XLV Stories of the PUMA Suede

Carefully sheltered in its thick, gold, embossed sheath, this velvety suede-covered book co-created by Melbourne-based magazine, Acclaim, features photographic and textual tributes to PUMA’s now 45 year old silhouette: the Suede.

We’ve all heard it before: you can’t judge a book by its cover. And that’s too bad because the cover and case of this exclusive PUMA Suede bible are both beautifully done. The design-work (mostly typography kept company by that iconic leaping cat) is simple; clean, white, embossed, and honest – just like the shoe itself. Pulling the book itself out reveals a juicy fabric cover (which we can only presume to be suede) in a velvety deep blue shade, with a possible smidgeon of purple tint, to boot. This is also embossed, in gold foil this time, and again features the same simplistic, straight-forward styling. ‘Majestic’ would be the word that came to mind when we unpackaged this treasure.

Pictured here is the book and its case alone, which are rare to come by considering there were only 2000 copies produced, many of which have already been planned as gifts for folks considered to be a part of PUMA’s international family. But beyond the literature, this wonderful piece is also being packaged up extra-specially with the 45th Anniversary PUMA Suede “Sapphire”, set to release in the AP (Asia-Pacific) locale.

The concept of the book is also a relatively simple contract to digest, as it presents a discovery of the PUMA Suede over its life span from 1968 to 2013 (the time of the book’s production). And it begins with just that: a history lesson. The overall story of the Suede began with the PUMA Basket actually, whose ‘velvety cousin’ the Suede became. Due to its comfortable, form-fitting shape, the shoe quickly became a go-to staple for basketball players and runners. Tommie Smith and Walt Frazier rocked it, with the latter man taking it a step further as the PUMA Clyde. In fact, it turns out that the Clyde was the first official signature model basketball shoe endorsed by an athlete. And following this, more into the ’80s, hip hop culture swept the shoe into its embrace and eventually the UK version debuted with the name, ‘The State’, because of its birthplace.

If you’re into such tidbits of history, you’ll need to grab this book, as it’s filled with details. Benjamin Menzies writes a powerful introduction piece that leaves one in awe of the silhouette, even if one were to not be much of a Suede fan to begin with. Following this the book presents its two most important interviews, one with Tommie Smith and another with Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier. Tommie describes wearing his first PUMA Suede and says that to him “the highway on its side [the Formstrip] indicated the road to athletic greatness”. Walt puts his feelings towards the shoe that PUMA customized for him so many years ago in such simple, sweet words: “Clyde is style and style is Clyde”.

After this heartfelt welcoming to the book’s early pages, things begin to get heady with the book’s ‘purpose’: forty five stories from forty five different icons around the world. Performers such as Professor Green (UK), Dj Andrew T (Singapore), Prodip (Hong Kong), Plastic Kid (Korea), and Yo! M.A.F.I.A (Australia) share how it effected their musical lives and works. So-called ‘style purveyors’ from Blackrainbow (France), Sicario (Mexico), Kasina (Korea), Xlarge & VA (Japan), Crossover (Malaysia), The Hype BR (Brasil), and Leata (Korea) discuss collaborations with PUMA and their general take on the trainer’s presence in the style world at large. Next come PUMA’s largest group of iconic poster people, entitled ‘the movers’ they’re of course a group of extreme sports athletes and dancers including Bucky Lasek (USA), Taisuke (Japan), Yohei Uchino (Japan), Ducky (Korea), Monkey J (Hong Kong), Drunk (Hong Kong), Lil Chao (China), Cindy Whitehead (USA), Lino Delgado (USA), Choco (Taiwan), and Joey Brezinski (USA).

A media section follows, giving the mouths of magazines and publications a chance to voice their opinions, featuring Sneaker Freaker (Australia), Shoes Master (Japan), Size Magazine (China), Highsnobiety (Canada), Kenlu.net (Taiwan), SBTV (UK), and Nice Kicks (USA). With the hype heads out of the way, ‘the creators’ take the stage, a grouping of artists who’ve been close to the PUMA family like Frank Kozik (USA), Ron English (USA), Michael Lau (Hong Kong), Mark Drew (Japan), Wezt (Korea), Montt (Chile), Koe Rodriguez (USA), and Jimbo Phillips (USA). And finally, the book presents a gang of fellas that PUMA likes to call ‘the heads’ (likely meaning ‘sneaker heads’ or ‘trainer heads’, though almost all of them happen to own and run their own businesses too) which collects Shigeyuki Kunii of Mita Sneakers (Japan), Jason Mark (USA), Limited Edt’s founder Mandeep Chopra (Singapore), MAGFORLIA Sneaker-café owner Takaya Yamada (Japan), Undefeated staff member Kazunori Yamada (Japan), Hype DC’s Head of Marketing & E-Commerce Tom Male (Australia), and last but not least Sneaker Pimps creator Peter Fahey (Australia).

Whew, that’s a lot! Forty five amazingly diverse perspectives on a shoe that is, in Menzies words (that we agree with completely) “classic, plain and simple”. No wonder its known as such a timeless silhouette given the eras and egos it has endured and enhanced, respectively. And though the title specifies the book is about the PUMA Suede’s last forty five years, we’d go out on a limb to say it’s actually about the full (yet to be seen) lifespan of the model, as its final message rings deep into the future:

PUMA Suede Classic. Now. Then. And forever.

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol