Don Dudley can trace his affinity for sneakers back to middle school, when he’d spend time looking at “Air Jordan History of Flight,” an interactive feature on the then-Jumpman 23 website that shared the history of the Air Jordan brand and the inspirations behind the iconic sneakers.
That’s when, the west-side Detroit native and Cass Tech alum says, he became fascinated with the idea of storytelling through design. Now, at 30 years old, Dudley resides in Chicago and serves as the central region marketing director for Foot Locker, overseeing content creation, in-store activations, and community engagement for the company’s Detroit, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas markets.
For Dudley, it’s about more than just selling cool kicks; it’s about empowering and educating the people who wear them. He helped launch Foot Locker’s Sneaker School, a mentorship boot camp that introduces folks to jobs and professionals within the retail, design, and marketing industries. On his own, Dudley’s started two projects with fellow Detroit creative Darryl Blanding: Wins Brand, an apparel and accessory line with a message of celebrating wins big and small, and Clean Sneaker Care, a sneaker cleaning service based in the small-business incubator Ponyride.
Here, Dudley talks his own sneaker collection, local brands and creatives he has his eye on, and more.
My personal style is … Minimal sneakerhead. I always start with sneakers, and I build my outfit up from there. I like to blend a high-end streetwear piece with local brands, because it’s not what you wear — it’s how you wear it. And I’m also really big on quality and fit; it’s not always [about] buying the most hype brand or the most expensive brand but more about what I’m going to be comfortable in.
Sneaker roll call: I would say I probably own around 100 pairs. For people who are real sneaker collectors, that’s a super small number. But for me, I love a collection where I can see my rotation. My favorite pair is my [Air Jordan 6 Retro in Black Varsity Red]. This pair came out in 2010. It’s my favorite sneaker because it’s one of the shoes that got me into collecting sneakers.
My favorite local brands: I look at Distinct Life; Rick and Yolanda [Williams] have a really cool brand, and just seeing their collaboration over the years with larger brands and how they’ve brought that to the city has been cool. Carhartt is a quality brand that’s become like a staple of workwear and a staple of fashion. And Corner Store Goods — as a brand, their designs are creative and unique to Detroit culture.
Local creatives on my radar: @adsterphotos [Adi Muhtarevic] is doing amazing work in the city and beyond. @ghettokidscam [Cameron Warren] — young dude. I’ve worked with him a couple times. He has a brand, Ghetto Kids, and is a really talented creative. @completd [Dante Rionda] has been putting out some dope work. And @aa_dawg [Aaron Dawson]. I enjoy his brand, Plant Economy, and his recent installation, Room to Grow Experience [a selfie museum at Somerset Collection].
On community: Every day, I say “Community, not competition.” It’s like my daily mantra.
Keep up with Don Dudley on Instagram at @staylaced_don.