207 - Sneakers and Packaging! An interview with Mike D. Sykes
Check out the Kicks You Wear on Substack
If you know me much, you know that I love both sneakers and #packaging and so being able to sit down with the great Mike D Sykes from the Kicks You Wear (newsletter link and YouTube link) was a huge treat! If you're into sneakers, Mike is that dude to be following!
Speaking of sneakers, I have been a huge fan of Kizik hands free kicks. They are primed for some incredible growth and proving to people they've been shoeing it wrong! Blake Brown 💭 and his team have built something amazing there and they're just getting started. Their latest collab with Jet Puffed is amazing and I can’t wait to get my feet in some!
Show Notes and Transcript provided by Deciphr.ai (apologies for any errors!):
The Evolution of Sneaker Packaging: A Comprehensive Analysis
Hey, everybody. I am delighted today. If you've been listening to the People of Action podcast for a while, you undoubtedly know that I love sneakers and I bring them up a lot. I've done a few unboxing videos and have been following Mike Sykes for a minute. I don't remember exactly how long, but it's been a while. Been a subscriber to the newsletter, following him on Twitter, reached out. Actually, we were both going to be in Vegas. I thought maybe at the same time, but it turned out we just missed each other. But I reached out and I was like, hey, can you come on my podcast and talk a little bit about sneakers and packaging and the role it plays? And he's like, let's do it. So I said, Great. So I'm joined here by Mike Sykes. He is the founder, creator, president, chief of the Kicks You Wear, amongst other so, super appreciative for having you on the podcast, Mike.
Hey, thanks for having me, Adam. I appreciate you. Let's add CEO, Tsar. I'm just trying to think of all the other titles that I could possibly one.
I had one lady on have you seen Beatbox Beverage before? They were on Shark Tank. They're in retail locations anyway, and her name is Amy Stedman. And she was like, my title is Chief. Get shit done.
I like that a lot. I like that a lot.
You should. It's yours. It's freely given. So you're on the east coast. Are you in the Maryland area or you're just a Wizards fan?
Yeah. No, I'm in the Maryland area. I'm in specifically Upper Marlborough, which is like 30 minutes south side of DC.
Got it. So let's hang out here for just one quick second because we both have likely suffered in our NBA fandom, it would appear, except for I got the joy of exiting my suffering as a Denver Nuggets fan recently. But it was a struggle there for a long time, right? Sure. So how are you feeling about the new direction for your Washington Wizards? I know that you're passionate about it. I'm a passionate Nuggets fan. There's not many. I've never met, like, a passionate Wizards fan, so I was excited.
I always say that there's only like 16 of us. There aren't too many. There are too many. No, let me give people credit because there are lots of Wizards fans here who really love the team. And I would say that this area is a basketball area. The basketball hasn't really been that good, but as far as the new direction, I'm here for it. I've been pro trading Bradley Beal for the last three years or so now. Not that Bill was a bad player, but it was just time. It was just time for it to happen, for everybody to move on.
And you do a really good job. The thing I appreciate the most is I'm a little bit older than you, so I'm in my early forties. And so for me, there's a nostalgia to it as well. And I'm sure that people have nostalgia also, but when I played basketball, I bought Jordans like original sixes and sevens and just wore the crap out of them. And it's become I still have a couple of pairs and they're like they're just absolutely trash from when I was a kid.
But the thing that I appreciate about the Kicks you wear is I'm just like, I love that we can celebrate just wearing shoes that you like and wearing. You do such a great job of like you don't just buy into the Hype because it's hype, right? If you like them, wear them. It's funny because I actually use shoes when I talk about packaging because it's like how you present yourself to the world in a lot of different, almost every social circle, right? Whether it's business, whether it's you go to summer League and you see people wearing all sorts of cool shoes, it's a way that you can kind of present yourself and it's just become this thing where it's I can't if I, if I wear these, it's going to devalue, it's going to do this. It's like, man, it's just so exhausting. Just buy shoes and wear them.
No, I'm so glad to hear you say that. Because the reason why I started the Kickstyware in 2019 was because I couldn't find that content out there. It was me searching for something that had that businessy angle to sneaker culture in the footwear industry, but also not necessarily what you would get from different sneaker blogs out there where it just felt like they were chasing the hype and it was just like, the value of this sneaker is crazy.
This is reselling for that or whatever. That's the part that yes, it's a part of it, but it's not what is at the sneaker's core. The core function of every shoe is to wear it. It means something to somebody and it can tell your story. And I think that diving into that sort of hammering that home for people, it not only just reinvigorates my love for sneaker culture, but it allows other people to love it in the same way I do.
Yeah, that's awesome. It's funny because I do a lot of sustainability consulting with brands around packaging and I'll say the primary purpose of packaging is to protect the product from point A to point B. There's nothing sustainable about returned products, right? You kind of pulled me back in when you said, like, hey, the primary function of sneakers is to be worn. I mean, there are probably a few that are just so exquisite that they're art, you know what I'm saying? But 99.9% of sneakers are built to be worn and not to just sit in a box somewhere.
I go back to that idea often of, like, what's the core purpose here of whatever it is that we're doing? Whether it's making a plastic clamshell for lettuce or you're making a high end thing for Tiffany, it's like, what's the core purpose of this? And for packaging, it's can it get from point A to point B and protect the product the best it can. So you get a little bit of that with shoes, though. I still have not gotten my son keeps trying to get me behind Crocs, and I just can't. Oh, my God, they're so comfortable. They are like, I've worn him. And I'm like you're right. They're comfortable.
I can't do it. I can't do it. I am very much anti Croc, and it's such a shame because they are pretty comfortable. I won't lie. They're pretty comfortable, but they look like thumbs. I just don't want to wear a thumb on my foot. I'm sorry. I can't do it. I can't do it.
It's so true. Well, let's talk a little bit about packaging for sneakers, because to me, it's been a really interesting evolution to watch. As somebody who I would say, I appreciate sneakers when I tell people that I own, like, 100 pairs. Like, normal people are like, that's so many. And I'm like, but it's not compared to people who really are in it, right? So it's like, I walk this fine line of, like, I'm weird to normal people because I have 100 pairs of sneakers or whatever the number is, but people who are in it, it's like, that's light work for a lot of folks.
But I host a packaging podcast. I did a Ted Talk about packaging. I really love this industry a lot. And so I've been watching packaging for sneakers come to the forefront a little bit more just from a box with some paper on the inside of it. Know, for example, when something that a lot of people maybe haven't noticed, but if you order from the Nike website now, you get a box that pops open and it's got a tear strip on there to make your returns a lot easier. You're not ripping tape off. You don't have to get out.
It's actually a big innovation. It's hard to do that. And I've really appreciated Nike's approach to doing that to make it easier for their customer to return a shoe if they want to. So I noticed things like that. I'm curious because you don't obviously come from the packaging industry. Have you noticed things when you do an unboxing video, when you're talking about the latest release, maybe. What are some things you've seen in the evolution of sneaker packaging design or structure or anything?
Yeah, for me, a lot of times there are times where I don't even want to take the shoe out of the box because the packaging is aesthetically. I'm always looking for what's different about the packaging, right? Is it a different strip of tape that somebody's using? Or when I pull the sneaker out, is it wrapped in some paper, a different style of paper? Is it like a brand specific thing? I'm like, I just ordered these asics the Gel Cayano 14 from this company called Dope Factory, I want to say in Italy.
And they sent it. The box had this special tape on it and then I opened it up and the sneakers were in like a sleeve and it was so cool. And I was just like, I don't think I should open like I need to take a picture of this to show people that the extra effort that they went through to package this, to wrap this up, and it was just so cool. So that's one thing that I always look for, and especially when I'm ordering sneakers from overseas websites like that one they're based in.
Anytime you order from there and somebody like Mr. Porter, for example, they'll give you not necessarily over the top, but they will go an extra step to make sure that one, not only is your package secure and safe, but it also looks really just I think that's really cool. Nike, as far as their packaging goes, I think they've gone an extra mile in the last few years with sustainability. There have been boxes that I've gotten from them for the Space Hippie, for example, where it just literally comes in the box.
It kind of tripped me out at first because I've never seen that. But also I think it's really cool. It helps me because I don't have to, one, go through the whole thing of just unwrapping that and trying to open two boxes at once. I can just kind of get through it. But also from the sustainability standpoint, that's less waste and that's something that I can appreciate, I think. Doing that, it doesn't necessarily make me more inclined to buy from one company or another, but it's definitely something that I appreciate as a consumer, for sure.
Yeah. Funny story about the space hippie shoes. They're made from recycled plastic, right? Like some of the regrind and stuff like that. Which is a really cool story. So I bought them and when I did my TEDx Salt Lake City talk and I was talking about packaging, I shared the know, I said, hey, the shoes that I'm wearing were made from trash, basically, and packaging. And I talked about it. So it comes time. So I do the talk. It's, live it's during COVID It's weird they put it out on YouTube because there was twelve people in the audience when I did my talk because they weren't letting anyone in.
And I get this disclaimer that said something like, the Ted community doesn't do something or other with it. And I reached out to the organizer, like, what did I say? That was, like, controversial. I talked about packaging, and they said we couldn't prove that Nike didn't pay you to wear those shoes as a paid sponsorship and do that. I was like, you think that Nike is paying me to wear their shoes?
I just thought it was I. And I totally thought I think that what they did with that, for me, as a packaging and as a sustainability person, was great. And also, the reason why it can't happen is because that sneaker box is part of the product. It's not only functional. So if you get your shoes and that box is damaged, and God forbid, especially now with the resale market where it's at, it's got to be billions of dollars right now having a corner that's smashed in. Or if you just end up throwing the box away when you get tired of your shoes and you want to go resell them, or you want to clear something out, you're talking about a pretty big price delta in some cases having not been involved in the reseller market very much at all.
Yep. No, that makes sense. I'm just looking at the time, and I'm realizing we've been talking for a solid 25 minutes, which is great, and I'm sure I could talk a lot longer, but after a couple of hundred episodes, I found that most people at about 2025 minutes, are like, all right, bud, I got to get on with my day. But I know you have a ton of content out there. I want to give you a chance for people who are listening to this. Who.
The packaging industry is huge, by the way. It's a trillion dollar global industry. It's one of the largest in the world. Most people don't realize it, but every single thing in your room got there because of packaging. Or part of the reason was it there's lots of sneaker heads in the packaging industry. I was just at the show, and you're just walking around the show, and you're seeing more and more people walking around.
They're taking their sneaker game seriously. So I want to give you a chance for people to connect up with you, follow you, subscribe to the newsletter, do all the stuff. So how do people get more of you and follow you?
You can subscribe to the Kicks you wear at KYW. Substack.com. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. I think at Sykes and Threads, too. I made the jump. I'm going for it. Lots of sneaker content over there. So, yeah, Threads is really weird. It's like a bare bones Twitter, but that's neither here nor there. But you can follow me there. And yeah, I will be posting all of my content on those social accounts.
Yeah, I love it. My podcast is on substac as well. I've really enjoyed substack. I think actually, the first time I heard about it was from your newsletter. I was like, what is this? Because I was struggling with just different things, and it seemed to be the easiest. So appreciated that. If you're listening to this, you're in your car, you're out for a run, or whatever it is. First of all, congrats on being on a run. You're a better person than me.
But I'll have all the links in the show notes. You can just click on those, subscribe to his newsletter. Follow Mike on all the socials mike, I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for your time. Too bad we couldn't do this in person, but I'm glad that you are not in the 118 degree heat here in Las Vegas. So congratulations to you for escaping before it got too horrible.
Thanks for having me, man. Yeah.