A Sneaker Head’s

Dream Come True

Article #04
When it comes to sneakers, Lars Undli doesn’t mess around. For 35 years, sneakers have been his obsession; a passion that manifested itself instantly when he was introduced to hip hop culture in the early 80s’. Now, after a career as an accomplished dancer, artist and Norway’s most acclaimed sneaker expert, his passion has manifested into his dream job; "Sneaker designer.” 

1983 was a turning point in Lars’ life. Back then he was a jazz-ballet dancing kid with a predilection for drawing. But when hip hop pioneer Malcolm McLaren’s music video for Buffalo Gals suddenly popped on the TV screen, a series of tiny explosions occurred in Lars’ mind that would send shockwaves through the rest of his life. 

«I devoured the whole culture, I wanted all of it, especially the shoes. I remember how the fresh white sneakers highlighted the break dancers footwork, which is an essential part of the expression. It was truly awesome.»

A SNEAKER PIONEER

Inevitably, Lars started break dancing and never looked back. He helped to lead the first generation of hip hoppers in Norway into the mainstream. Lars became an acclaimed graffiti artist, a break dancing champion, and later a judge on Norway’s, So You Think You Can Dance. His core passion however, remained centered around sneaker design.

«The sneakers I wanted weren’t available in Norway at the time. So when I traveled to New York in 1991 I bought them in every colour they had—eleven pairs. That’s how my obsession started. It’s like a tattoo; when you first do one you can’t stop».

He became a sneaker pioneer, a collector, an expert, a trend setter—always one step ahead. He completely immersed himself in sneaker design developments and technology, while keeping himself dialed in with different sneaker freak stores in the USA. Inevitably, his passion landed him a job as a store manager at Sole Service—the first and only sneaker dedicated store in Oslo. Sole Service was ranked as Norway’s best sneaker source by the biggest sneaker brands in the world.

HEADHUNTED

«13 years later I found myself at a meeting with GaitLine. They laid out the concept for me and I was stunned by the technology; no one had done that before. To combine that technology with great design was very exciting, so I just jumped at it.»

«Within two weeks the first model was sketched out, by hand of course—the way he was used to with graffiti. He had done a handful of custom colour designs for big shoe brands before, and collaborated on a few special editions, but never the whole design. Yet, as Lars says, «designing shoes came natural to me, I just never really thought about doing it before.»

GaitLine’s designs are now based on what is known as a retro runner silhouette—a timeless frame and a classic sneaker base with an urban, yet sporty feel to it. Suitable for a night out, a workout, or wearing with a suit. Under Lars’ pencil, the sole was further modified and tweaked in order to find that sweet spot that Lars refers to as the GaitLine DNA. Ultimately, GaitLine designs are the culmination of everything that has shaped Lars into the break dancing sneaker freak he is.

«From doing graffiti, I’ve become very concerned with how different surfaces meet and relate to each other. That and achieving the right tension in a line is very important to me. If those two elements don’t jell, there is no coherence and flow throughout the design, no running theme.»

"The panel by the laces is a
reference to those sliding
doors in Star Wars"
- Lars Undli

However subtle, there are echoes of a lifetime of shoe inspiration in all of Lars’ designs. His reference to the history of sneaker design is ever-present along with another of his surprising design fascinations – Science Fiction.

«The panel by the laces is a reference to those sliding doors in Star Wars, actually. They never just close and open, there are always complicated structures that seamlessly connect and blend into each other. It’s a fun detail. That being said, I constantly search for new ideas in inspirations, always trying to outdo myself. You’re never better than the last thing you made—I live by that.»