Model: Pro Leather Hi & Chuck 70
Release Date: July 21
Buy: Highsnobiety Shop
Editor's Notes: An education through style – sounds neat, right? Well, there's the founding mission of Steven Barter's Barriers.
The New York-based brand explores overlooked Black history, releasing products paying homage to the likes of Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur, Fred Hampton, and Huey P. Newton, gaining James Harden, Young Thug, and the late Pop Smoke as fans in the process.
For the brand's first Converse collab, it drew inspiration from The North Star, a 19th-century anti-slavery newspaper founded by abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass. The weekly paper focused on then current events concerning abolitionist issues and also allowed Douglass to write freely about slavery, literature, and culture overall.
The 5 piece collection features the brand's take on Converse's Chuck 70 and Pro Leather Hi models, alongside a T-shirt, shorts, and a hoodie, all imbued with references to Douglass and wider Black history.
“These symbols and motifs are not taught in the classroom, but through this art we want to inspire others to be their own educators,” Barriers founder Steven Barter tells us. “The goal is to highlight the work of our ancestors and remind the masses that these concepts remain relevant.”
Both sneakers come complete with contrasting laces with cowrie shell lace jewels. “Cowrie shells were seen as a symbol of fertility, wealth, and a hopeful destiny within African cultures,” Barter explains.
On the soles of the sneakers, there are silhouettes of people star gazing, a reference to when escaped slaves used the stars as a beacon to flee northwards towards freedom.
Everything down to the sneaker's names has a deeper meaning, the Chuck 70 is called "TRUE POWER COMES FROM WITHIN", while the Pro Leather Hi is dubbed "ELEVATE HISTORY. EMPOWER THE FUTURE." Elsewhere, small details across the collection integrate a small amount of red, green, and yellow into its design, referencing the colors of Pan-Africanism.
Overall, the drop is a lesson in history and culture, one that aims to show how relevant the past is to the present. As Barter explains, the details in the collection "personify that Blackness can not be confined in the history of our traumas, but rather embodied through our progress, prosperity, and our future."
“We are empowered through knowledge of our history," he continues. "The more we learn, the more powerful we become. Knowledge of self and the history of one’s identity allows one to live free.”