Going in-depth with Brad Hall: The sneaker reviewer like no other
Brad Hall will admit that he has "a different personality than most" when it comes to YouTube sneaker review videos, and boy is he right.
With the insanely dry humor as his trademark, Hall has propelled himself to hundreds of thousands of views of the, well, “different,” style of sneaker reviews he provides on his personal channel.
Two months ago, Hall kicked things off with a review of the Air Jordan IV Oreo, following that up with three straight reviews of Jordan shoes, recenlty releasing his first on-court review of the Nike Kobe X. He then added a review of Adidas' Yeezy while starting to push his own products. Nothing about these six videos fits with what you’d normally see from the world of sneakers, which has created a buzz around Hall, who spoke publicly about about his videos for the first time with SI.com.
“I was completely blown away from the very first video,” says the 35-year-old sneakerhead. “I thought it would be cool if I got a thousand views. That number seemed ambitious. I was totally overwhelmed by the initial response.”
What makes Hall’s reviews, well, different, stem from the dryness and the entirely satirical-feeling take he has on sneaker culture. He says, though, that what you see on the clips are fairly realistic versions of himself, albeit a bit more nervous once his friend turns on the camera.
“It is not scripted at all,” he says. “We have a place to shoot it and we set up in my living room, that is about as far as we go with scripting. Everything is me talking about the shoe. I will do a couple passes through to make sure I cover everything. That is the extent of it.”
What exactly can you expect from Hall's style of sneaker review? “I’m viewing it as this is me doing my best version of a shoe review," says Hall. "I know I’m not as well informed as some other shoe reviewers. When I think about it, I think about what is the best form of this and I’m going to try my hardest to get close to that. If I tried to not aim for that, it would just be nothing and completely unwatchable.
“What I noticed about [other] videos and what I thought I could add is seeing the shoes," says Hall. "That was my starting point, seeing if I could have these nice shoe shots and I thought if I had that to start out with, I could be myself with the rest of it.”
His love of shoes started 20 years ago for Hall, saying Michael Jordan drew him in at first. However, it wasn’t until recently that Hall discovered the world of sneaker reviews on YouTube and became fascinated with the concept. Hall says it seemed like an interesting community to be a part of, offering a different kind of personality.
The response from sneakerheads has been largely positive. “I was nervous that people would take it the wrong way,” he says, “[and] there is some of that. For the most part, it is an incredible response.”
Hall says no brands have contacted him about partnering, he buys his own shoes and takes it as an “incredible compliment” when people accuse him of having Nike or Complex behind the laugh-inducing videos.
Along with the dry humor comes some visual humor too. Hall, who dons khakis in each of his videos stripped off his full-length version in his latest video to reveal his gameday attire of khaki shorts. “I own more than a handful of khakis,” Hall says. “I do go in khakis pretty much everyday. It is a simple look and I stick to it.”
Is he playing for laughs with the over-the-top aspects? “I would say it is not so much playing for laughs as kind of just trying to make it more engaging in some way,” he says. “It is a visual thing, so I can’t just sit there and talk about a shoe the entire time. That gets boring. I’m aware that there is a visual element to it and keep that a little bit interesting. If I tried to play for a laugh, I’d probably not be funny."
Hall says his love of shoes has ebbed and flowed for the past 20 years, with yearlong stretches of no interest juxtaposed against time of buying up shoes from Nike or eBay. Right now he’s at a low point in his collecting, with about 20 pairs. “Twenty is still a lot of shoes, way more than I need,’ he says.
When the first video caught sneaker blogs by storm, it created a bit of pressure for Hall to build on the benchmark he set for himself. With the first four video reviews of Jordans, Hall says he regrets creating a persona where people believe he likes just the Jordan brand.
While Hall’s in-depth discussion of boxes that have lids and contain Nike’s contact information should you need to write in, the fact that a shoe has laces that do their job, the use of shoehorns—having recently misplaced some shoehorns, he knows where four are right now— or any number of different approaches to sneaker reviewing, the phrase that caught fire early was the “Michael Air Jordan dunking” line.
But Hall doesn’t consider it a signature line and regrets the overuse. “I think it unfortunately took on that kind of life [of a catchphrase],” he says. “It has stopped me from wanting to say it any longer. I don’t want it to feel like, ‘Oh, here’s my catchphrase.’ It came out of my mouth and it seemed like a good way of describing what that was. I stuck with it and I think have to lose it.”
Hall has fought to keep his privacy through the rise in popularity. He didn’t want to discuss what he does for a living or his personal life, wanting “this to exist as me as a shoe reviewer,” and does regret having his kids in the recent Hare Jordan video. “I thought it would be fun,” he says, “but seeing the response to some of this stuff I thought maybe it was too much.”
Whatever you do believe about him, you’ll have to admit he provides something, well, different. Shoehorn and all.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.