Welcome to #MadeForTheW’s sneaker appreciation segment, where we introduce you to women who collect sneakers, work in the footwear industry, and/or impacting the sneaker culture. This week, we shed light on one woman who is known for her knowledge in the game, and uses her YouTube as a platform for others to hear and learn about it.
DD: What’s your name, where you from, and what made you start collecting sneakers?
T.J: My name is Taja Keasal but I am better known as just T.J. or Talks with TJ on YouTube and @talks.with.tj on Instagram. I was born in Detroit, MI and grew up in the surrounding area of Redford. Even as a little girl, I was never one for dresses – I opted for sweatsuits and sneakers. Athletics was a driving force in my life and one of the women I admired most, on and off the court, Crystal Young, had an amazing sneaker collection that took my breath away at first sight. Actually, one sneaker did, the Air Jordan XI Concord 2000.
What was the first sneaker you purchased?
T.J: The first sneaker I purchased with my own money was the Air Jordan XVII Copper. On a holiday shopping trip to the mall with a teammate passing by Foot Locker, I couldn’t believe they were on sale and available in my size. Witnessing MJ play in these made them all the more special – we were all still trying to be like Mike
What was the earliest you remember about collecting sneakers?
T.J: Anytime my mom and I went to the mall, I would beg and plead for us to go into every sneaker store there, just to look. Growing up, sneakers were purchased to start the school year, for sports, birthday and Christmas. Even if I couldn’t take a pair home that day, I wanted to see every pair I could up close, admire the detail, the colors, then find those same pairs in the monthly Eastbay magazine. Majority of my sneakers were for basketball/track seasons so, whenever I transitioned to a new season and a new pair, the old pair became a lifestyle option, cleaned regularly and fitted for school.
What’s your favorite sneaker in your collection?
T.J: Difficult choice, but my favorite sneaker in the collection goes to the Nike Air Max 1 Air Max Day. I have so much respect for the Air Max that started it all for arguably the greatest lineage in sneaker history. The detailed tongue with Air Max Day’s anniversary date of 3.26, reminds me every time I look down, this introduced the sneaker game to a whole new world through visible air. Tinker Hatfield took a bold chance, some said it was such a crazy idea he might be fired for it, but it’s a testament to chase that crazy idea or dream.
What sneaker is missing from your collection?
T.J: Do we have the time to run down which sneakers are missing because it’s certainly not just one? Air Max 1 Anniversary Royal, Jordan 1 High Flyknit Jeter RE2PECT, Jordan 1 Hyper Crimson, Jordan 1 Turbo Green, Jordan 5 Michigan, Nike Air Fear of God 1 in at least 4 colorways, Air Max 1 London and Nike Flyknit Trainer Oreo just to name a few.
Any sneaker stories you wanna share?
T.J: Whenever I think about lazy Saturday mornings, I remember sitting down in front of the TV, didn’t matter what was on, lining up all of my kicks for a deep clean session. I was meticulous about my sneakers, keeping them clean meant I always seemed to have a fresh new pair. My mom would actually drop off her sneakers in my room as well during those mornings to have them cleaned. I didn’t mind at all because our feet were the same size then, so if I kept them clean, she let me wear them, extending my sneaker collection to more pairs.
Which sneaker in the future are you looking forward to cop?
T.J: The Air Jordan 1 Hyper Royal is top of my priority list for 2021, the vintage washed suede and subtle blue makes it perfect for denim, khakis, sweats and whatever else I have on hand. It’s a chance to make up for one of my biggest sneaker regrets, passing on the Air Jordan 1 Turbo Green, which still haunts me today.
Which brand in your opinion is killing it?
T.J: I’m sure many will say it’s biased, but Nike, especially their quality execution with designers such as Sacai over and over again in recent times. Sacai’s LDWaffle and VaporWaffle inspire other sneakers to mimic the signature double stacked elements. Their momentum with the anticipated Nike x Sacai Pegasus VaporWaffle has them high on my wishlist again.
Which women in the industry do you recognize?
T.J: Aside from the brilliant designers reaching new heights in this space, I also recognize those cultivating authentic spaces and telling stories we all connect with from women within the brands such as Kim Jabbie and Samantha Baker (Jordan Brand) to CNK Daily led by Channing Buemer.
If you had the chance to address these footwear brands, what would you want them to know?
T.J: With the current state of the sneaker scene, especially for women, brands are telling meaningful stories with captivating colorways (so much even men obsess over them) but these sneakers aren’t landing in the hands of the intended readers (of these stories/sneakers). I commend the progress made in better designs, colorways and elevated releases that speak to women but that was just one of the longstanding issues. In today’s bot/reseller heavy market, I believe it’s on the brands to innovate how they get sneakers into the hands of the very people they’re designing sneakers for each release. If they don’t, they’re crafting amazing stories but who’s reading and wearing them for the love of the sneaker instead of just profit? I know brands are in the business of sport, but fatigue is wearing on consumers.