. So all those elements, you don’t really want to be thinking, “Oh, these shoes are uncomfortable” or “I’m not able to heel and toe.” It has to be something that you don’t think about in the sense of, you don’t want to be distracted by uncomfortable shoes or shoes that are not flexible enough to be able to operate the brake pedals.
Is that an important part of the process, to kind of wear the shoe while you were actually driving around?
Yeah. For me, when I got the shoes out of the box to begin with, they were too new looking. So I knew straight away that I was going to accelerate the distress process, which will happen naturally over time. But for me, I was able to sort of distress it a little bit quicker by getting the sandpaper and the grinder, and literally kicking it around a bit and then distressing it up that way.
And today, I was working on a pair where, let me throw them in the washing machine with a bunch of nuts and bolts in the laundry bag and see what that does. And believe it or not, it actually softened them up. It didn’t crack up the level like I thought it was going to, but it certainly freed up the tongue and the foam, and actually suppled up the leather.
But what I did with mine is I just bent them backwards and forwards for like an hour, to really crack them up and supple them up. They’re pretty comfortable to begin with, but that made them more comfortable because it just kind of broke them in a little bit better.
It’s interesting because what you’re describing is, in some ways, antithetical to how some people treat their sneakers, where they would cringe at the idea of somebody folding up their shoe or beating it up so much.
Well, yeah. Mine, I hand-distress them, and then I literally got out coffee and coffee stained them and then got some used motor oil, which actually came out of 277, just to sort of make them look like they were 20 years old. And that’s a love-hate thing. If you’ve read any of the comments on my Instagram posts, from when I released it last Thursday, there’s over 700 comments.
And obviously most people really—they’re polarizing. They either hate them that they’re beat up, or they love them that they’re beat up. But the point is, I did a post today, “Hey, if you like your sneakers clean without no patina and shiny out of the box, this is how they come out of the box.” And you can read those comments as well, because like you say, some people are not even going to wear them. They’re going to collect them and leave them in the box. Other people might just wear them on special occasions, as their Sunday best, and they don’t even want a speck of dirt on them.
But it’s sort of each to their own. The shoe is versatile and you can take it either way. You can sort of baby it and it’ll still look relatively new, or you can wear the crap out of them all the time and get them really bedded in.
You wrote a letter to the Porsche factory when you were 10, I presume your name is known there now. Have you shown them the shoe or is that kind of a touchy subject since it’s one of those tribute things where it’s not technically a collaboration?
For me, it’s not a tricky thing. Ironically, Porsche is supplied by Puma, before they were supplied by Adidas. And then I think a year or two ago, they became a Puma sort of affiliated brand.
I’ve shown it to some people at Porsche, everyone seems to like it, thumbs-up. This for me, seems to have become a moment where everything up to this point that I’ve done, the film, the book, the TED Talk, collaborations with Porsche on certain things, Hot Wheels where I’ve done over 30 cars. Hot Wheels is a pretty big global brand, but Nike supersedes that I think, in the sense of a lot of people seem to be really supportive of, “Wow, you’ve really made it when you’ve got a sneaker collab with Nike. How did you get that? How did that happen?”
So in a weird way, it sort of felt natural. There was a seed that was sown back in 2012 with Sandy. And then I never really followed up, never really had any feedback from Nike in that six years until we hooked it with Pelle. So it was like a gradual thing, but it wasn’t like I’d planned, “OK, these are 10 collaborations that I want to do, Nike being No. 1 because it’s such a global brand.” It just really happened organically.
And everyone’s been, up to this point, super positive about, “Wow. So glad for you.” “These are two of my favorite things, Porsches and skating,” or “cars and Nike,” or “cars and sneakers.” I’m seeing a lot of that positivity out there around the collaboration. And then of course, the other thing I’m seeing is all the people coming out of the woodwork who you don’t really know, saying, “Hey, can you get me this? Can you get me that? Where can I get them?”
So there’s certainly been a fair amount of buzz before we’ve even put out the video, and before Nike itself has even really posted anything.
In terms of people hitting you up, did you get an allocation to seed out? Are you able to hold down Porsche people like Jay Leno or Jerry Seinfeld?
Yeah, yeah. There’s a couple of interesting people who are going to be getting some shoes. One of the first guys, ironically, that sent me a DM was Michael Rapaport, so I’m sending him a pair, I’m sending a pair to Michael Strahan. And the challenge will be just making sure I’ve got a size run of what people wear, right?
I’m like, an 11, 11 ½, which to me, 10 and 11 seems like the average size, but Strahan is a 14, thankfully I’ve got some 14s. Someone was hitting me up yesterday that was a size eight. So my goal is friends and family are already going to get X amount of pairs, and then buddies will get X amount of pairs, and then I’m going to basically, I think one of my plans is just to hold them. I’m thinking of doing an auction where I give all the proceeds to LA Mission Homeless Charity. So I’m going to see how that thing’s going to pan out.
And then just basically give them to people that are interested in them or actually really, really want a pair and will wear a pair. And I think the demand for me far exceeds how many pairs I’ve got.
How many personal pairs do you think you’ll keep for yourself?
Well, I’ve already gone through… I’ve beat up two pairs already. Normally I would wear an 11, but I ended up in an 11 ½, which became super comfy. So I’m one of those guys that literally—it’s a good question because one time I found a Diesel sneaker, which was a leather Diesel zipper, sort of punk rock shoe, which looks a bit like a Converse. And I went through three pairs of them, I liked them that much.
I did a similar thing with the lightweight Dr. Martens, where I had a burgundy pair, a black pair, and another burgundy pair, so I went through three pairs of those. When I first met Pelle, he gave me an all-black SB Dunk, which I’ve worn that out, and I wish I could get another pair of that.
So when I find something, it’s like my favorite pair of old jeans. I’ll end up with two or three pairs of the same thing, and the 277 Nike is going to be the same thing, because I don’t really wear sneakers that are colorful, like an all-black Dunk was sort of as skatey as I got. So for me, it was sort of like a bit of a mental thing to actually wear, even though it was my own shoe, to wear something that was not black, because I’m always wearing black footwear. Which was another reason why I sort of really wanted to beat it up pretty quick, where it just didn’t look too much of a white sneaker. But to answer your question, I’m probably going to have at least two, three pairs, the same size that I rotate.
And then I’m already thinking about a follow-up shoe, because all of a sudden I’m like, “Wow, this is great.” I’ve got other art-related cars that would translate pretty well into a sneaker. So I’m already sowing the seed of, “Hey, let’s collaborate on something else.”