UConn Magazine: Kicks

Why does everyone — count Lil Nas X, Matt Damon, Alicia Keys, and Penny Hardaway — want to shop for sneakers with Joe La Puma?

Joe La Puma hanging out with his sneaker collection

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The sneakers are eye-catching, pitch black accented by crimson on the stripes, soles, and iconic Adidas trefoil logo. Overhead lights catch a subtle paisley design in the black leather, a nod to the ubiquitous bandana sported by the platinum recording artist and YouTuber who designed the footwear with Adidas.

Joe La Puma ’05 (CLAS) catches the understated but symbolic paisley touch. He and another sneakers enthusiast consider the design’s attention to detail, right down to the celeb’s tagline — “Underestimated” — on the ankle straps. Pretty sick, they agree.

Roll the clock back 20 years, and La Puma could have been having a similar discussion with friends in his UConn dorm room, the South Campus dining hall, or Gampel Pavilion’s student section. Known to friends for his ability to cop some of the latest sneakers on the market, La Puma’s newest pair surely would have generated intense interest among his fellow Huskies.

But this isn’t 2003-era Storrs, not by a long shot, and the black and red Adidas aren’t on La Puma’s feet.

It’s a temperate February evening in the heart of SoHo, and La Puma is in a high-end sportswear store Stadium Goods, with its walls of pristine sneakers of all makes and colors on display around him.

This pair — the hard-to-find KSI X Adidas Forum Hi model — was specially flown to New York City, and is now displayed in a glass case in the store’s center aisle.

And it’s KSI himself who’s walking La Puma through his design choices with Adidas while a production crew captures their conversation from cameras at various angles. After seven efficiently orchestrated takes, they’re ready to take down the lights and wrap up the latest taping of “Sneaker Shopping,” the Webby-Award winning YouTube show that La Puma originated and hosts for Complex Networks.

It’s garnered more than 1 billion views over 250-plus episodes since it launched in 2014, during which time he’s welcomed Grammy and Oscar winners, Hall of Fame athletes, Vice President Kamala Harris, and sneaker connoisseurs as diverse as Bill Nye the Science Guy and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

Using his UConn education and his Complex connections, La Puma has carved out his own career path to become the network’s senior vice president for content strategy and one of the nation’s — if not the world’s — foremost experts on sneaker culture.

Pretty sick, indeed.

A pop culture and sneaker enthusiast since youth, La Puma has made “Sneaker Shopping” the must-watch show for established and aspiring sneakerheads. The high-profile personalities who join him come from all walks of life, but share his passion for the industry’s history, creativity, and cultural significance.

Read on for more.