Sole Mates: Lee-Lou Demierre and the Parra x Nike SB Dunk

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Amsterdam’s Lee-Lou Demierre has risen to the top of the breakdancing world. Besides his innate talent, his stratospheric rise is explained by his upbringing – his mother was a b-girl, and Demierre started breaking when he was only two years old. In addition to the love of dancing, his mother also imbued him with a love of sneakers, due to the pairs she picked out for him (as a baby, his first sneakers were a pair of Air Jordans) and of his lifelong friendship with the founders of Patta (a young Lee often accompanied his mother on her sneaker missions to Patta).

Demierre’s favorite brand is Nike, and his shoes of choice, both on and off the breakdance mat, are the SB Dunk Low and Dunk Low. For him, they represent the perfect blend of performance and aesthetics, as he tells Hypebeast that several breakdancing moves put the same kind of stress on shoes as skateboarding, and that he feels more confident with beautiful shoes. Her favourite? Parra’s SB Dunk Low collaboration in 2021, due to its association with its hometown and its bold but not overwhelming color palette.

In the latest episode of Sole MatesLee-Lou Demierre discusses Amsterdam’s sneaker culture, why he’s drawn to Parra’s designs, how breakers’ sneaker style has evolved over the years, and what he expects from his shoes to perform or relax.

What made you want sneakers?

My mother. She’s always been a sneakerhead. My first pair of shoes was a small Air Jordan. Nike and Jordan Brand have always been my mom’s favorites, and I inherited that love from her, especially the desire to have a little more exclusive pairs. She didn’t want shoes you could buy at any store.

You come from Amsterdam. Tell us about the sneaker culture there and how it influenced you as a child.

I actually grew up going to Patta quite often, as my mum is a good friend of the founders. We’d stop and hang around, and it’s funny how far the store, their brand, and the city’s sneaker community as a whole has evolved. Parra, Daily Paper and Filling Pieces all started blowing up and I saw it happen first hand. Everyone wanted to be the coolest kid in school and of course we had plenty of options with all these brands and stores in our backyard. This is where I really realized that it was important for me to find my own style.

“It makes me feel confident and unique to have a new pair of shoes when I break.”

In addition to putting on sneakers, your mother introduced you to breakdancing from a very young age: she was a b-girl and you started breaking when you were only two years old. Do you see shoes as a breakout tool before a fashion statement, or do these two things always mix?

In the beginning, it was all about comfort and functionality. I use a lot of different gliding motions when I dance, so I’ve always needed shoes that are grippy and durable. You also don’t want anything too thick, so I don’t like to break shoes like Air Force 1s or Dunk Highs. The wear and tear you put on your shoes when you break is similar to skateboard wear because you’re using the same parts of your foot that you would use for kickflips or heelflips to make those sliding moves.

When it comes to looks, I’ve realized that it makes me feel confident and unique to have a new pair of shoes when I break. Last year, for example, I wore Dunk Lows to the BC One World Finals, and nobody was really breaking Dunks back then because they were a little harder to get back at the time. Since then, I’ve done a lot of them because I feel like it’s my “own” shoe.

Speaking of Dunks, you picked the Parra x Nike SB Dunk Low as the shoe you wanted to highlight for Sole Mates. What draws you to it – the Amsterdam connection, the colorblocking, something entirely different?

In fact, I remember exactly when I discovered Parra. I was a sophomore in high school and people at my school were starting to wear his mark, but the exact moment I said “wow, Parra is dope” is because a friend of mine showed up with a iPhone case Parra. I fell in love with the patterns and colors used by Parra, and started to do my research on him, his work and his collaborations. Obviously I couldn’t afford his Air Max‘s back then [laughs], but I made sure to grab these SB Dunks after they went down last year. I don’t usually like super bold sneakers, but I think the bright colors are very tastefully applied here and really like how they contrast against the shorter Swoosh and gum outsole. In fact, I haven’t danced in it yet!

This weekend, maybe? [Lee was interviewed a day before the 2022 BC One World Championships]

Oh, man! I’m thinking about it, but I want to keep this pair a bit clean so I don’t know yet. I’ve worn them down a bit, but I still don’t know if I want to take them on stage. I actually bought these along with the Dunks I wore to the Worlds last year, but I bought them specifically to dance in and wanted to keep them clean. I also just got a pair of Supreme x Nike Shox Ride 2 so am considering wearing those as well. It may be a day of thing. [Editor’s Note: Lee wound up deciding to wear the Shox Ride 2]

“The [Parra x Nike SB Dunk Low makes] I feel connected to home.

Since Parra is such a central figure in Amsterdam’s street culture, do you feel like you’re representing your hometown when you wear his shoes?

[Nods] For sure. That’s part of the reason I love them. They make me feel connected to home, like someone wearing the jersey of their favorite football team. That’s also why I’m afraid of ruining them: if you break a shoe like this, it’s probably going to be destroyed.

Do you have any other favorite Parra shoes?

The friends and family version of Parra’s 2019 SB Dunk Low is my holy grail. They are crazy, but way too expensive [laughs].

Shoes like the Superstars and Suedes are the “classic” silhouettes, but how has the style of b-boy and b-girl sneakers evolved over the years? Are people still looking for models like these, or has that changed?

The Superstar and a matching tracksuit is an all-time classic breakout outfit and will never be fresh, but I think what most Breakers wear today is different. When I wore Dunk Lows to the World Finals last year, Zoopreme and Tawfiq – two other breakers in my crew – did the same, and since then we’ve seen a bunch of other breakers buy and wear Dunk Lows to compete. I think we have created a new trend in the breaking world! I’ve also seen a lot more people rocking New Balance lately.

You’ve been all over the world and seen both break culture and sneaker culture through many different lenses. What is the most unique thing you have noticed about these cultures in Amsterdam compared to the rest of the world?

As they are welded. Even though the sneakers and breakup scenes of Amsterdam have grown a lot, they still feel family-like and don’t overlap as much as they might in other countries. People there aren’t as concerned with having the “latest and greatest” either – they enjoy and want exclusive stuff, but don’t always need to have it first, they’re just more to do. their own thing.

Why are sneakers important to you?

They define how I feel. If the sneakers are cool, then I’m cool too, and if I’m cool, I feel good.

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