It’s pretty much official that your European sneaker game is seriously lacking if you gotta ask what (and where) Solebox is. But everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and for that crowd – as well as the die hard shoe gurus of the globe that just can’t get enough about the dope little, brother-duo-run, German joint – we put together this piece on the legendary sneaker shop.
Beyond boutique the Berlin-based shoe store has grown a massive following and is now worldly known for its so-called ‘camp happy’ frequent customer base. Hype drop after hype drop Solebox isn’t just about the publicized heat, but upon closer look one can immediately identify its true soul; quality over quantity, fun over fame, and above all the healthy love of sneakers and the community that follows.
The humble store located in a part of West Berlin known as Wilmersdorf shines bright with its clean and simple interior, heavily showcasing a series of collaborations the Solebox crew has done with various large brands, including both adidas and PUMA. Their prized colab kicks are held like treasured gems in well-lit glass cases above the rotating selection of seasonal gear (yup, they sell some dope clothing too) from some limited lines such as PUMA Shadow Society sneakers, adidas Consortium’s, SLVR pieces, and even bits from the infamous Kazuki Kuraishi (aka KzK).
Solebox’s heart doesn’t stop there though, as Hikmet will tell you in the interview that follows, he and his brother have pushed the sneaker trading market to the physical world with the invention of Solemart. We’d love to say more, but there’s no doubt in our minds that an explanation of all this swag is best to be dropped in Hikmet’s own words.
Hikmet, cheers for taking some time out from your busy schedule. Let’s start with where you’re from?
I was born in Berlin with Turkish roots.
A true Berliner! So how were sneakers part of your childhood?
They were always part of my life, but sadly not affordable when I was a kid. This is maybe the reason for my passion.
I think this is commonly a fuel which fires the hearts of many young, budding sneaker heads, and that passion certainly grew in your case. Now when and how did you and your brother Suekret start Solebox?
Suekret and I started Solebox in 2002.
Tell us more about the store: how would you describe the products you sell?
We’re doing it now for a while, and our product range is a good mix of specialty releases as well as more general stuff.
What about the location and your customers… how would you describe them?
Our customers are not categorizable. We’ve a nice crowd of people coming in. We don’t choose our customers, they choose us. Everybody is welcome at Solebox.
Good vibes all around. What about you… I’m curious: what are your top five favorite pairs you own?
I don’t really have a top list. I’m so mood driven. If I like a shoe, then I love it and wear it ’til the end.
Fair enough, in fact I personally live by the same philosophy; wearing everything I have. By owning a shoe store, you must be a collector right?
Actually, I wouldn’t call myself a collector. Though we’ve a lot of customers, whom are really collectors. I’m not, as I wear my shoes. Especially all the shoes I made as colab projects.
Right, we know you’ve done a lot of collaborations with many brands, but we’re most curious about what you’ve done with adidas and PUMA. What kicks have you released with those two brands in the past?
The adidas we’ve done (in chronological order) are the Rod Laver, Berlin, Zeitfrei, Aegis, EQT Support, CC Ride, and another EQT Support. PUMA is going to grow in the future with the (soon to be released) States, but in the past we’ve done a Clyde followed by a R698.
That’s a serious list! Do you have any models or releases you were most excited about?
Our adidas Berlin was a big honor. To make a shoe inspired by one’s own city is a great feeling. And on one side of the shoe is my birth date and on the other is Suekret’s birth date.
Definitely a special one for sure. But it doesn’t stop there; besides the store, you’ve also made waves in Berlin (and across Europe) with your Solemart side project. How and when did this begin?
Solemart started in 2008. We were the first German sneaker swap market. The reason we started it was to get a physical sale spot for shoes we personally wanted to sell.
How would you describe Solemart to someone who has never been?
It’s the analog version of all the digital forums, Facebook groups, and eBay’s.
Do you have any other projects going on at the moment aside from Solebox and Solemart?
My family, which is on top of everything.
Respect Hikmet, your focus and achievements are beyond admirable. What can you tell us about the future… any plans? Any store parties or events?
We’re not really into parties. We don’t like to kill marketing budgets for getting people drunk. If we do an event, then it should give something back for all those participating, especially the end customer.
Makes perfect sense Hikmet. And of course, lastly, any chance you’ve more info about the new PUMA colab you’re doing?
Watch out for September. It will be a nice set of PUMA States!
Once again, big thanks and props go out to the entire crew over at Solebox for shaking things up yet still keeping the sneaker world real and down to earth as they climb higher and higher with each collaborative drop. If you’re not already in Germany it’s highly suggested you invest in a nice lawn chair and a pocket full of plane tickets for the States’ release this September… that is if you plan on getting a pair!
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by Rose Cromwell