With an acclaimed career spanning nearly three decades, Dave White is a British contemporary artist whose sneaker oil portraits have been instrumental in the ‘Sneaker Art’ movement. His work quickly led him to huge collaborations with Nike, Jordan, and – of course – size?.
Ask anyone who knows anything about Nike size? exclusives, and the name Dave White is sure to come up. A British contemporary artist who pioneered the Sneaker Art movement, Dave has worked on some of the biggest, best and most popular projects of our twenty-year history. He’s a dedicated sneaker aficionado, a truly innovative artist, and part of the fabric that makes up size? history. And when we talk to him, it seems size? is part of his too.
“Sneakers have been a massive passion of mine since I was a little boy,” Dave says. “I remember the football casual days of the 80s – turning up in a fresh pair that nobody else had was a seriously big deal back then. Saving up for that special day when you’d acquire a new pair was just so exciting. I’d spend hours deciding on my final choice! I’ve never lost that enthusiasm for them.”
It should come as no surprise that this deep-rooted passion was what eventually led to Dave’s venture into Sneaker Art. “When it came to sneakers, I’d always loved the vibrant designs and innovative developments, but one day I just sat staring at my neon green AM95s in the studio,” he recalls.
“I was absolutely fascinated by the design: the contrast of materials, the colour fades – even the under-structure that just seamlessly flowed underneath the side panels was mindblowing.”
“It just got me thinking – these are incredible objects that transcend what they are made for. I wanted to present them as such, immortalise them as works of art. So I did – I painted one, and before I knew it, I’d painted ten.”
Dave explains that he didn’t really have a plan for these works – he just made them because he loved sneakers and wanted to channel his passion somehow. But the paintings did well, growing in popularity very organically, and in 2003 the original painting of the neon 95’s made the cover of Creative Review.
“It was around that time that it all really started,” Dave says. The year before, in 2002, size? had opened a store in Liverpool – according to Dave it quickly became the go-to place to secure the latest releases.
“The manager was a great guy named Graham Cassidy who had a mutual love for the culture. I had a selection of paintings that I’d completed by that point, and my wife actually asked him if size? would like to exhibit them. They agreed, and the very first ones were hung there in the store.”
Not long after, Dave’s prints were taken to the Carnaby store, where before long there was interest from a buyer: “I received a call that a guy had come in and wanted to buy the lot, which he did,” Dave remembers. “I later found out it was Damon Dash from Roc-A-Fella Records. It was mad.”
Since those days, Dave has worked on multiple projects with size? – most notably his two iconic Nike size? exclusive packs. First came the neon ‘Wet Paint’ Pack in 2005, comprised of an Air Max 1, Air Max 90, and, of course, Dave’s favourite, the Air Max 95.
For the launch of the ‘Wet Paint’ pack, Dave helped us bring the process behind the exclusive sneaker to life for size? consumers. With the help of design agency Rosie Lee, Dave’s studio environment was brought to life inside the Carnaby store, creating an immersive experience complete with paint-splattered floor and easel – which even saw action on the night.
“I painted the elusive Neon Stab (which was to be released later) from start to finish that night,” Dave explains. “I don’t do live work anymore so it was a big moment in history for me. I still get people saying they were there and that it was such a great night. I’ve always felt that Nike size? launches have a really special vibe.”
Dave’s next pack came in 2016 – the ‘Albion’ collection. “The inspiration came directly from a series of paintings I’d done that aimed to raise awareness of how endangered a lot of our wildlife is in the UK,” he tells us.
“The colour and textures from my ‘Fox’ and ‘Rabbit’ paintings formed the basis for both shoes. When you think about that it’s kind of crazy actually – painting images of Nike shoes in 2002 just for fun, then fourteen years later Nike and size? were using details from my paintings on their shoes. It all came full circle.”
Throughout his close relationship with size? and Nike, Dave has seen first-hand the growth and evolution taking place within sneaker culture – and watched size? adapt to the ever-changing times.
“Let’s face it,” he says, “sneaker culture is now a global phenomenon and size? has fully embraced it. Offering special releases has always been such a great cornerstone of the brand – size? and Nike have brought out some incredible models, introducing new and vintage silhouettes to both OG collectors and new fans alike.
I love the care and attention given to each exclusive – it’s the unique stories of each one that make them so interesting. Twenty years is a long time, and to be continuously evolving is why size? is still thriving today.”
Dave is hugely excited about the Air Max 95 ’20 for 20’. Given his history with the shoe, the Air Max 95 is obviously a special silhouette for him. He tells us he deems it “without question one of the greatest, most unique, iconic designs ever made.”
Dave reckons they kick-started the hype game, and that sneaker culture and streetwear stormed globally from there. “A million colourways later it has stood the test of time,” he affirms.
“And technology just keeps pushing the shoe forward – the ‘Albion’ shoes were made from a seamless one piece. Yeah, for me AM95s are really amazing.” Dave laughs: “I actually even wore a pair on my wedding day!”
Dave tells us of his delight seeing his exclusive collabs featured and celebrated in the AM95 ‘20 for 20’ shoe. “I’m eternally grateful for all of my collaborations with size?. I still pinch myself at the things that have happened,” he says humbly.
“It’s amazing that my work from that time is still being enjoyed and talked about within the sneaker community. People still hit me up on social media with their stories! It’s been such a special journey.”
We can’t wait to see where Dave’s journey takes him next.