Breanna Stewart grew up sporting all the well-known kicks of the times. The sharp K-Swiss. Iconic Adidas three-stripe 1990s low tops. A selection of Nikes. The Shaquille O’Neal signature shoe sold at an affordable price at Payless.
“Basically, whatever I could get my hands on were the ones that I had,” Stewart, 27, told Yahoo Sports.
None of them, to her knowledge at the time as an up-and-coming basketball star, were shoes made, designed or endorsed by women.
“I didn’t have any female-led shoes,” the highly decorated Seattle Storm forward said. “I feel bad saying it, but it was the way the market was and what we saw. Hopefully now I can be part of the change.”
Stewart will be the 10th WNBA player to have a signature shoe when Puma, who signed the 2018 MVP and two-time WNBA champion to an endorsement deal last May, releases the “Stewie 1” this summer. To celebrate the significance of the moment and those who laid the foundational soles behind her, Stewart partnered with eBay on its “Trailblazers Collection” to celebrate Women’s History Month.
The eBay drop highlights sneakers created by and for women, including the Nike Air Swoopes II by four-time WNBA champion Sheryl Swoopes and the Air Jordan II Retro designed by Vashtie Kola. Each shoe in the collection includes a backstory and celebrates the contributions of women in an often male-dominated space.
Including women in sneaker culture
Women have often been excluded and dismissed from sneaker culture and the “sneakerhead” market, yet their numbers continue to grow despite challenges, such as lack of sizes. Women also control or influence an estimated 85% of consumer spending, according to a 2019 Forbes report, meaning they are the ones out buying sneakers for the kids.
Still, the marketing for female players and designers is sparse even if the demand is there. It took 25 years of Jordans before Kola became the first woman to design one. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Stewart is the first WNBA player in a decade, following Candace Parker, to have a signature shoe. There is a reason young ballers show up to camps in Currys and LeBrons, and it’s not only because of the NBA players’ talents.
“Kids are seeing certain people and certain faces all over the place — social media, TV, live [in person] — and wanting to represent them,” Stewart said. “To have the Trailblazer Collection be out this month will just continue to highlight female-led shoes, — shoes designed by female, for female — to kind of make sure we’re continuing to highlight the female perspective. Because I think that sometimes it’s often really, really overlooked.”
Stewart said she can’t keep track of all the times she’s been asked how to get a Breanna Stewart shoe and had to tell people she doesn’t have one.
“Now it’s like, well I do, and it’s coming, and I hope that all these young girls and boys are going to want to go out and get the shoe and realize that there’s the NBA, and there’s also the WNBA,” she said .
They’ll be in line behind her 7-month-old daughter, Ruby Mae Stewart Xargay, who Stewart hopes will be walking by the time she laces up.
Building the Stewie 1
Stewart isn’t sure what she can and can’t say about the “Stewie 1.” What she can say is the first will drop in the middle of the summer and there will be multiple colorways, perfect timing for the height of the WNBA season and before high school and college seasons tip off. A Puma spokesperson confirmed the shoe will be released “later this year.”
After inspecting the special details on the box, colorways are the first thing Stewart notices in any shoe. She likes wearing as many sneakers as possible during the WNBA season as a “different way to spark conversion for WNBA players.” And her favorites vary.
“I think the colorways I like the most [are] bright and stick out,” she said. “I have these moments where I want everything to match, and then I have these moments where I’m like, I don’t care if my shoes match anything that I’m wearing on my jersey. Kind of both.”
She can say it was a “super in-detail” process to design her shoe, more than she could have expected, and it allowed her to include special moments of her life, like growing up in North Syracuse and winning four NCAA championships at Connecticut . She used inspiration from former signature shoes like Swoopes and wants it to have the best performance ability complemented by looks that can transition to off-the-court wear.
“[I have a] ton of pride realizing that when I was young I was talking about buying LeBrons and Jordans and Shaq shoes, now it’s going to be my own,” Stewart said. “To kind of reach that level where I have a signature shoe is something that I really couldn’t have dreamed of, and now that moment is about to be here and I think that it’s just going to continue to be better.
“Women in the sneaker industry deserve a lot more than they’ve gotten in the past, and I hope that as we’re seeing change in a lot of different directions, the sneaker industry is going to be one. And eBay is making sure that happens.”