A Conversation with Jair Hood | Local Vocal | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A Conversation with Jair Hood

Jair Hood of Wilkinsburg has a fascination for the all-white, mid-ankle Nike basketball sneakers affectionately known throughout the hood as "white-on-whites."

This art form isn't new in other cities -- why's it just getting here?
Pittsburgh looks to other cities for style and inspiration so a lotta times if they don't see it on TV it's not gonna fly. But I want cats to try something different. I give people the freedom to be as creative as they want with whatever design they want for their sneakers.

Do you do the Louis Vuitton and name-brand prints too?
I stay away from that. To me that's a li'l corny. It's better to be creative. The Louis Vuitton thing is kinda like jackin' them, but I don't knock cats who wear them.

Do you classify this as a "hood art" of sorts, since it's mainly people from the hood who wear these?
As with everything else, any fad starts from the inside out. Before the media gets a hold of it, the hood's been doing it for a while. So basically we start doing it first then it goes to the commercial level, but it's all still hood art.

And that flows with your last name, too -- that is your real last name, right?
Yeah, so I gotta keep it hood no matter what.

Explain the significance of the "white-on-whites."
First off, back in the '80s you couldn't even get a pair. They came out with only so many pairs and then they were gone, so there was a frenzy. Now that they're out so strong, they're like a staple forever. They're the most classic shoe you can get. Like blue jeans, they'll never go out of style. Once everyone has the Air Ones people start to look for ways to get their own signature on them and that's where the customizing comes in. People want their sneakers matched up so they can look right.

What were your high school years like? It wasn't that long ago.
I spent most of my time in detention -- on purpose -- because I used to just take a stack of copy paper and just draw all day long. That was the funnest shit for me to do. I used to wanna be a comic-book artist so I drew comic-book characters all day. I wanted my own cast but it would be different. It would be more black flavor, less superhero-ish and have more messages in it. Cats like to do street stuff so it would just help guide younger cats and let 'em know right from wrong in certain situations.

If you could do one of those dinosaurs around the city what would you do?
I would put some ill graffiti on the dinosaurs, then I'd have a pair of Forces on his feet and just make him look ridiculous. He definitely would be flavored up and give an impression of the younger culture's vibe of the city. Dinosaurs are all around the city so they represent the city. If you want the city fully represented you have to bring a representative from my area too.

Is the Pittsburgh art scene diverse enough for you?
It's not. For instance there's a lot of great graffiti artists in Pittsburgh. In other cities they give their graffiti artists free walls. There's only been one free wall in Pittsburgh and that was for the E-Fest. We need more things that represent us around the city. The Warhol does do a lot of nice things for the city, though. When you want the city represented you wanna pull a li'l piece from everywhere so everybody has a voice because that's what really makes a city.

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