If the NBA distributed awards for style, Kelly Oubre Jr. would arguably be named to the All-Fashion First Team. Pre-game tunnel walks have become runway-esque moments for the Charlotte Hornets lefty to showcase his edgy, grunge-centric style before he impresses fans with his lockdown defense and posterizing dunks.
He expresses this fashion affinity via his streetwear imprint Dope$oul, as well as through his partnership with Converse. Through the latter, Oubre Jr. has blessed the masses with on-court and lifestyle footwear collaborations that are emblematic of his life stories and design language. “The designers at Converse allow me to be free creatively,” he tells Hypebeast. “And the best part is that they’re all incredible at their jobs so they give me space to bring in ideas and make those far better than I could have ever imagined.” For the latest installment of Sole Mates, Oubre Jr. chose to highlight his Converse Run Star Hike Platform Low “Chase the Drip” colorway. The collaboration is a product of his challenges to the Converse design team to execute a low-slung version of the Run Star Hike that reflected his dark-tempered and gothic sensibilities.
In the conversation below, Oubre Jr. discusses how Wiz Khalifa sparked his love for Converse, along with his favorite details on his Run Star Hike Platform Low and the influence that Converse has on and off the hardwood.
Who or what got you into sneakers?
Michael Jordan. It’s funny because I wasn’t a basketball fan to begin with, I was more of a karate kid and it didn’t matter what shoes I wore for kicking people. Then, as I started to hoop and study the game more, I was always looking at MJ’s shoes and thought they were fire.
Can you remember any silhouettes that you were into?
Air Jordan 1s, that’s still my favorite shoe to-date. I’ve always loved the shape of them and how much they transcended sneaker culture. The Air Jordan 3 is my second favorite.
You spent most of your upbringing between New Orleans and Fort Bend in Texas. Can you describe what sneaker culture was like in both of these cities?
I started to notice the culture more after Hurricane Katrina when I moved to Texas. Sneakers and style were super prominent in the Fort Bend area. Maxo Kream and his whole operation were huge down there and I noticed how much they cared about sneakers and style. I was never heavily into it but I had peers in those circles that helped me stay updated with sneakers. You could say I was a hypebeast then, it was a fun time in my life.
Can you recall what silhouettes were big amongst the Houston crowd?
Air Jordan 4s were huge. I also remember the Air Jordan 7 “Bordeaux” colorway having a big moment as well as all of the “Doernbecher” Jordans.
What was your history with Converse before you entered the NBA and before you signed with the brand?
I grew up loving Converse. What really pushed it forward for me was when Wiz Khalifa was promoting Taylor Gang. Chuck Taylors were always big for me because they’re such a versatile shoe. It’s crazy to think that I loved Converse in high school and now I’m blessed to have the opportunity to partner with them throughout my career. It’s something that I never could’ve dreamed of because the brand’s foundation is so strong and I can build from that. It’s a tree with infinite branches.
For your Sole Mates selection, you chose to highlight your Converse Run Star Hike Platform Low collaboration. Tell us about how this design came to life.
Converse pitched the Run Star Hike to me first, but because I’m a fan of low-top shoes and love to challenge their design team, I told them that I wanted to cut the shoe in half. It already looked fire from the moment we saw a mock-up and they were on board from there. After we landed the shape, we decided on colors. I chose purple as the accent color because it represents royalty. My personal style is more grungy and ragey so that’s why I added the spikes to the heel. I kept it mostly black for versatility. You can rock these with a suit or with shorts, as well as take them out to skate or hike.
What was your reaction when you held the final sample?
When designing them, we didn’t go too much into detail over the materials. The Converse design team took the liberty of crafting the upper with suede which I thought flowed much better than leather, and I was blown away.
What are your favorite details about them?
I love the rigidness of the Run Star Hike sole unit. It’s what makes the silhouette a modernized version of the Chuck Taylor and I think that its style will age well.
Is there any significance behind its “Chase the Drip” moniker?
That speaks to the chance that athletes have to express themselves. I look at this shoe as a way for me to express my personal style, but it also encourages other athletes both internally at Converse like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and externally to showcase their own.
What’re your thoughts on how a basketball player’s footwear legacy can be different today than it has been in past decades since players can now put their touch on lifestyle sneakers as opposed to just performance models?
Aside from the fact that I can rock Converse both on the floor and away from it, I just love how we can apply our own design language and stories to various canvases. Converse has such a rich heritage so it doesn’t feel like we’re competing, and we can fly our own flag. We can also represent brands like Nike and Jordan Brand since we’re all under the same umbrella.
You’re known across the NBA to have one of the most eccentric fashion styles, why is looking good on and off the floor important to you?
It’s who I am and what I like to incorporate into my everyday repertoire. Creating things makes me feel at home — it’s a way for me to charge myself up and give me the motivation to be myself. I love being presentable because I know if I take care of that part, then I can lock in on the performance after that. I don’t follow too many trends, I just stick to what I like.
“Sneakers allow me to share everything about my life, whether that’s my style, my design taste or my personal stories.”
Converse is a brand that’s primarily known for its heritage and off-court style, but can you share some things about their basketball shoes and how they perform on the court?
Converse, Nike and Jordan Brand are all using the same technologies in some way, some of which are designed by legendary footwear designers like Tinker Hatfield. I do my best to make them look good and show everybody that Converse is the real deal. The shoes are built for high-level performance and have been tested by the most elite talent in the sport. They help us fly.
Why are sneakers and their stories important to you?
Sneakers allow me to share everything about my life, whether that’s my style, my design taste or my personal stories. As a creative, you’re always looking for an outlet that provides you with creative freedom, and Converse has been that for me.