Ollie Teeba

Here at eatmoreshoes we are as equally passionate about our own shoes as we are about the kicks of our fellow collectors. We travel the globe in search of shoe connoisseurs, determined to take a peek at their collections and see what makes them tick.

This spring our hunt has lead us to Ollie Teeba, a musically-inclined adidas addict, whose claim to fame is his two man jazz rap band, The Herbaliser, most well-known for their older releases on the UK-based Ninja Tune record label and their more recent work on !K7 Records. Originally hailing from Twickenham, South West, London, we caught up with Ollie in the bustle of The Smoke and he told us about his roots.

When I was a kid, I always thought regular shoes were boring. Once I got [my first pair of sneakers] I never looked back. I also got into hip hop and b-boying around that time [1982] and having fresh looking kicks was a big part of that. So it became very important to me.

What shoes were you breakin’ in back then?

In the 80s there were two types of sneaker that were ‘must haves’ for b-boys. Those were the Suede Puma and the adidas Shell toe… and also, the Adidas Campus. Nobody called them by their official names. Particularly in the UK where neither shoe was available to buy until after 1985. This made them even more desirable, the fact that they were essentially unatainable unless you had a relative travelling there. Interestingly enough the Superstar actually isn’t that suited to b-boying, but they look hella fresh!

Yeah, supes are a classic, no doubt. So, how and when did you first find out about adidas’ signature silhouettes?

Adidas in particular was the first brand that I noticed as a child. In fact if you look back at old movies from the 70s you’ll spot people, mostly from the US, sporting adidas way before any other shoe. Obviously they were making shoes, way before then, for professional athletes and such. But it seems like the 70s is the first time that sneakers really become a fashionable item.

It seems that a lot of people connect hip hop, and music in general, with adidas more than any other brand. Do you have an idea why this is?

While already a popular shoe in hip hop circles, you cannot underestimate the power of ‘my adidas’ as a promotional tool. It basically cemented adidas as the brand for hip hoppers everywhere. I don’t really know why certain types of music and sneakers go together. Dance music I guess is easier to move to in comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes that look dope, being equally important. Also it seems that over the years more of the people working in the marketing departments are really into good music and want to associate the brand with that. I would say Adidas in particular.

As you’ve grown to love sneakers over the years, how has this changed the way you collect them?

I keep all the boxes now. When I was younger I didn’t and discovered that some of my older pairs completely disintegrated. When I was a boy my dad always used to keep his shoes in boxes. Also stuffed the shoes with tissue paper to retain the shape of the shoe. So thats what I do now. Some years ago I had cupboards built to house them. I had towers of boxes that were constantly being in danger of falling on someone. Not a good way of storing them, and a box will surely crumple if it has twenty other boxes on top of it. The drawback is of course it’s sometimes difficult to see exactly what I have. Especially in the case of adidas shoes which always have abbreviated color descriptions on the box label.

It seems like most of your kicks are low cut, skate or tennis shoes. What is it about these silhouettes that attracts you to them?

It’s the b-boy in me. I’m drawn to simple, open toe designs. Although I have been buying Forums a bit lately. I was never particularly into them back in the day, because they were mostly available in white leather variations, which is a bit boring to me. I like colors, and Forums have been available in some interesting varieties these days.

Yeah, we agree, the more contemporary Forums can be pretty lush. But if you had to pick one silhouette to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It’s a toss up between the Superstar 80s and the Campus 80s in either OG or reproduction. I’d probably wear the Campus more as they are sooo comfy.

You’re a true b-boy at heart Ollie. Do you have any shoe you’re not wearing at all?

I do. Certain shoes I like to buy doubles, if I can. So I can wear one pair whilst keeping the other box fresh, to be worn at an unspecified date in the future when you just can’t get them any more and make people say ‘oooh, where’d you get those’.

[laughs] Oh yes, we know that feeling, and we bet you get that a lot with this collection! What’s up with those Rod Laver Vin Solebox’s, why haven’t you popped the tags on those yet?

Because I’m already wearing the other pair… duuuuh!

[both laugh]

Word, and your vintage Century shoes aren’t laced up, why is that? Do you wear those bad boys?

Once again… two pairs baby!

[both laugh again]

Damn, you’re one silly, serious collector Ollie! And you seem to be in love with suede, why is that?

Color. In the 80s, most sneakers where white or black leather. The only exceptions to this seemed to be nylon running shoes, canvas Chuck Taylors, and suedes. These other types of sneakers you could mix and match better with your outfit. Also the suedes looked more like shoes, so you felt like you were dressing up a bit.

Makes sense. Speaking of dressing up, is there any adidas apparel that you dig?

Yeah, I have a few track tops. White on blue, white on black, red on black, grey on burgundy. The velour tops in blue, brown, burgundy, and grey. That weird camo that matches the Superstar Vintage. A couple of leather hooded jackets and a strange leather track top that is a sort of minty green.

You seem to also be a collector of vinyl. What sort of stuff do you got stashed in those crates?

Good hip hop (a hard task these days). Old jazz, funk, soul, rock and weird spoken word stuff.

What about your own music? How’d The Herbaliser get started?

Met Jake Wherry in 1993, when a mutual friend asked me to participate in making a track with the two of them. Jake and I hit it off and realised we were into a lot of the same kind of stuff and started getting together a couple of times a week to make beats. He knew a chap at Ninja Tune and we made a tape, they liked it and The Herbaliser was born.

Wow, you make it sound so easy! Nearly two decades later and you’re still together, doing what you love. Got any plans for the future?

We’re currently making a new album. I think it’s our best work yet. I am also working on a project called Soundsci with Jonny Cuba (DSP) and Audessey (Mass Influence). Also with a new album coming out soon. Working on a solo EP with various MCs featured.

Nice one Ollie, that’s all very exciting, we’re looking forward to hearing what you come up with. Thanks for your time and keep up the good work… with the shoe collection that is!

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol

  • http://eatmoreshoes.com/2460/hype/foot-patrol-x-adidas-campus-80s-b-sides-release/ Foot Patrol x adidas Campus 80s B-Sides Release | eatmoreshoes

    [...] cameo appearance was made later in the afternoon by long time collector and talented musician Ollie Teeba (from The Herbaliser), a self-proclaimed Campus addict, who wouldn’t be known to miss a [...]

  • Nikos

    man.. those vintage campus’ are some of the best shoes ive ever seen. what i would do to get some of them…
    great article once again gents!

  • Craig Leckie

    Nice interview with a top b-boy purist, a lovely selection of adis too…



  • Boates562

    I wish I had old styles like this! !!! There was a time when o did
    now I’m trying to get a lot of them back.

  • http://eatmoreshoes.com/9553/the-herbaliser-holiday-giveaway-contest/ The Herbaliser Holiday Giveaway Contest | eatmoreshoes

    [...] by Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba, The Herbaliser is a London-based hip hop group making rap music infused with a jazz sensibility. [...]