Tell us a little bit about you. What’s your name? Where you’re from?
I’m Hector Espinal. Born and raised in Washington Heights, so I’m born and raised in uptown New York. I’m a father of two, I’m a runner, sneaker enthusiast…. This past year 2017, I became a marathoner… ran the New York City Marathon. I’m the Founder of We Run Uptown, a running collective. We’re bridging the gap between fashion, music, and running.
As an athlete, what got you into the style game?
The style game came before the athleticism or the running. I’ve always been a bigger guy so I’ve always tried to compensate… the way I dress, or what kicks I have to compensate for the weight. That was just me being self-conscious. That started at a really early age. I had messed up teeth, I wore braces, and then I needed glasses. I had to pick: either be “blind” or braces ‘cause I didn’t want to do both and that was just me in junior high school. When I got to high school that’s when I really started making my own choices. I went to school in the Lower East Side so that really influenced my style. That’s when I got first introduced to Alife, Supreme, and Stussy.
Has it been frustrating not being able to find the exact thing that you want in the size that you are?
It’s hard. I can never, I was saying this earlier, I can never go into regular stores, The Gap, or any stores like that and expect to find jeans. I’m willing to pay more for longevity—spending the extra dollars for more wears. Growing up, I always had to shop at the husky section; I had to go to the adult section and the pants never fit me. I was never comfortable in my clothes until now. But think about being in seventh grade and wearing adult pants that don’t fit you—having to cuff them twice. My parents weren’t spending a lot of money on tailoring; I let mine rip in school.
When do you think was the point where you started to form your own identity?
I am just a regular guy, you get what I’m saying? So how do I stand out amongst all these other fit guys? I’m always heavier so I started putting much more focus on clothing. I got my first job. I was making some serious change… and that’s when I really got into fashion because I had my own money. I started collecting sneakers. Nike SBs and Shelltoes, shell-toe Adidas, Vans… really limited stuff. I started getting into the subculture. I remember the first pair of SB’s I bought… at that mom and pop shop in Chinatown. It’s the one that’s in the mall in Chinatown and you have to take an escalator down. They do a bunch of Supreme reselling. That started it off for me.
Have you had any key mentors or role models in terms of solidifying your own personal style?
It was more word of mouth and just seeing what the cool guys were wearing… the whole hip-hop culture… Freshness Mag was one of the first blogs I stumbled across. Just being around the culture… being downtown; I never felt awkward but I did feel—a sense of belonging. You want to be accepted by your peers and once I started going to these sneaker lines and I was meeting these people and I was doing what I was doing… I was able to convince my friends uptown, to come down.
How do you think crossing over, leaving Uptown and getting Downtown, changed or challenged your personal style?
It was just an adjustment period for me. It was, everything in general—the running scene as well. I feel a mistake a lot of us make is we get comfortable, and, as with anything in life, once you feel comfortable you stay there and you get stuck there. Me leaving my postal code, stepping out of that comfort zone and interacting with people that didn’t have the same upbringing I had was important.