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Sneakerology 101 gains nationwide acclaim, draws speaker

Bobbito Garcia spoke to students, faculty, staff, and guests in McConomy Auditorium about his life, his sneakers, and his book. (credit: Celia Ludwinski/Assistant Photo Editor) Bobbito Garcia spoke to students, faculty, staff, and guests in McConomy Auditorium about his life, his sneakers, and his book. (credit: Celia Ludwinski/Assistant Photo Editor) Credit: Courtesy of kicksburgh.com Credit: Courtesy of kicksburgh.com

A crowd gathered in McConomy Auditorium last Monday.

Composed of Sneakerology 101 students, faculty, staff, University of Pittsburgh students, and other members of the community, the crowd waited as Robert “Bobbito” Garcia scribbled a series of words on the blackboard.

Garcia was the guest lecturer brought in by the StuCo Sneakerology 101, possibly the only class in America that has a curriculum covering sneakers from Converse to Creative Recreations.

The instructors, Carnegie Mellon seniors Elliot Curtis, a decision science major, and Jesse Chorng, an economics major, were front row, center, ready to receive more knowledge.
Before the introductions, Curtis said, “This man is a legend, a true aficionado, and to have him here is beyond amazing. I just want to thank everyone who helped to make this possible, and continue to do what Bob says: ‘expose the unexposed.’”

“This is an amazing opportunity to show everyone what we can do and what he has done. It will give our students some perspective on what Elliot and I try and teach in the classroom,” said Chorng.

When he was done writing on the board, Garcia turned around, and the text of his T-shirt read “Where’d You Get Those?: New York’s Sneaker Culture from 1967–1980,” the title of his September 2003 book, an anthropological oral history that describes the functionality and fashion of sneakers during this era.

On his feet were the LeBron 6 sneakers, in navy blue and white.

He credited his editors in helping him create the book used as the text for Sneakerology 101.

Garcia, born in 1966 in New York City, is also known as DJ Cucumberslice, Bobbito The Barber, Make It Happen, Boogie Bob, Kool Bob Love, Soul Food Bob, and Bag of Tricks.

After graduating from Wesleyan University in 1988 and playing professional basketball in Puerto Rico, he began working at Def Jam and co-hosted the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show on WKCR 89.9 FM from 1990 to 1998.

His show featured exclusive demo tapes and in-studio freestyles from many then-unsigned artists, such as Nas, Big Pun, Wu-Tang Clan, Big L, Fugees, and Notorious B.I.G., who later found great success on major record labels.

In addition to DJing all over the world, Garcia remains an editor, writer, cultural critic, streetballer, sneakerhead, and member of the Rock Steady Crew.

Garcia said that a collector is someone who collects sneakers “similar to [the way someone would collect] art, stamps, or coins.”

He described sneakers as a “reflection of your own personality,” and said that a “connection with your shoes is a connection with others.”

He began a 45-slide PowerPoint presentation that featured pictures from his book.

Garcia provided facts and figures, prices of pairs, where they were sold, relevant athlete endorsements, and information about why certain color combinations claimed attention in the public sphere.

He used his slides to explain the evolution of sneaker culture, which featured different pairs of shoes and basketball players who contributed to this “localized grassroots movement of street ball and sneaker culture.”

When asked what surprised him about speaking at Carnegie Mellon, Garcia said, “I’m a humble dude, but I didn’t expect to see my face big up there on the screen.

“I was shocked. I had seen the poster, but man, oh goodness. And we’re not in a classroom; this is an auditorium. One-hundred plus people were here, and not just CMU,” Garcia said.

“I thought we’d be in a classroom, you know 30 people, but this is on a much grander scale than I imagined. I knew there would be students from the class, but people from Pitt and folk from the city came out.”

Along with Garcia’s visit to the campus, there is other evidence of the widespread and growing popularity of the Sneakerology 101 class.

The StuCo has been picked up by many blogs and websites, such as (www.hypebeast.com) [www.hypebeast.com], where the class and the sneakers are given high marks.

A special event, Kicksburgh 2009, is planned to feature the limited edition Sneakerology Reebok Reverse Jams, of which only 101 will be made and sold.

The event kicks off at 5 p.m. in Skibo Gym this Wednesday and will include live music, art, and a break-dancing performance, as well as other clothing and sneaker vendors and an opportunity to donate to The Hill House Association.