Jacques Slade

YouTube’s resident sneakerhead demands answers

From the childhood moment he laid his eyes on the Jordan IVs that some neighborhood basketball heroes were sporting, Jacques Slade has been hooked on sneakers. Now, with north of 1 million YouTube subscribers, he has racked up more than 165 million views on his sneaker videos over the last decade. Along the way, he’s picked up another addiction: golf. His two passions work in tandem on Instagram, where he broadcasts the latest in custom golf footwear and fashion to some 140,000 kicks-crazed community members. The “look good, play good” philosophy may not translate every time, but Slade knows he’ll always have the first half down when he talks trash with his regular foursome.

Illustration by Kate Copeland
Illustration by Kate Copeland

You do your show out in LA. Have you always been a California guy? 

Yes—born and raised here in LA. 

Did you come from a golfing household? 

[Laughs.] No, not at all. Nobody in my family plays golf. I’m the first. But now I’m trying to start the fire with everybody.

How did you get hooked on the game? 

It was actually the launch of Tiger Woods’ first signature golf shoe, the TW13. [Me] being the sneaker guy, usually Nike just sent golf stuff to me; there was no event tied to it. But this time there was an event, and I was going to be required to play. I had watched golf before, but I think I had played twice. I wasn’t very serious about it and didn’t care enough about the game at the time to invest anything into it. It wasn’t serious; there was no pressure. It was just a go-and-hack-at-the-ball kinda thing. 

Did you prepare at all? 

I knew one of my friends, Tony, played with a couple of his work buddies, and he had tried once to introduce my friend group into the game—unsuccessfully. So I went to Tony and I said, “Hey, I need to learn how to play golf because I have to play next week.” Tony was very stern with me, like, “Look, I’m not going to be able to teach you how to play golf by next week, but I can at least teach you the etiquette of the game before you play with all these golf journalists.”

And that round, watching him play, I really started to see more of the strategy of the game. Watching on TV is like watching basketball or football: You’re just looking at the big plays. But when you’re really in it and seeing someone hit different shots and try to place the ball, that’s what caught me. I realized, “Oh, there’s a lot more to this game than what I’ve given it or what I’ve allowed it to mean to me.” And that was the hook for me.

You got the bug? 

After I came back from that trip, I just started playing like crazy. I loved it; I wanted to get better and better. And I did. I got into the 90s quickly and have just plateaued since because I don’t play enough. That’s the thing that I learned very quickly: When you think sports, you think, “Oh, I’m an athletic guy; I should be able to get these movements down.” That’s what just keeps bringing me back to golf: It’s like, “I have to be able to do this.” But sometimes, I just can’t.

So more of a challenge than the bug?

It was definitely a mix of both. And the other part was that it allowed me to spend time with my boys. A couple of my old college buddies played as well, so we ended up connecting, and all of us still go play. It’s the only time we can get together with just the guys. It’s one thing to get together with the family, with the wife, and we all act a certain way in that setting, but on the golf course, when it’s just us four, we can go back to the raucous college days and fully let loose and not feel any restraints. That’s what the game became for me. All of us being on the golf course allows us to bring those moments back where we can talk crazy shit to each other. 

So golf is your designated shit-talking space? 

Yeah, it started with the video game Halo in college. We lived in a four-bedroom apartment, and one of our other buddies lived in the reverse [floor plan] of ours, so his patio faced our patio. This was before online gaming, so we would use ethernet cables to connect the Xboxes and we would have about 10 people in each house with Xboxes connected. We would string the ethernet cables over the patios and leave the patio doors open so we could hear each other talk shit. We were literally screaming through the patio, “I killed you!”

And now you’re yelling that on the golf course. I guess that is growing up. 

We’ll compare a terrible shot you hit to an old girlfriend you had in college. We’re terrible.

Where can I join up with you guys? This sounds awesome. 

There’s a couple of munis around here—Vista Valencia, Scholl Canyon, Knollwood—and Elkins Ranch is really nice. I’m pretty content with the muni life. For me, it’s not so much about where I play as long as those three guys are with me. It doesn’t matter where we go. Could be the Bahamas or Japan. As long as those three guys are with me and we’re playing, that’s what it’s about for me. I wouldn’t want to play all these nice places by myself. It wouldn’t mean as much to me. 

You don’t have a dream foursome you might ditch them for?

Well, obviously Tiger. I’d also love to play with Steph Curry, just because of the basketball connection. Then the last person? God, that’s a great question. Oh, maybe that guy with the super-weird swing!

Matthew Wolff?

Yeah, I’d love to see that up close in person! That’s the one thing I love [about] where golf is going: It’s becoming more accepting of things you wouldn’t expect to see in golf.

“I just don’t understand why that is disrespectful to the game. Maybe there is a golf purist I should talk to.…What am I doing by bringing my own personal style that is disrespectful to the game?”

In which other areas are you seeing that? 

I think the people playing the game today are more accepting of other people who want to play. I also think what you wear is becoming more accepted. As a sneaker guy, that’s a point for me to always make. I love seeing the guys in custom shoes and really pushing that envelope a little bit. And now even the apparel, now pros being able to wear shorts in the practice rounds. That’s a big deal. Some guys having their shirt untucked a little. That’s OK!

I’ve heard you employ some unique fashion when you play.

I’m usually in a T-shirt. Then sometimes I’ll wear basketball shorts with compression pants underneath. Then I’ll pair it with some really cool shoes, like the Jordan III golf shoes. I hardly ever wear pants and a belt. It’s just not my vibe. 

Is this a golf-athleisure movement or are you anti-country-club-establishment?

Obviously what I wear is way more comfortable than normal golf attire, but I think there is some rebellion in it. This is why I wish I was better at the game. I think a lot of people see it and say, “Oh, he’s just out here to look cool.” Whereas if I had the game to back it up, I think people would look at it in a different way and say, “Oh, maybe I don’t have to wear this. Maybe I don’t have to wear hard-bottom golf shoes with full-on spikes.” Wearing the same thing on and off the course and nobody knowing that you went and played golf? That’s OK. 

How do the clubs you play at feel about this? 

Every once in a while we’ll play somewhere where you have to wear a collar. I remember when I went to the Masters three years ago and played a track 20 or 30 minutes away, and when I went to check in, they told me I needed a collar to play. I was just so defeated. I was like, “Just…why? What difference is that going to make in how I play the game?” But I didn’t want to be that guy, so I threw one on.

Some golf purists might say that’s disrespectful to the game.

I just don’t understand why that is disrespectful to the game. Maybe there is a golf purist I should talk to or somebody that can reveal to me why that is disrespectful to the game. What am I doing by bringing my own personal style that is disrespectful to the game? 

I don’t comment on how you take forever to line up your ball and putt. That’s part of your process. That’s none of my business; that’s your thing. Am I going to be offended and say, “Ugh! He lined up his ball three different times. What is this doing to the game?” No. 

Jacques Slade. Photo: Kohjiro Kinno
Photo: Kohjiro Kinno

Let’s talk shoes. How did you get your own show talking about them? 

I actually wanted to be a rapper when I was younger. I put out an album; it did terrible. But it got picked up for some TV and film stuff, so that introduced me to the world of creating music for television. And from that I eventually got the theme song for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in 2013. [Earlier], a friend of mine was writing for a sneaker website called Kicks on Fire. I reached out and she said I could write for them a couple times a week while I was looking for a job. That was 2009. In 2010, I pitched them to do a show on YouTube about the latest news in sneakers. It was more along the lines of “Entertainment Tonight,” but for sneakers. So I taught myself how to edit video. I bought myself a green blanket from a craft store, I bought some lights from Target and just used a little point-and-shoot camera and started shooting stuff in my garage. Because it was so different than anything that we had seen in sneakers at the time, it just kind of took off. Nobody was doing that kind of stuff back then. From there, it just kept growing and growing. I think I got really lucky: I got into it before Complex and Sneaker News and Nice Kicks were doing professional, big-budget content. Then, in 2013, I started doing it on my own, and it’s brought me to where I am now, where it’s literally my job to make videos about sneakers. 

What’s a day like for you now? 

I work like everybody else, typically an eight- to 10-hour day. That’s creating YouTube content, but also creating stuff for Instagram. I’m also on Twitter pretty much all day long, collecting news and doing research, making sure I have the information correct. Then I’m shooting the video, editing the video and making sure to get all the right angles.

Yeah, I heard journalism is a lot of work. 

[Laughs.] I don’t want to make it sound like I’m complaining, either. I have one of the fucking coolest jobs in the world. Can’t have too much negative to say about being able to make a living off talking about shoes.

Other than it doesn’t leave much time for golf with the boys. 

I can dedicate about 30 minutes a day in the backyard to making some swings. [Laughs.] Hopefully that gets me down to a scratch.