Earlier this week, Highsnobiety recorded its first live show of The Dropcast at adidas Originals’ store in Soho, New York City. Guests sipped on ZX cocktails as they formed an audience in the presence of hosts Jian DeLeon and Noah Thomas who discussed the past and future of the revolutionary ZX series with adidas’ NYC culture ambassador Tyler Busher. The ZX launched in 1984 as a series of progressive running shoes for performance athletes, and continues to reinvent itself with innovative technology after more than 30 years.
While Tyler makes up half of The Binary Group, a synthesis company that seeks to bridge the gap between fashion, music, and design, he brings social and environmental awareness to footwear through projects like the fully recyclable adidas Futurecraft.Loop sneaker. The adidas-head gives a breakdown on the ZX series’ history and influence on sports and subcultures, his alkaline diet, and Ferrari Testarossa dreams. But before that, the episode kicks off with a quick foot check (3:22).
The below interview is a transcribed version of ‘The Dropcast’ Episode 90. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Noah Thomas: Alright, so let’s talk about why we’re here though. Let’s do a foot check right now.
Jian DeLeon: A foot check? We’re all wearing literally the same shoe in different colors. It’s the ZX Torsion though. The zed-X from Europe and any other place that doesn’t say “z.”
NT: Yeah, David says that, I don’t know if you guys know David. He’s our boss. He’s the big guy. He says “zed” all the time.
JD: Even in Canada they say “zed,” which I think is tight. It reminds me of Power Rangers. The Lord Z, the Lord ZX.
NT: I’m going to be honest with you, I think I’m winning. I think that my colorway is the best. Let’s be honest.
JD: I think they’re all fire, but —
NT: I took it there.
JD: That one hits because of the royal blue, the one that Noah’s wearing, got the royal blue on the heels.
NT: Yeah, these are actually the women’s ones too —
JD: Exactly. Silent hit right there. Those are what? Those are a kid’s three and a half that you got on Noah?
NT: Wow. Okay.
JD: That’s it, shop in the kid’s section. That’s your life hack. So, that means you’re a large in brands like Grace Wales Bonner or something.
NT: I’m a large in Grace Wales Bonner.
JD: Okay. Word. That’s it. That’s where we’re at now. All right. Speaking of sneakers though, of course we’re all wearing our Adidas ZX kicks. Tyler, you’re somewhat of an Adidas head if you will, which is sort of a sneakerhead that focuses specifically on the Adidas genus of sneakers. Tell us a bit about the history of the ZX in terms of the Adidas enthusiast.
Tyler Busher: I mean, it got really cool when terrace culture and the casual culture, all those guys who watch soccer or football for over there and they were going crazy. They were wearing the Stone Island jackets, the denim and they were wearing the ZX, and it became how basketball culture is here and it’s just to me, it was just like, “Oh, it’s an equivalent to the basketball [culture]” because I grew up in Harlem. So, everything was basketball culture growing up in the ‘90s, in 2000s. It’s just you wore what the polarizing figures wore. But over there it was what the cool guys wore that go to the soccer games and stuff like that. So, it was the most technologically advanced sports shoes, ‘80s, early ‘90s. I mean, it was crazy.
JD: Yeah. I mean, that goes into the next point we’re going to talk about, which is sort of the significance of the ZX and street culture as it evolved, right? We talked a little bit about the history. Of course, it came out in 1984, Jacques Chassaing designed it, believe it was Marcus Taylor that first manufactured it as well. This is the ZX400, ZX500 and back then you talked about terrace culture, which has ties to the Panaro in Italy, which was just literally a group of kids who wanted to flex and ride around on their scooters in dope outfits. But what I like about the shoe, and Noah you can probably speak to this as well, is it was meant for running. I think Jacques Chassaing was inspired by barefoot running, right? The idea that you can have a shoe that you wore while barefoot while it was on and that’s why he designed it to be this sort of state of the art running shoe, but it’s always the second life a sneaker gets that makes it pop in a way and I feel like Noah, you could speak more to the underground club scene where it became a staple, London’s reggae scene and things like that.
NT: Yeah, exactly. Especially too when people do the history or when they hear about what the shoe was for, then it’s like what? Word. I’m never going to be doing that. You know what I mean? I’m wearing it to just make sure that I’m comfortable at this rave and really party while I am… You feel me? So, when that happens, I think that’s when everyone’s like, “Okay, now it’s a contradiction to wear the shoe,” and then it’s almost like you don’t even know you’re doing it. It’s subconscious when it’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe that I’m wearing a shoe that’s meant for whatever because that’s not what I”m doing with it.”
TB: It’s also, if you look at it, it’s the only thing we can have from those polarizing people who actually, I mean, I’m not running every day, but it’s just if I have running shoes on, you look up to someone and just that’s the only thing you can have and you can gravitate toward the great people by something physical instead of I’m not going to run a marathon. So, I’ll have the shoes though and now we can relate.
Things start from the bottom up as Tyler, Jian, and Noah rank their favorite ZX shoes (15:33). Then, the trio discusses how to get fits off with the ZX and (mostly Noah) talks about the importance of the right pair of pants (19:14).
JD: So, 12 years ago, 2008 was another landmark year for the ZX. Of course it was the 20th anniversary of the ZX8000 and 4000 models coming out I believe, which was back in ‘88, which if you’re not aware, that was the launch of the Torsion system in the sole, which there you go. So, we’ll talk about the ZX as the launch pad of technology, but with that A to ZX pack in 2008 I believe, there were 22 collaborations that came out and it was such a really watershed moment for ZX as a cultural icon. What are some of the shoes you remember that came out then?
TB: The pack we were just talking about, it was the 8000 and just it’s tough because they had a museum and events in Europe that shed light on all these things. It was hard here to see it because it was so big and polarizing over there that we didn’t get to see it here.
JD: I think my favorite of that pack was the Midas that had the EQT colorway. There was the green and the gray. Of course you just mentioned the yellow ones that had —
TB: That was the friends and family —
JD: It was the holy grail one, right? And it had Markus Thaler’s face and it had Jacques Chassaing’s face on it and that was just super limited.
TB: And that’s the thing I wanted to talk about, about this. That’s the thing about the ZX that I think we have to push now is that over here we didn’t get to see that and they don’t know. People here don’t know how technologically advanced the ZX was and that over there it’s like they did some big… I was just watching recent videos, people were going to stand in line how people are now, but in 2008 over all these collaborations and they were showing the entire history and we missed the history of that and now it’s just this is a time where we’re going to start maybe learn about the history of why sneakers and why the ZX is good because we know the history.
JD: Yeah, up there we have the ZX through the years of course. And we will get back to that. And traditionally we have talked about ZX as a launch pad for many different Adidas technologies.
TB: So first before we say anything, he kind of broke my heart because I thought this came out in 1989 when I was born and it didn’t, you said it was launched in —
JD: I think ‘88, yeah.
TB: ‘88 and I was like dang, thanks.
JD: Actually, this one here, 1989 right here, in the archive.
TB: Okay. So now this is my favorite because that is my birth year.
JD: This is not your favorite one.
TB: Well, 10000 is my favorite. Yeah.
JD: 10000 is rare. So the ZX through the years as you can see in this collage and as I mentioned it has been like a launch pad for several different types of Adidas technology and the ZX4000 is the newest iteration of that and it has the 4D sole which is 3D printed as well as the Primeknit upper. And my favorite version of that so far is the Sneakersnstuff collab. They did the sunrise and sunset one.
NT: That was good. I think mine is the Commonwealth for sure.
JD: Tyler, what about you?
TB: I am still going with… it’s just silhouette for me so I am going to 10000. When I got older I started to realize shape was way more important to me than anything. So I think the 10000 was a beautiful shape. You could wear with any pants and we like pants.
NT: We got to get into this pant conversation.
JD: I think this podcast is probably going to be 20 minutes of pant talk.
NT: Most important item.
TB: Very true, very true. You can wear the same shirt every day as long as you got different pants.
JD: You got to wash the shirt sometimes though. It’s the important part.
NT: Get a black one.
JD: Okay. You will be all right. So what? Are you asking me now what my favorite is?
JD: I mentioned it earlier, but it has got to be the ZX 8000s and the EQT colorway it’s just so clean, so versatile and you can wear it with anything. But I’m a classic person and I think that is a pretty classic shoe and a very recognizable colorway.
TB: And shape.
JD: For sure. All right, moving on. So the other thing we got to talk about is…
JD: Pants. So we talked a bit about how it mixes the classic shapes with the new technology. We are talking about how to get fits off in this particular shoe.
The future of adidas ZX is on everyone’s mind: Jian and Noah characteristically propose a ZX flux mule while audience members ask about the next ZX collab during the real time Q&A session (32:08).
TB: I grew up in Harlem and the first thing you do is look at somebody’s shoes. You don’t even look at people’s face. You look at their shoes.
JD: Noah has some funny tastes in shoes sometimes.
NT: The weirdest taste in shoes. We’re all doing very well right now. But usually…
JD: We’ve got the whole Mule Boys Instagram account that you already know. You can see some of Noah’s tastes right there. Since we are here with Adidas, we should make a ZX mule.
TB: Or ZX clog.
JD: It could be like a ZX Flux from 2014 but just a mule style version of that, a Primeknit mule.
Innovation is also key, from Tyler proposing Facetime fit battles to Jian explaining how the ZX’s sole structure helps runners (36:45).
JD: What else? What are your other tricks of the trade?
TB: It is more uniform based than anything. Frank is in the front row and I call him every morning at eight o’clock. Like, “yo, what are we wearing today?”
NT: You do Facetime?
TB: We do Facetime each other.
NT: That is cute.
JD: Oh wow. We should start doing that Noah.
NT: We should.
TB: We can do fit battles.
JD: Oh wow. You have the group Facetime now. You don’t want this smoke.
NT: You all do not want that beef.
The event wrapped up with a few rounds of Adidas ZX trivia, which offered guests the opportunity to win three surprise prizes (38:07).
If you missed out, next time you might luck out. Be on the lookout for the next Question of the Week that will be posted on Highsnobiety’s Instagram, and leave a voicemail on The Dropcast hotline at 833-HIGHSNOB (833-444-4766) for a chance to be featured in a future episode.