Sefton Speaks: The Nasty Poet

We met with Sophie Leseberg-Smith AKA The Nasty Poet. Wordsmith, DJ, Sneaker Connoisseur and Marathon Runner. 

Is there a brand or a style that you wear over and over again? 

I’m a big fan of Nike 97s and 95s. It used to be 95s because that was the year i was born and then it changed to the 97s because I feel it’s just a more wearable shoe. Recently I've been getting into Jordans, especially the Jordan 1s. There have been some wild releases recently, I’ve got a really nice pair of pine green and black ones... they fancy

Favourite colour way in the Jordan's?

Without doubt the pine green / back / white.... I missed the launch of them and ended up having to buy them in America and they were really expensive

That’s dedication, The Nasty Poet will travel for trainers.


What’s your go-to trainer? I’m guessing either the 95s or 97s…

97s for sure. My favourite colourway is probably a pair that are really old, they were deadstock. They're white with the Playstation colourway through them. Annoyingly they rereleased them last year, the old ones are still sick. I’m also a big fan of the Nike TN

The TN, also known as ‘The Ultimate Grime Shoe

(we paused here for a snack break….)

If the Airmax 97s were a biscuit, what would they be?

Well they are the crème de la crème so they’d probably be a Tunnock’s Tea Cake, hard on the bottom and soft and squishy on top.

Are there any brands or designers you’re really excited about? 

I think I might be a bit late to the game but Maison Margiela. Mainly because I think there’s something really beautiful in quite plain clothing that incredibly well made and beautifully structured. I think that’s come with age, I moved away from fast fashion more toward giving thought to how something is made and how something is cut. I’d rather spend the same or a bit more money to have one thing that fits really well instead of lots of little bits that I’ll probably only wear once and then dash. #grown

What’s the most treasured pair of trainers in your wardrobe? 

Weirdly it’s a pair of Mizunos. I was gifted this pair, white, very old school style, very clunky with blue and yellow through them. I was gifted the matching tracksuit too, it’s a serious look. The trainers are definitely my most treasured pair and I’ve kept them in really good nick. I love them and they feel special because they’re not something you see very often, a real under the radar pair. I save them for special and nerdy occasions

What do you think is the driving force behind a sneaker’s success, hype or design? 

As much as I wish it was purely based on design, I think it is probably hype. Anyone that’s culturally relevant can make or break a sneaker. I’d love to say I think it’s just about the aesthetic but for some people the way that something has been made isn’t that important.

If you look at the Reacts, in my opinion, they had almost the perfect balance of design. It’s a beautiful shoe that a lot of time and thought as clearly gone into, but they also had a huge amount of hype around them

Do you think trainer culture would as widespread without Instagram? 

100% Instagram is a major driver for scale. If you're looking at sneaker heads, not high-brow communities, but people who have been collecting trainers for a really long time, those people were collecting long before social media was a thing.

There’s a community of people buying and collecting trainers purely for the love of it, opposed to for resale or clout. I think sneaker culture definitely changed when websites like The Drop Date launched. They saw a gap in market for really curated content which leads people to buying and talking about trainers. Anyone can start collecting trainers today, it’s not like you have to be ‘in the know’ anymore.

With Instagram you can see what everyone is wearing and if hype is a major factor in your brand then you’ve got a huge audience for that. The streetwear community is massive!

It feels like streetwear has really bled into our everyday culture, from music to office wear it’s pretty standard to see a form of it everywhere…

It’s become a uniform and that wasn’t the case till quite recently. 10 years ago, someone like Skepta wearing Louis Vuitton made it a really aspirational aesthetic. There’s a real paradigm shift now toward casual dressing and I think that’s where streetwear has become so popular. It’s everyday wear that anyone can be a part of and have a piece of. Skepta’s now performing in a full tracksuit, that was pretty unheard of for an artist 10 years ago.

There’s been a real change in music from the 2000s bling culture. The 2000s were branded, flashy, furs and gold chains whereas today its reebok classics and a tracksuit. 

That shift is so important and the influence it’s had on high fashion is so apparent. Major brands like Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Burberry have all adopted that super casual streetwear aesthetic.

It’s funny because so many of these brands have taken inspiration from a culture that they tried to push down and separate themselves from. Burberry have reclaimed the ‘chav’ aesthetic and made the nova check have a resurgence. They’ve turned it on its head and have seemingly redesigned their brand around streetwear inspired fashion. The same with Louis Vuitton; having Virgil was a monumental moment for high-fashion. It proved streetwear’s credibility and high-fashion is taking it seriously now.

How do you see streetwear and sneakers evolving?

I’m not sure… it’s so affected by what people in the public eye are doing. For me, knowing lots of trainer collectors and seeing them plan what releases they want to get hold of is interesting because sometimes they can get it so wrong. It can be as simple as someone in the public eye wearing a sneaker that can make or break it.

Evolution wise, I see tech being utilised so much more. It’s becoming a lot more expensive to have a pair of everyday trainers. I think that’s partly due to it costing more for designs to be realised; think self-tying shoe laces.

When the Flyknit came out, it was revolutionary, it was a pivotal moment for both training-wear and streetwear. Athleticism and performance were factored into the design but it was still seen as a cool shoe.

A lot of trainer brands are shifting away from a ‘lifestyle’ trainer and back toward styles that are more reminiscent of training shoes. Do you think that’s indicative of where trainers are heading?

I reckon so, a lot of the recent releases that have been really successful like the Vapormax, the Reacts, the 87s and the 55s weren’t really created with the purpose of lifestyle wear. They’re very much designed off the back of functioning sportswear. I don’t know if you’ve ever trained in a pair of Vapourmax, but I can tell you it’s not ideal!

Traditionally, what are the design principles behind creating a pair of sneakers? Can you run fast? Is the material right? This has seeped down into a lifestyle shoe. There’s no longer this massive divide between a lifestyle shoe and a training shoe. I don’t think there are many companies that have a clear divide. New Balance is probably one of the few that does have a very clear definition between what is a training shoe and what is really a lifestyle shoe.

I think a lot of this could be down to the rise of the ‘dad shoe.’ Talking of New Balance, their latest campaign for the 990v5 “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio” typifies the rise of the functioning sport shoe. It’s definitely one of the simplest marketing campaigns for a shoe I’ve seen recently. I feel like there is a real shift away from overly designed, loud trainers toward a kind of shoe that we used to laugh at our dads for wearing….

100%, could you imagine if you’d shown up to school in a pair of High Tecs!! The ‘in demand’ sneaker of today, is the ugly dad shoe that your mum would’ve dragged you to, screaming, in the £20 corner of Sports Direct.

Shoes being redesigned and collaborated on by big names is driving the appeal. Designers know that there is big money is sneakers and now is a time when people are willing to drop £200 upwards on a pair of trainers but don’t want to spend £600 on a pair of Balenciagas. If you look at the design of the Triple S, it’s mirrored in trainers you can get that anywhere. Nike, New Balance and even Sketchers have cottoned on to the design.

You’ve worked with for a while now and are pretty well connected to the London grime scene. Do you think grime has been instrumental in the rise of the trainer in the UK?

I wouldn’t use the word instrumental and I wouldn’t restrict it to the grime scene. I see it as people who have a presence and have a following. It just so happens that UK rap and grime has its own uniform and a serious streetwear culture that surrounds it. It’s a look that people can emulate, think Skepta coming on stage in a full tracksuit. There’s an element of accessibility and it’s not an aspirational style out of reach. 

You ran the marathon this year! What was it like and how did the New Balance partnership come about?

It came through The Drop Date. They wanted someone who was just an everyday person and not an athlete to show that anyone can do a marathon.

The London Marathon is such a major cultural moment where all of the boroughs come together. It really takes over the city. The campaign was called ‘Everybody’s Race’ and was about showing that if you were willing to dedicate the time, you can achieve anything.

There were 5 of us that went through the campaign and I was the only one who wasn’t an athlete. I found it really hard and I did struggle with training but ultimately I ran the marathon in under 4 hours. I was so naive and only started training a few months before. It’s been really incredible seeing what my body was capable of.

We started a run club with all The Drop Date boys so it was really about the streetwear community. Run the Boroughs was 10 of us who really care about sneakers and streetwear running and training together.

What did you find most important when it came to your running gear and trainers?

Without question, support. You can run 3 miles in a pair of trainers that have been designed for that, but there are very different considerations in a shoe designed for distance running. It was only 3 weeks before the marathon that I found the right trainer. Even though I was gifted a lot of trainers, it came down to finding a trainer that was going to withstand my body weight and keep my feet in place for a long time.

What did you end up running in?

New Balance 880s

Your poetry is the voice of a digital generation, totally on the nose of the current cultural climate. Do you see you style as much a part of your identity as your poetry? 

I think it’s all interlinked. I write about things that I care about and experiences that I’ve had. It sounds a bit naff but when I write poetry it’s the same as when I express myself through the clothes i decide to wear.

 Define your style in 3 words

Naff, thoughtful and functional.

Is there a release that you are hyped about?

YES! Patta x Jordan and the Nike Women’s Air Max Plus in Candyfloss Pink

Final words on trainers?

If you think a pair of trainers are hard, and someone’s not backing you, don’t watch them because if you think they’re hard, you should be wearing them. Back yourself in your trainer collection. 


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