Bay Area-based photographer and sneakerhead Adham Abousalem is known for his unique, carefully curated style and his ability to make any outfit stand out with the right accessories. Growing up, he had a fondness for Adidas, though he wasn’t particularly focused on specific silhouettes until he came across the beloved NMD. It wasn’t until 2016, when Abousalem decided to invest in his first nice sneakers, that he became fully immersed in the world of sneaker culture.
There’s no denying the Bay Area’s love of sneakers, as seen by the prevalence of resale and secondhand stores in shopping centers and the broad adoration of cult favorites like Travis Scott and Off-White. Adham, on the other hand, doesn’t allow the sneaker culture trendiness to determine his own fashion choices. He prefers to put his energy into building a wardrobe that is uniquely his, down to the footwear and apparel items. For him, this often means incorporating rings, necklaces, bracelets, fitted caps, and totes into his daily outfits.
Abousalem always has an end goal in mind when he’s getting dressed, whether it’s a pair of shoes or a bold coat. Starting with that standout part of the fit, he pieces together the remainder of his outfit from his go-to labels to accomplish his desired aesthetic. No matter the look, Adham has a remarkable sense of style that gets him noticed everywhere he goes, whether it be the bustling streets of San Francisco or the more sedate streets of Calgary.
Ahead, we got to chat with Adham about his introduction to the footwear scene, some of his favorite kicks over the past few months, and much more. Continue scrolling to read our conversation.
For starters, what got you into sneakers?
So actually, I got back into sneakers, I think for the very first time, it was 2016. I was like not into fashion or sneakers at all time, but I started. I really want to buy my first pair and it ended up being the Adidas NMD and I had no clue what I was doing. I was just going to head in first. You know, I always gravitated toward Adidas when I was growing up so it seemed like the right move. I thought the NMD’s looked really cool and they seem really awesome so I wanted to get them.
I remember talking to one of my friends who was more interested in sneakers at the time and he said, “Dude you can say you want these but they’re so hard to get. They’re so hype, I wish you luck” or whatever. It was their second worldwide release, which was in March at the time and I remember I was in Canada at the time but I was visiting the US. I figured I’ll just buy from the US site because my sister was living down there and just ship it home.
I wore them for two months I was like you know what? I need to add some variety, I need to get another pair and then it just kind of builds on after that. I wanted more and I started enjoying sneakers. I started following Adidas for the longest time and then eventually a couple of years later it was Nike.
Can you remember what specific silhouettes and footwear brands you were into growing up?
Growing up, I always had an affinity for adidas as a brand. I’m not sure for what reason or why that happened, but that is one thing that stands out about my childhood and athletic brands. I didn’t pay for any specific silhouettes. However, when it came to footwear, I used to just grab anything that was on the sale rack, not paying attention to the hype or the brand. I simply was not a sneakerhead at the time.
It was not until 2016 that I wanted to get my first pair of “nice sneakers” and because of my interest in adidas, I decided that my first pair should be from adidas. This was right about the time the NMD had just launched and had astounding hype.
Tell me about sneaker culture in the Bay Area—it’s obviously been a hotbed for streetwear, fashion designers, and various creatives for the past several years.
I find sneaker culture in the Bay Area to be quite popular and in the mainstream. It has gotten to the point where if you were to go to the mall, there could easily be 3+ consignment/resale shops with a visible presence of shoppers wearing some form of hype, whether it be sneakers, clothing, or both. This contrasts where I come from, Calgary, where if you had a Travis Scott Jordan 1 or an Off White Air Force, you’d be one of a handful of people who was into that culture and would stand out.
This makes it more than important that your collection of clothing and sneakers be curated to what you personally like and not what the popular opinion dictates as you will tend to be unique in an area where sneaker culture is so saturated.
I noticed you’re big on layers, whether it be outwear like coats and hoodies or simply throwing on a bit of jewelry. What are your favorite ways to accessorize your outfits?
I love layers and how it makes an outfit pop, but accessories are what makes an outfit stand out even more. I am a huge fan of rings, necklaces, and bracelets for jewelry, fitted caps for headwear, and totes to carry my goods as I’m out and about for the day.
Could you walk me through what goes in your head when styling an outfit?
An outfit of mine gets styled typically based on wanting to pull off a certain look or style a certain piece in my closet. That piece could be sneakers, but that’s not always the case. For example, if I wanted to leave the house with a certain coat on, then I’d make the coat the starting point of styling my outfit. If I decide I want to leave the house with a certain look, then I typically center my focus on brands in my closet that can achieve my look and build from there.
I saw you had recently picked up a pair of the Off-White x Air Force 1 Lows; what are some of the more hype sneakers in your collection?
Union x Air Jordan 1 High Retro Black Toe, Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 High Mocha, CPFM Dunk Flea 1, and Off White x Air Jordan 4 Sail are a few I can name off the top of my head.
How are you liking the J Balvin x Air Jordan 2s?
Such a beautiful shoe. I love a number of the details on the shoe, such as the rainbow stitching that holds the shoe together. The glow-in-the-dark details are quite nice as well. The Air Jordan 2 silhouette is loads comfier than a number of the other Jordan silhouettes as well which makes it a great option. My only wish is that the retail price tag wasn’t so high.
On the other end of the spectrum, do you have any go-to pairs for everyday wear or just lounging around?
The two shoes I can think of that I wear day to day are the Air Jordan 1 Shadow’s from 2018 and my Nike SB Dunk Low J-Pack Shadow. As you can tell, I am a big fan of the Shadow colorway.
Are the Yeezy Knit RNNRs pretty comfortable to wear?
They are extremely comfortable, though a bit more rigid than a Foam RNNR. I do, however, like that they are more structured as they feel like they support my foot more. It’s a shame that the possibility of seeing more of them release is now slim to none.
With you taking an interest in photography, does that sort of influence your day-to-day in terms of how you dress and take pictures?
Ultimately, I always make sure that my outfit is on point as I never know when an opportunity may come when I can shoot my outfit. Photography has also made me more detail oriented with my outfits. Details matter and are the difference between making and breaking the fit. Whether it’s noticing that the shirt I plan to wear needs ironing, or that my laces on my sneakers are not completely flat and on one consistent side.
Bringing things to a close, there’s been a lot going on as far as resellers, sneaker’s resurging into the mainstream, and major collaborations. Tell me what you hope to see more of in sneaker culture.
My hope is that sneaker culture begins to subside a little bit over the next few years. With the economic slowdown we are currently experiencing, that’s a huge possibility. Being able to acquire the sneakers I like easily without needing to resort to resale would be a dream.