Nike ACG – Mud-Puddles in the Concrete Desert
A Collector’s Choice feature with: Karl Hamacher
The ACG concept was officially introduced by Nike in 1989 and its mission was to bridge the gap between the urban aesthetics and performance in the great outdoors. For true fans, this era had already begun in the early 80s, when shoes such as the Lava Dome or Approach were first released. Yet, unlike many crossover products that followed by other brands later, ACG – especially in the early days – truly lived up to its promise.
The designs were unique, the marketing on-point, the materials long-lasting and even the ventilation was superb. Many ACG models went on to become classics and have influenced the whole industry far beyond the outdoor category. And what’s even more interesting, Nike ACG has cast a very special spell on a generation of collectors.
Just like All Conditions Gear has long been an underdog for the house of Swoosh, the aficionado we’re about to present to you has kept his amazing collection under the radar for a long time. No particular friend of social media, Karl Hamacher from Frankfurt, Germany, owns gems from all periods of ACG and loves everything from sneakers and apparel down to shirts, accessories and even sandals.
But because he’s not only a sports shoe maniac but also a human being, he answered these questions in between changing diapers, excursions through the urban concrete landscape, a full-time job and taking his older daughter to ballet sessions.
Interview: Olaf Zelewski
Photos: Holger von Krosigk
How long have you been interested in sneakers?
I’ve always been a late bloomer in life, whether it was learning to talk, dating girls or finishing my studies. I always had some kind of sneaker – tennis shoes for playing tennis, later skateboard shoes for thrashing the board, the adidas Campus because of hip-hop in the 90s and later I destroyed some Air Max or Prestos on a regular basis. It started to become a more serious obsession by the end of 2009. It was the time when my girlfriend was pregnant and I was in fear that my youth was about to vaporize. It was also the era of the infamous German sneaker forum “Sneaker-TV”. I started buying a lot, but wasn’t really focused on a special brand or style.
So how did the transition from collecting common sneakers like collaborations to buying all that incredible Nike ACG, Terra and Alpha Project stuff happen?
It was not really a conscious decision, but more of a process. I had already collected quite an amount of vintage shoes, and at one point I had also stacked like a hundred Air Max 1 colorways, and it started to bore me to death. Discovering all that ACG stuff was a whole new world. You have a great variety of forms, colors and models and you always find some more strange and unknown stuff that you have never seen before. It’s not the usual stuff. Somehow, it has that appeal to me as if it was from the future. And that means it doesn’t get boring.
At what point did you realize that your shoe passion took a turn towards the weird?
There were certain incidents. I got eBay links from my old companion Wolf Naujoks who kept showing me rare shoes he would have bought if they were his size. This made it possible to buy the original ACG Terra in that purple colorway for $16. When I received that shoe I was so excited; everything about it was just perfect. So I instantly wanted to have more of that drug. And I started to search. If you have a lot, you want even more to complete the sets. I am still searching for the OG Tallac and Tallac Lite Gore-Tex by the way.
You heard it folks, hit him up if you got a pair. In general, which attributes does a shoe need to get your attention?
Gore-Tex. You always get me with Gore-Tex. I like shoes which are useful on a daily basis. Innovative stuff which is still comfy. The form is also important. The whole package has to fit.
Do you instantly love certain models or does it take time to appreciate them?
Sometimes it’s instant love, but especially with newer stuff I might first think “no” but then start to understand the idea behind it. It was like that with the Nike ACG Lupinek. It’s the only shoe I doubled up on.
While we’re at it, please tell us five Nike ACG or Terra shoes which are the most relevant to you.
ACG Mowabb Plus because of comfort and materials. ACG Dri Goat Alpha Project Gore-Tex. It just has it all. The Deschütz Sandal: the mother of all sandals. Terra Albis and Sertig; the Albis 2 is my favorite because of the lacing system. And the NikeLab ACG Lupinek is one of the best shoes Nike released in the last years. With Gore-Tex it would be much better of course.
What are your thoughts on Nike now building ACG more or less around one person, Acronym’s Errolson Hugh?
Errolson is an outstanding designer and one of the most visionary minds of our time. The Acronym stuff is just great. The danger is that it gets boring after a while. On the other hand, it’s great that ACG is linked to a person with such a mystical aura, so it gains a lot of attention. It is a win-win situation for both Nike and Errolson Hugh. The gear is great, but the shoes need better materials to fulfill the promise of ACG. It should be renamed UCG – Urban Conditions Gear.
Do you also feel like the whole ACG marketing and image was different back then?
Just have a look at some of those names – “Deschütz” and so on. I am sure that the creators of that stuff, Tinker Hatfield, Steve McDonald and Peter Fogg, are really crazy guys. And you need a sense of humor to create products like this. They were far out and ahead of their time. It was a crazy time and the results speak for themselves. I’m just a bit disappointed that Nike doesn’t pay attention to those details anymore like they did. Just think of the great names Nike used to give their older ACG and Terra shoes. “Sertig” and “Albis” are mountains in Switzerland. The “Deschütz” sandal refers to how Germans spell the Deschutz River in Oregon.
What would you wish for the future of sneakers?
You cannot turn back the wheels of time, but I would like to see more diversity on the streets. I wish that younger people would start to look at what else is out there besides the popular stuff. From Nike I want more attention to details and materials. If they sell a “water-resistant” shoe, I would like to be able to walk in them on the shorelines of a beach with dry feet.
Do you want to share any last words with us?
I think a Nike VaporMax is for a startup, third-wave, coffee-ramen-burger, Instagram-blogger guy what a Nike Mowabb was for the geography teacher or the lonesome hiker back in the day. So it’s all a circle. ACG is like a good song. Not everybody understands it, and you can even give it a unique meaning for yourself.
NOTE: This is a shortened version of our interview with Karl. The full story appears in SNEAKERS MAG #37 – Released in Janury 2018