Rack Magazine (China) Interview

Rack Magazine logo

Apr-2008: Short interview focussed mainly on different lacing methods and how I'd unknowningly been mirroring B-Boy / Hip Hop lacing trends.

Interview Details

  • Rack Magazine logo Interviewed for: Rack Magazine (China)
  • Interviewed by: Richard
  • Interviewed via: E-mail
  • Interviewed on: 23-Apr-2008

Interview Transcript

RICHARD: I know you sort of serendipitously discovered this new way of lacing shoes, which was the basis of the book and the website. But after the initial discovery, what made you want to keep pursuing this idea of shoe laces and all kinds of patterns??

IAN: I think that one of the reasons I first created the web site was simply because no-one else had. I'm someone who has always enjoyed taking on challenges that no-one else would attempt. I'm guessing no-one else made a website about shoelaces because there was no money in it, so I did it for the sake of both the information and the artistic challenges.

RICHARD: In the book or on the website, are there any completely new patterns that have never been seen before elsewhere?

IAN: I'm pretty sure that I've developed some new patterns, though it's hard to tell because someone else could have developed the same patterns and I simply haven't seen them (even though I pay more attention to other people's shoelaces than most people!). Even though I came up with the popular method “Lattice Lacing” by myself, it's possible that it was around beforehand because it really is a fairly simple design. However, some of the more complicated ones like “Woven Lacing” and “Star Lacing” are so over-the-top that it's unlikely anyone else could have come up with exactly the same method.

RICHARD: Do all cultures lace their shoes the same way around the world??!! (I mean aside from the people who are consciously doing it different in order to make some kind of fashion statement).

IAN: If you discount those who lace differently, most shoes are laced with either “Criss Cross Lacing” or “Straight Lacing”. There do seem to be some slight differences from country to country, though it's pretty hard to pin them down, especially nowadays with so much mingling of cultures. The main difference seems to be in the Straight Lacing methods, where “Shoe Shop Lacing” (also known as Zig-Zag lacing) appears to be more popular in America while “Straight European Lacing” appears to be more popular in Europe.

RICHARD: Did you know at the time that you first started getting into this idea that it was a trend in B-boy (Hip Hop) culture?

IAN: I certainly wasn't aware of there being any groups of people (such as Hip Hop) who were into trendy lacing methods. I guess this was to do with how little of popular culture existed on the Internet when I first started the site so many years ago. It's only in recent years that we've seen the explosion of web sites covering every aspect of human culture.

RICHARD: What did your experience in mathematics and computer programming contribute to your ideas in shoelaces? (if any)

IAN: There are a couple of areas in which my experience in mathematics was very useful.

The first was in calculating the number of possible lacing methods. Simplistically, on an average shoe with six pairs of eyelets, there are almost 2 Trillion ways to feed a shoelace though those 12 eyelets!

The next area was in creating formulas to calculate the lengths of shoelaces, which depends not just on the number of eyelets and the dimensions of the shoe but also on the lacing method used (some methods use up a lot more shoelace). My programming expertise was then used to transform those complicated formulas into a user-friendly “Shoelace Length Calculator”, which is accessed over 3,000 times daily by people from all over the world.

You could also say that my programming expertise is helpful when describing the lacing methods. Each set of lacing instructions is sort of like a mini computer program, where a sequence of simple steps is repeated several times in order to complete a design.

RICHARD: Have any of the big trainer companies like Nike or Adidas or whatever approached you to work together?

IAN: Not yet, but I'm open to suggestions, plus I can think of some great possibilities. For example, imagine my “Ian Knot”, the world's fastest shoelace knot, being used in an ad campaign like: “The world's fastest shoes now come with the world's fastest shoelace knot”. Maybe we could even rename it the “Nike Knot”?

With Adidas, the obvious idea would be to develop a special lacing method called the “Three Stripe Lacing” in keeping with their trademark.

RICHARD: How many copies has the book sold so far?

IAN: I'm not sure, I only receive figures every six months. I believe the publishers are most of the way through the first print run of 30,000 copies.

RICHARD: Do you personally lace your shoes in funky patterns, and if so, what kind of reactions do you get?

IAN: About half of my shoes are laced with an efficient lacing method called “Over Under Lacing”. The others are generally laced with different designs, often with several colors. Occasionally I'll go a week or two testing out some undocumented method! Even though I don't have a very bold fashion sense, other people do notice, as anyone will discover if they try some of the more decorative methods. Mostly I get positive comments from people, even from complete strangers.

RICHARD: What's the next big project you're working on?

IAN: I'd like to do a simpler version of the book specifically for kids. It would be great for kids to think of shoelaces as fun and interesting and as a way of expressing their individuality instead of thinking of them with fear and hatred because they are something they find difficult.

RICHARD: Are you into Hip Hop at all?

IAN: I've heard and enjoyed my fair share of Hip Hop music, but I couldn't claim to be part of Hip Hop culture. If those in the Hip Hop scene are kind enough to consider me an “honourary member”, then that would be cool! (*grin*)

Published Article

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