Two Asian men stand together, holding up white sneakers.

The founders of 1587 are out to show AA+PIs are ‘dope as shit!’

The sneaker and fashion brand is all about uplifting Asian American voices

From left, 1587 Sneakers co-founder Sam Hyun and founder Adam King came together over their fashion, sneakers and wanting to uplift AA+PI voices.

Courtesy of 1587 Sneakers

Words by Anjana Pawa

In the ever-evolving world of sneakers, a space where giants and corporations often overshadow innovation and creatives, 1587 Sneakers attempts to find its footing. Founded by Adam King, Sam Hyun, and Jerry Won, the brand isn't just about creating high-quality sneakers and apparel, it’s about culture and challenging the stereotypes that have been attached to Asian American consumers.

The idea for 1587 Sneakers began with sneaker industry alum and Georgia-native King’s passion for sneakers and an unwavering desire to break down the status quo surrounding Asian Americans. After working for two decades in the sneaker industry in sales and product marketing at various companies including Reebok and Koio, he became frustrated that his community was often overlooked. "I got really tired of them saying Asian Americans are follower consumers,” King shares, “or that you'd never market to Asian Americans." Fueled by a determination to break down these misconceptions, King set out to create his own brand.

Along the way, King wanted to find collaborators that had just as much passion to champion Asian Americans as he did. “I thought, ‘Nike has Michael Jordan. Reebok has Allen Iverson. I need someone who inspires,’” he says. “Who did I wish was around when I was growing up?”

Two Asian men stand next to each other next to a wire shelf with sneakers.

From left, 1587 Sneakers co-founder Sam Hyun and founder Adam King.

Courtesy of 1587 Sneakers

Enter Hyun, a charismatic political advocate from Boston. Hyun was primarily working in government spaces when the two first connected but they shared a vision to uplift AA+PI voices and decided to collaborate on the brand. "I want Asian Americans to be unapologetically ourselves," Hyun expresses, emphasizing the importance of genuine representation, not one that has been distilled into stereotypes and marketing tactics. His advocacy work was always driven by a desire for systematic change. “For me, getting involved in government was actually not just about being involved in politics,” Hyun shares. “I wanted to understand how you made changes, but you need to understand this system in order to change it.” This, combined with a budding interest in fashion and sneakers, made him the perfect fit.

King, Hyun, and the rest of the co-founding team named the brand "1587 Sneakers" to honor history. The significance lies in the year 1587, marking the first known arrival of Asians on American soil: a group of Filipino sailors who landed in Morro Bay, California. By choosing this, the brand aims to honor the roots of the Asian American community, offering a platform for representation that isn’t distilled.

1587 Sneakers also aims to be a beacon, a microphone for under-heard voices within the Asian American diaspora. They hope to use their platform to delve into meaningful collaborations with community groups and museums. “We're doing short collaborations with lots of different Asian American community groups and museums,” King says. “We're telling stories that aren't being told right now." Last fall, the brand celebrated Filipino American History Month with an apparel release. “We used the language that Filipinos had used before the Spanish came,” he explains, “and we worked with the leading Batok (a traditional Filipino tattoo) artists to create a shirt.” These collaborations help raise funds and showcase unique, untold stories. It’s also a direct way the brand can give back to their community.

Five white sneakers and one black sneaker form a semi-circle shape, against a white backdrop.

1587 Sneakers was founded on the co-founders' love of the shoes in question.

Courtesy of 1587 Sneakers

King and Hyun both don’t believe that Asian Americans are not consumers of sneakers, as they’ve been previously told by the men in suits on the boards of large corporations. “I think it's because the people in power at those places don't have a lot of minority voices,” Hyun says about big brands and the decision makers in charge. “They occasionally try it,” he says, about some failed attempts to market to Asians, “but they don't have the right people designing it, they don't have the right people marketing it, they don't have the right people activating it. So it doesn't go well.”

“When people don't know how to market the Asian American community, they just throw a dragon on it,” King adds, echoing this notion that these corporations don’t actually understand their consumers at all. “This year doesn't count though,” he laughs, referencing the newly anointed Year Of The Dragon, “We quite literally threw a dragon on it this year.”

Three Asian people sit and stand together in black outfits, with "1587" on their t-shirts, against a white background.

In addition to sneakers, 1587 Sneakers sells apparel.

Courtesy of 1587 Sneakers

The founders also understand that as Asian Americans, we have often been taught to see each other as competition. “It's super important that as we grow, we bring others along with us,” Hyun says. “Raising each other up and kind of advocating for each other is not something you're taught when you're young." This is why the entire staff at 1587 Sneakers is AA+PI.

"Every single person that buys a sneaker, we usually send a note saying ‘thank you’ and ask, 'How'd you hear about us?' We get the most meaningful and powerful responses," King shares. He says that customers regularly express gratitude for a brand that finally made them feel seen, represented, and understood. This direct engagement with their customers creates a connection that extends far beyond just consumer and provider, it is one that fosters a sense of real, palpable community.

“Seeing people get joy from our products, from hoodies to sneakers, is a simple pleasure,” King says. “It's about making products we love and seeing others enjoy them too." One of the most meaningful parts of the brand for him is getting to make a product he loves that he can share with others who love it just as much.

“We’re fed the notion that Asian Americans are uncool, but no, we're dope as shit!”

The founders agree that there’s still a long way to go for 1587 Sneakers. "I think as we're thinking about our expansion, we want to think about how we do that in a way that is actually meaningful," Hyun shares, aware that the brand is still very much in its early days. The founders are not content with merely challenging stereotypes, they aspire to shape a narrative where Asian American culture stands proudly in the spotlight. King envisions a future where 1587 Sneakers becomes synonymous with Asian American culture, not just to be worn on feet but the brand’s stickers adorning laptops, water bottles, and everyday items. "I would love to see our stickers all around,” he shares, wanting to be a symbol of what it means to be cool, much like what Supreme was within skateboarding culture. “We’re fed the notion that Asian Americans are uncool, but no, we're dope as shit!”

Published on March 20, 2024

Words by Anjana Pawa

Anjana Pawa is a Brooklyn-based culture reporter who regularly covers music, entertainment and beauty. You can find her on Twitter at @apawawrites.