Metal Shoebox #6: Trevor Van Hook of Putrescine
In this series, Ivan Belcic invites sneaker-lovers from the metal world at large to share some favorites from their collections, pairing them with metal albums that fit just right.
“Now I've got a nice little collection and some respectable onstage drip.”
–Trevor Van Hook
There’s a tired and familiar tension that stretches across sneaker culture between the “old heads” who pride themselves thoroughly on having been wearing the right sneakers since graduating from breast milk to pureed pears, and newer entrants into the culture just beginning to find their way and learn which sneakers speak truest to them.
Like anyone who’s taken the tragic step of fermenting a hobby into a personality, these veteran sneakerheads react with venom and bile whenever they’re forced to share space within their passion with someone they regard as less proven or inauthentic in their enthusiasm.
It’s been especially toxic in recent years as sneakers have boomed in popularity and grown increasingly difficult to get at retail price. Nike Dunks and Jordan 1s continue to dominate as retro styles reassert their relevance. New Balance sneakers are somehow fashionable, likely spurred by the regrettable post-ironic normcore movement and resulting Seinfeldization of many people’s wardrobes in the late 2008s and early 2010s.
Though, citing Seinfeld here is a mistake — while Jerry’s light-wash denims and oversized sweaters made him the epitome of normcore, his considerable Nike collection was always on point throughout the show’s run. Watch some clips and look at Jerry’s feet.
Anything Yeezy sells out in seconds, and the same is true with whatever the late Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label touches. Balenciaga’s Triple S — the ones with the bulky heels — essentially created the luxury sneaker market in 2017 with one of the most iconic new silhouettes in recent years. And from Bad Bunny’s ongoing work with Adidas to Travis Scott’s run with Air Jordan, the celebrity collabs just keep on coming.
I’ve spoken before about the Dunk’s runaway hype train, and never one to miss a money-making opportunity, Nike has responded by cranking out more general-release (as in, non-SB) Dunks than ever. The black-and-white “Panda” lows have come out on top as the everyman’s pair of Dunks, with Nike having reissued them several times over the past couple years. You’ve definitely seen people wearing these.
Sneakers are in no way a niche scene, and it’s ludicrous to gatekeep them as such. The potential entry points continue to spawn, almost fractal-like in their exponential multiplication. And here comes the parallel with metal, because the same principle applies. Metal has long since gone mainstream, having lost all countercultural or norm-challenging cachet it once had.
And yet in the aftermath of a metalhead character appearing on the latest season of Stranger Things, many metal fans couldn’t stand the possibility of untested normies discovering one of their most closely-guarded secrets, that most cherished gem of all the underground: Metallica.
I saw a young kid wearing those Panda Dunks the other day, and you know how I felt? Fucking jazzed. I love it when my point of entry to a hobby — in this case, the Dunk — strikes the same chord with somebody else. It feels good to know that there’s someone else out there going through the same getting-to-know-you process that I did by way of the same means.
“But what if he’s only wearing them because they’re trendy??!!” And?
There’s no wrong time to get into a hobby or discover a passion, and having engaged in it for years or even decades doesn’t make your love for it any more valid than that of a recent arrival. So when I get the chance to evangelize the joy of sneakers to a willing friend, I savor it. And when that hook catches in their cheek and I get photos of the new pickups landing in the group chat, that’s a great feeling.
Trevor Van Hook, vocalist, guitarist, and co-primary songwriter of progressive death metal band Putrescine, is one such victim of mine. But it’s not like he’s new to sneakers as a whole. “Looking back to high school, I always defaulted to boots or Chucks, and a couple of pairs of white hi-tops in my thrash phase,” he reminisces.
Though all three of those are absolutely valid looks to this day, Van Hook was itching to broaden his horizons, but didn’t know what move to make. “When I grew out of that and wanted to dress like a more-or-less functioning member of society, I didn't really know what kind of shoes I liked,” he says.
As is true with many hobbies, whether fashion-related, musical, or otherwise, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. You see countless “guide to [Band X]” articles because writers know that large bodies of work can be overwhelming to navigate. And with more brands cranking out more sneakers than seemingly ever, I can’t blame anyone for feeling lost.
Fortunately, that’s where I come in. “Thanks to Christine from Tridroid Records and Ivan [Belcic, i.e. me], I found a few styles that I liked,” continues Van Hook. “I'm more drawn to skate shoes, even though I can barely stand on a board without eating shit.”
Not that the ability to skate is in any way a prerequisite for loving skate shoes, at least if you ask me or Allfather’s Tom Ballard.
I know Christine loves the Nike Blazer just as much as I’m into the SB Dunk. And so it warms my heart to see these two sneakers represented prominently in Trevor’s Metal Shoebox choices. “Of course, Ivan got me hooked on Dunks so I had to get into the raffle and reseller game.” It's true, I did. And he did. And the raffle/resale scene is tough as ever. I’m glad Trevor’s enthusiastic enough to deal with it, because I’ve put new acquisitions on pause.
But we’re not here to talk about my collection. Here’s Trevor Van Hook on five of his favorite sneakers along with the albums he loves to jam while wearing them.
Red ‘77 Nike Blazers
These were the second pair of Blazers I picked up. I love the red suede and the old-school touches on them. The unfinished edges on the tongue also give them a lot of personality.
Album: Morbid Angel - Gateways to Annihilation
I have a handful of band shirts that the red matches well, but my favorite is the Gateways to Annihilation long-sleeve. This album is easily a top five for me; I feel like they’re at their best with Steve Tucker, and this album has the perfect mix of evil riffs, slow crawling passages and a heaviness they never achieved on their earlier albums. I was lucky enough to find this shirt around the same time I got the Blazers, giving them a great association with the shirt and the album.
Nike By You Blazers
I designed these on the Nike By You site, so obviously they’re special to me. The goal was to go for a Dodger-blue theme. The royal blue leather and unfinished tongue and logo give them a nice old-school feel like the ‘77s.
Album: Megadeth - Rust in Peace
The only thing that I’m still a fan of that dates back further in my life than my love for this album is the Dodgers, so I’m picking this album for the pairing and for the blue color scheme. Much like the Dodgers, Megadeth had an incredible streak in the ‘80s and were absolutely awful in the ‘90s.
And as much as I tried to spend several years thinking I was too cool to love the metal I loved when I was a teenager as well as too good for sports, I have come to accept that these things that were such a big part of shaping me are both sick and good. So designing these shoes felt a lot like embracing that part of myself, just like accepting that Rust in Peace is sick as fuck.
Nike SB Orange Label Dunks
These are the only shoes in my collection so far that I’ve bought resale and not retail, but they’re absolutely worth it. The SB Orange Labels are ridiculously high-quality builds, and the simple black-and-white with the gum sole fits with pretty much anything I wear.
Album: Demilich - Nespithe
These shoes stand on their own in my collection and could go with pretty much anything I decide to wear, so I’m going with another album that stands completely on its own. Nespithe is an immaculate album that stands out from anything else released in ‘93, technical but not in the modern (bad) sense, punishingly heavy but intricate and challenging the entire time.
Blue Nike Dunk Highs
These are the only shoes I have won in a raffle so far. Obviously, also going for Dodger blue. So far these shoes have been to Petco Park, Chase Field in Arizona, and Blue Heaven on Earth, Dodger Stadium. They’re simple and clean, not quite as good a build as the SB pair, but they work for me.
Album: Carcass - Necroticism
If you can’t tell from my band’s name and style, especially on our first EP, I’m a big Carcass fan. I picked up this album from a record store in LA; it was probably one of the first death metal albums I got into, after Symbolic and Altars of Madness.
It’s simple and straightforward, wall-to-wall riffs. It's not as fast and chaotic as the first two Carcass records, but has an edge to it that I feel they lost on Heartwork. I’m picking this for the blue Dunks for a lot of the same reasons as Rust in Peace: this album is something I can always look back on, like when I walked through the gates to Dodger Stadium wearing these this past summer, for the first time in over ten years, and felt like I was home.
I grabbed these shoes at the outlet store for $30, the only pair they had, and they were in my size. It was like destiny. I owned a couple of pairs of white hi-tops back in high school, when I was really into the thrash revival of the time, seeing Warbringer and Bonded by Blood at a backyard venue in Chino Hills — seriously, does anyone remember the Mutant House? Those shows were so sick.
Unfortunately, that also coincided with that Flo Rida song, and one of my pairs were Reeboks, with the straps, so I still feel a little silly with them, but who cares? ‘80s thrash, white hi-tops, and leather jackets is an unbeatable combo.
Album: Kreator - Pleasure to Kill
German thrash was on another level: the speed, aggression, and technicality made most American thrash seem tame. This album encapsulates all of that. I love Kreator’s late-career arc, but Pleasure to Kill is a stone-cold classic. That drum fill to open the title track is iconic.
Like these Adidas, I may have things I like more or spend more time with, but I’ll never be too good for white hi-tops, a leather jacket or denim vest, and my beaten-to-shit Pleasure to Kill shirt.
Putrescine are releasing two splits on September 23: Desolate Tides with Kosmogyr [author’s note: that’s my band] on digital and cassette with Tridroid Records, and a self-titled split with Adzes on digital and cassette with Euphoriadic.