Words by Nerys d’Esclercs
Considered one of the most iconic names in streetwear, A Bathing Ape — otherwise known as ‘Bape’ — has been ruling the streets since 1993. With its name a reference to the Japanese idiom ‘a bathing ape in lukewarm water’ — a tongue-in-cheek nod to the overindulgence of the Gen Z consumer — the Japanese label emerged from the underground Harajuku scene, an area and subculture embodied by its legendary founder, Nigo.
Now at the helm of Kenzo, Nigo originally opened a clothing store, Nowhere, with his contemporary Jun Takahashi of Undercover, and subsequently started designing and selling his own clothes in collaboration with the elusive graphic designer Sk8thing. Launching the brand on a shoestring budget — Nigo could only afford to produce around 50 T-shirts per week — led to the unintentional invention of the two elements that form the backbone of today’s streetwear model: hype and scarcity. While the brand was selling out fast all over Japan during the early 2000s, American rappers including The Notorious B.I.G, Clipse and Pharrell Williams were about to make Bape big stateside. It was Nigo’s partnership with Pharrell in 2005 through the Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream labels that solidified the brand at the top of the game.
Here, we look at one of Bape’s most-coveted offerings: its sneakers. Browns’ menswear buyer Joseph Brunner spotlights the key styles to know, their unique design features and how you should style them — plus, the need-to-know sizing details to ensure you choose the pair that’s right for you.
First debuted in 2002, Bape’s iconic Road Sta silhouette offers a performance edge courtesy of an air capsule cushioning, giving it its ‘Road’ name. With patent leather paneling in different shades of purple and emblazoned with the signature star patch on the side, this style is sure to turn the heads of in-the-know sneaker fans. ‘Get your Nike tech fleece on, turn up the Ice Spice and have yourself a festival in these while cutting shapes in the dance,’ says Brunner, nodding to the season’s penchant for all things nostalgia. ‘If that sounds a bit much, throw on some cargo pants from Mastermind or Represent to balance the color palette.’
Skull Sta M1
‘Bape’s own rendition of adidas’ shell toes, the Skull Sta M1 design was an instant hit,’ notes Brunner. The all-black leather upper with contrasting white accents appeals to everyone, and offers an understated yet impactful footwear choice for street-ready looks. ‘I think we can all agree they’re executed excellently. I’d style this dark and directional — think Comme des Garçons Homme Plus and Yohji Yamamoto. As we’re hitting summer, I’d even look at longer, baggier shorts options paired with Simone Rocha shirting.’
Sta Low M2 It
The brand’s most famous silhouette since its inception in 2000, the Sta is ineffably popular thanks to its distinctive brand codes: star patches on either side, detailed with a small ape logo print. Here, in what Brunner describes as ‘the most current colorway’, this low-top pair will be a crowd pleaser for this season and beyond. ‘Green has certainly become a more digestible color over the last 12 months than it’s ever been before, so I’d say this is the most hyped shoe of them all. In terms of styling, I’d seek inspiration from brands out of America, mainly Nahmias oversized knits, Gallery Dept. denim jeans and a Who Decides War jacket.’
Sta Low #4 M2
The Sta is a brand signature for a reason: it’s versatile and comes in infinite colorways, speaking to a host of styles and tastes. Another update on the original with a matte finish, the Sta Low #4 M2 is ‘an absolute classic in color,’ says Brunner. ‘When you want a rarer panda variation, your prayers have been answered.’ This timeless black and white color-block design will work with everything in your wardrobe, whatever the season.
How do A Bathing Ape sneakers fit?
SIZING: A Bathing Ape sneakers run in US sizing, generally from 7 to 13.
FIT: All pairs generally fit true to size, so we recommend you get your usual size.
CARE: Use a soft bristle brush with warm soapy water to clean mud or grass stains. Store them in their original shoe box to keep them looking fresh for longer.