Lee-Lou Demierre and the Parra x Nike SB Dunk Low for Hypebeast’s Sole Mates

At only 20 years old, Amsterdam’s Lee-Lou Demierre has risen to the top of the breakdancing world. Besides his innate skill, his stratospheric ascent can be explained by his upbringing — his mother was a b-girl, and Demierre began breaking when he was only two years old. Along with a love of dance, his mother also imbued him with a love of sneakers, due to the pairs she picked for him (as a baby, his first sneakers were a pair of Air Jordans) and her lifelong friendship with Patta’s founders (a young Lee would often accompany his mom on her sneaker missions to Patta).

Demierre’s brand of choice is Nike, and his shoes of choice, both on and off the breakdancing mat are the SB Dunk Low and Dunk Low. For him, they represent the perfect blend of performance and aesthetics, as he mentions to Hypebeast that several breakdancing moves put the same type of stress on shoes that skateboarding does, and that he feels more confident with nice shoes on. His personal favorite? Parra’s 2021 SB Dunk Low collaboration, owing to its hometown association and bold-but-not-overpowering color scheme.

In the latest installment of Sole Mates, Lee-Lou Demierre discusses Amsterdam’s sneaker culture, why he’s drawn to Parra’s creations, how breakers’ sneaker style has evolved over the years and what he needs from his shoes, no matter if he’s performing or chilling.

What got you into sneakers?

My mom. She’s always been a sneakerhead. My first pair of shoes ever were little baby Air Jordans. Nike and Jordan Brand were always my mom’s favorites, and I picked that love up from her — especially the desire to have pairs that were a little more exclusive. She didn’t want shoes you could just go into any store and get.

You’re from Amsterdam — tell us about what sneaker culture was like there and how it influenced you growing up.

I actually grew up going to Patta pretty frequently, because my mom is good friends with the founders. We’d pull up and hang out, and it’s funny to see how much the store, their brand and the city’s sneaker community as a whole has evolved. Parra, Daily Paper and Filling Pieces all started blowing up and I watched it happen first-hand. Everyone wanted to be the freshest kid at school and, of course, we had a lot of options with all those brands and stores in our backyard. That’s when I first really became aware that it was important for me to find my own style.

“It makes me feel confident and unique to have a fresh pair of shoes on when I’m breaking.”

Besides putting you on to sneakers, your mom got you into breakdancing from a very young age: she was a b-girl and you started breaking when you were only two. Did you view shoes as a tool for breaking before a fashion statement, or did those two things always blend?

At first, it was all about comfort and functionality. I use a lot of different slide moves when I’m dancing, so I’ve always needed shoes that are grippy and durable. You also don’t want something that’s too chunky, so I don’t like breaking in shoes like Air Force 1s or Dunk Highs. The wear you put on your shoes when you’re breaking is similar to the wear from skateboarding because you use the same parts of your foot you’d use for kickflips or heelflips to do those slide moves.

Looks-wise, I realized that it makes me feel confident and unique to have a fresh pair of shoes on when I’m breaking. Last year, for example, I wore some Dunk Lows to the BC One world finals, and nobody was really breaking in Dunks at the time because they were a bit harder to get back then. Since then, I’ve been really heavy on it because I feel like it’s my “own” shoe.

Speaking of Dunks, you chose the Parra x Nike SB Dunk Low as the shoe you wanted to spotlight for Sole Mates. What draws you to it — the Amsterdam connection, the colorblocking, something else entirely?

I actually remember exactly when I found out about Parra. I was a sophomore in high school, and people in my school were starting to wear his brand, but the specific moment that I said “wow, Parra is dope” is because one of my friends showed up with a Parra iPhone case. I fell in love with the patterns and colors Parra uses, and started doing my research on him, his work and his collaborations. Obviously, I couldn’t afford his Air Maxes at the time [laughs], but I made sure to grab these SB Dunks after they dropped last year. I’m not usually into super-bold sneakers, but I think the bright colors are very tastefully applied here and really like how they contrast with the shorter Swoosh and the gum outsole. I actually haven’t danced in these yet!

This weekend, possibly? [Lee was interviewed a day before the 2022 BC One World Championships]

Oh, man! I’m thinking about it, but I want to keep this pair somewhat clean so I don’t know yet. I’ve worn these out a bit, but am still not sure if I want to take them to the stage. I actually bought them at the same time as the Dunks I wore for last year’s world championships, but I bought those specifically to dance in them and wanted to keep these clean. I also just got a pair of the Supreme x Nike Shox Ride 2, so I’m considering wearing those as well. It might be a day-of thing. [Editor’s Note: Lee wound up deciding to wear the Shox Ride 2]

“The [Parra x Nike SB Dunk Low makes] me feel connected to home.”

Since Parra is such a central figure in Amsterdam street culture, do you feel like you’re repping your hometown when you wear his shoes?

[Nods] For sure. That’s part of the reason why I love them. They make me feel connected to home, like someone wearing their favorite football team’s shirt does. That’s also why I’m nervous about ruining them: if you’re breaking in a shoe like this, it’s probably going to get destroyed.

Do you have any other favorite Parra shoes?

The friends-and-family version of Parra’s 2019 SB Dunk Low are a grail of mine. They’re crazy, but way too expensive [laughs].

Shoes like Superstars and Suedes are the “classic” breaker silhouettes, but how has b-boy and b-girl sneaker style evolved over the years? Are people still looking to models like those, or has it shifted?

The Superstar and a matching tracksuit is an all-time classic breaking outfit, and will never not be fresh, but I think what most breakers are wearing today is different. When I wore Dunk Lows at last year’s world final, Zoopreme and Tawfiq — two other breakers from my crew — did as well, and since then we’ve seen a bunch of other breakers buying and wearing Dunk Lows to compete. I think we set a new trend in the breaking world! I’ve also been seeing a lot more people rocking New Balance lately.

You’ve been all over the world and seen both breaking culture and sneaker culture through a lot of different lenses. What’s the most unique thing you’ve noticed about those cultures in Amsterdam as opposed to the rest of the globe?

How tight-knit they are. Even though Amsterdam’s sneakers and breaking scenes have grown a lot, they each still feel familial, and don’t overlap with each other as much as they might in other countries. The people there aren’t as concerned with having the “latest and greatest” either — they appreciate and want exclusive stuff, but don’t always need to have it first, they’re just more into doing their own thing.

Why are sneakers important to you?

They define how I feel. If the sneakers are fresh, then I’m fresh too, and if I’m fresh I feel good.

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