Jon Buscemi is a well-known figure among sneakerheads. An avid collector himself, the Long Island, NY native worked on DC Shoes’ more progressive collections in the early 2000s and also with Lotto before co-founding Gourmet, a brand that adapted iconic sneaker styles in a clean and fresh way.
After parting with Gourmet, Buscemi started his eponymous label in 2013. He took a luxury approach to items that hadn’t traditionally received the luxury treatment, such as sneakers and baseball hats. Using the same factories in Italy that were producing goods for the finest design houses doesn’t come cheap. Buscemi’s staple sneaker, the 100mm, starts at $865 and can easily hit four figures depending on the materials and colors. But Buscemi has quickly gained a loyal following among celebrities and tastemakers. (While Nike and Under Armour were battling it out this summer over who would sign Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder star often stepped out in the Buscemi 100mm sneakers).
I corresponded with Buscemi over email to find out about his personal style, the evolution of his brand, and the five things he can’t live without.
1. Playboy: Who were your style icons growing up?
Jon Buscemi: My childhood style icons range from flashy West Indian/Jamaican drug dealers in my neighborhood to Italian friends and family wearing expensive sweatsuits and jewelry, to De La Soul, Raekwon, and Grand Puba to [skaters] Matt Hensley, Natas Kaupas and Mark Gonzales. The two biggest influences on my style have been skateboarding and hip-hop. These two worlds collided in the late 80s and early 90’s combining everything from high-end fashion pieces and anything Polo Ralph Lauren to 7-11 smocks and oversized, cut-off denim. I’m a mixed bag.
2. Playboy: How would you characterize your personal style today and how has it evolved?
Buscemi: Not too much has change style-wise. There has been some maturity and refinement. I have a bunch of hand-tailored suits and shirts, of course, but the daily is still denim, a BDU [battle dress uniform] field shirt and sneakers. I’ve become a lover of fine headwear in the past 10 years. The collection of Stetson, Borsalino and Mueller is growing. I would characterize my style as thug military prep sport. 3. Playboy: What did you feel was missing in the footwear market that made you want to start your company?
Buscemi: The feeling to start Buscemi had nothing to do with the market missing something. The reason for Buscemi being has more to do with a graduation and a little bit of revenge. My design style and inspirations are always drawn from the same well but this time we have a wild card. That wild card is looking at the designs from a luxury vantage point and manufacturing these products at the highest level globally. At the end of the day we are making sneakers. They just happen to be the finest in the world.
4. Playboy: Who are some of the celebrities that have worn the sneakers? Why do you think they are drawn to them?
Buscemi: Cristiano Ronaldo, 2 Chainz, Swizz Beatz, Chiara Ferragni, Rihanna to name a few. I think our designs resonate with pop culture. We take reference from the past and the designs are very nostalgic but produced with a high degree of difficulty. I believe people love a story as well, and the quality tells that story.
5. Playboy: The Hermés Birkin bag and Cartier Love bracelet have inspired Buscemi products. What was the first luxury good you bought for yourself?
Buscemi: I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with those products. Luxury to me growing up in the suburbs of NYC wasn’t a luxury brand item or jewelry. Having the luxury of buying “fat laces” for my first pair of Puma Suedes was a luxury. Also in 1996 when Tom Ford took over Gucci and re-released the double G’s, I bought one of the bags. It was everything at the time. 6. Playboy: How would you characterize the luxury market right now? What do you think consumers are looking for?
Buscemi: I truly believe that Buscemi and a handful of other brands are changing the landscape of the market. I think the market is getting tired of the bigger houses and like the fresh blood. I’m excited to keep creating products and see what comes of it. In the end we are in our own lane and will continue to be.
7. Playboy: What menswear trend right now do you think has staying power? Which one can you not stand?
Buscemi: I’m a big fan of personal and individual style. I’ve matured a lot in the past few years and grown more positive. A few years ago I would have gone on a rant about mustaches and championship-level baristas or London stovepipe denim and lazy beanies.
8. Playboy: Which are some underground brands that you think guys should be aware of?
Buscemi: I love everything that Jerry from Fear of God is doing. Also my friend Teddy from NYC brand Aimé Dore is one to watch.
9. Playboy: What are 5 things you can’t live without?
Buscemi: Son. Wife. My Buscemi team. Business/First Class. Uber.
10. Playboy: What is the best style advice you’ve ever received?
Buscemi: Coco Chanel, “Once you’ve dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.”