Shoe Stories

Documenting Londoners and the footwear that defines them
By Andrea Sacal | Fashion | 28 April 2022
Photographer Joshua Tarn

Whether yours are crispy clean or battered and bruised, the shoes that grace our feet define the ground we walk on, and propel our stride forwards. Playing a prominent role in subcultural history, footwear has long signified tribes, tastes and identity. From the mods and their monkey boots to skinheads in calf-high Dr Martens through hip-hop artists defining the legacy of the Adidas Superstar; each punctuating their aesthetic with shoes that have come to define an era – through culture and community. 

Celebrating this connection with our footwear choices, we document five London-based creative talents, each discussing the shoes that have carried them through life, including the stories, memories and experiences that have informed their individuality.

Alvina Ah Woon Leung

Born in New Zealand, growing up in Hong Kong and living in the UK, it’s fair to say that Alvina Ah Woon Leung has lived a journey. Now studying illustration at Camberwell College of Arts in London, she grew up with a love for anime and fictional worlds, propelling her into her current practice of character design. Making the move to London allowed for the experimentation of her style, which she says changes every day.

Here, she wears a pair of strappy platform sandals from Hong Kong-based label Initial Fashion, which she purchased in 2021 with her first-ever paycheck. “They were on sale for around £110, not too cheap, but it’s alright,” she says. “I like cool socks and these can show off my socks perfectly, that’s why I got them. I also love the platform it has.”

Leung wears her sandals almost every day, limiting the pairs that enter her wardrobe in keeping with her personal style. “If I’ve got the money, I always go for something cool that matches my style. I don’t wear designer brands a lot, but when you put different styles together, you make something new and that’s what I like to do.” Her sock choice mirrors her daily mood; from wacky and vibrant to simplistic and muted, her wide selection at hand is key for embellishing her sandals.

Jack Harvie

At first glance, Jack Harvie’s eccentric style is apparent: a culmination of punk and reclaimed vintage fashion. His father’s musical journey has assisted in the curation of his current persona, as weekday trips to his studio in North Acton introduced him to a new world. “I remember my dad used to play Sex Pistols in the car on the way to primary school, which is probably not what he should have been playing,” he says laughing. While his father left music behind, his son chose to step into his legacy, writing music and screenplays in his free time.

As we speak, Harvie wears a pair of distressed Dr Martens 1460 Pascal Bex Pisa Leather Lace Up Boots customised to perfection. “I’d say shoes are a very big part of my daily fashion routine, especially my Dr Martens. They’re one of my favourite things, especially because they are linked to 70s and 80s punk style.” Their extensive wear can be seen from a mile away as the leather thrives in a ragged state and tears are seen at the tips and along the midsole stitching. “I got these when I first moved to London in 2019 and they’re a big part of my story.”

And the shoes literally hold memories for Harvie. “They’ve got a belt buckle [attached] which was actually a present from my nan. I took it from a really nice belt she got me,” he says. “She’s no longer with us. It broke and I didn’t want to throw it out so I attached it to my shoe. It’s just a belt buckle, but it means a lot to me.” From couch-surfing with friends around London to his first catwalk show in Milan [Harvie is a part-time model], his Dr Martens have been with him every step of the way. “They were with me when I had nothing, and that’s why I wear them a lot because when I see them, I think ‘these are my shoes.’”

Latya Bennett

Sneaker customiser Latya Bennett has been in the sneaker game for several years, beginning when she hit the floor as a sales assistant at Footasylum in Nottingham, and igniting when she got her hands on a pair of iconic ‘Silver Bullet’ Air Max 97’s. Her love for art sprouted from a young age, choosing to use kicks as a canvas for her artistic talents. “People would ask me to paint on shoes for them, and I just said yes. I would also paint on bags and on anything I could really.”

Amassing nearly 80k followers on TikTok has pushed her to pursue what she loves most, currently holding her ground at shoe cleaning and restoration service Sneakers ER. Hosting its concession stand at Selfridges, London, customers are free to swing by for a quick custom or clean-up session. “It’s definitely a different experience because here I’m doing more restoration rather than customising because you only get so many people that want a custom. I’ve learned how to repaint midsoles and glue shoes together.”

Bennett’s sneaker collection consists of up of 50+ pairs, most being rare gems that are seen as ultimate grails. Her top pick is a pair of 2003 A Bathing Ape BAPE STA Mid’s embodied by bubblegum pink and white glossy patent leather panels. “I’d been looking for some BAPE STA’s for ages and I found these right when I started making money from my customs. I found them on Depop and they’re my most prized possession from my shoe collection.” She tends to keep them on ice to avoid damage to the materials. “I don’t really wear them because I don’t want them to crack. I think I’ve worn them like three to four times now.”

Dárius Krisztofer Pandek

Dárius embraced punk at the age of nineteen, finding his new family on London’s Camden Town bridge. Sat by the Camden Lock market, a group of eccentric, free-spirited people took him under their wing. “We stand on the bridge and hang around with friends we find on the way. We listen to music and people support us, they give us money and if they’re feeling generous they’ll take photos with us,” he says. Growing up in a traditional American household, his family’s background didn’t align with his aspirations, as he often felt held back from his full potential.

Dressed in a fully customised outfit, a sense of individuality decorates his body. “I’ve made this outfit myself, mostly. The shoes and jackets I’ve pre-bought, but I’ve added to them, badges, spray paint, everything. It’s all happened over time.” His leather motorcycle jacket is covered in orange and red paint and adorned with band pins, styled with chains, a cowboy hat and knee pads.

It’s all grounded by his choice of footwear, this particular pair reflecting his journey into punkhood. “This is a pair of New Rock boots that had been sitting in storage for about twenty years. They’ve seen a lot, so I’ve had to switch out the soles a couple of times, glue the shoe back together in certain places and I’ve added acrylic paint to it. If these shoes had eyes, they would tell stories, many stories.”


22-year-old musician and music teacher Korby found love in the studio booth, where his euphoric beats and rhymes are free to transform into magic. He has always found peace in the arts, playing piano, guitar and saxophone since his teens and into adulthood. Learning to both produce and rap launched his career and propelled him into a space where he is free to express himself through music.

Watching his favourite artists show off their kicks on MTV Cribs was what started his sneakerhead journey, alongside hand-me-downs from his older cousins. “They didn’t have all the nice creps, but they were able to keep me up-to-date with what was new and what was coming out,” he says. “I got a pair of Jordan 2s and Air Force 1s handed down to me, then I wanted to get into footwear properly.”

Defining his style as a blend of classic British and skate fashion, or as he calls it, “hood skater”, he looks to the culture around him for inspiration. “I used to like Tony Hawk’s style. If Tony Hawk was from North West London, he would dress like me today.” Wearing a pair of black A-COLD-WALL* Nike Air Force 1s, they were far from an easy find for Korby. Released in 2018, he was a university student at the time and saved up for weeks hoping for the opportunity to purchase. To no avail, he found his holy grail a few years later and finally had them secured. “I wear them almost every time I go to a studio, they’re like my good luck charm. I always make a good song when I’m in them.”

Creative directors: Joshua Tarn and Andrea Sacal
Director of photography: Bobby Goulding
Chief lighting technician: Dave New
Digital technician: Joseph Wiles
Camera & lighting assistants: Bee Buckingham and Sasha Van Diepen
Fashion assistant: Verena Wusatiuk
Talent: Jack Harvie, Alvina Ah Woon Leung, Dárius Krisztofer Pandek, Latya Bennett, Korby
Production: Pavilion Films


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