Courtney Salmon — or CS Visuals, as he calls himself on all social media platforms — is a Birmingham, UK-based filmmaker and photographer whose latest project attempts to document the parallels between sneaker culture and his Black British heritage.
Falling under his personal brand All White No Hype, “Please Don’t Touch” is an art project that compares sneakerheads’ obsessive nature of collecting sneakers to the maintenance and upkeep of the traditional Caribbean “front room.”
To say Salmon’s own love for sneakers has shaped his career would be an understatement. His journey has taken him from hyped drops and filming Kanye’s very first adidas YEEZY drop in London to establishing his own brand. Salmon got into filmmaking through skateboarding — a path that many creatives in the industry take — before transitioning to music videos and, ultimately, filming and documenting sneaker releases and events.
After the birth of my son and being out of the game for a while, I became disenfranchised with hype culture and didn’t want to participate in it. I still had the desire to engage with sneaker culture, but my outlook had changed. At the time, I was wearing basic, all-white classics, so I decided to make them my focal point.
There was also a big need for me to find something that I could consider my own. I didn’t want to be another freelancer who shot content for other brands.
The idea came after visiting my girlfriend’s grandmother’s house and poking my head into a room I had never been in. It turned out to be the front room. It was like a time capsule and I immediately knew I had to create a project focusing on these rooms because they are soon to be extinct, as members of the Windrush generation are in the latter stages of their life.
The Windrush generation is a group of people who came to England from the Caribbean in the 1950s at a time when a lot of manual labor jobs needed filling. Caribbean people were invited to take those roles, but they were met with a lot of resistance and racism. They were seen as a second-class citizen.
The front room was the heart and soul of the house. It contained a bright, colorful-patterned wallpaper and carpet and sofas covered in protective plastic. My personal favorite was the glass cabinet that held an abundance of unused glassware and trinkets. The room was always kept in pristine condition and was a kid-free zone.
For me, it’s what the room represents. It’s a manifestation of the Windrush generation’s hard work during a time where racism was rife. They worked jobs that others didn’t want until they were able to acquire a house. And in this house, they built their own sanctuary. The front room.
The easiest parallel to draw is the upkeep of the front room. The fact that you have a sofa or a carpet but there’s plastic over it to keep it clean is similar to how shops like Flight Club wrap their trainers in plastic to preserve them. Or certain people put their shoes in plastic bags so that the oxygen doesn’t cause the midsole to crumble.
But the real, deeper connection is that the people who put plastic over their sofas usually come from lower-class environments. They have to preserve things because they don’t actually have the money to replace them if they get damaged. Sneaker culture derives from an inner-city environment and was formed by people who found a sense of pride and identity in a particular item. The acquiring and preservation of these goods give sneakerheads status among their peers.
This is exactly the same as the collection of unused glassware or trinkets stored in the glass cabinet. That practice is known as conspicuous consumption — the acquiring of luxury goods to gain status within a socio-economic system. That’s the real parallel I’m focusing on.
Originally, sneaker culture was about buying something — not because of the monetary value it had, but because you knew no one else had seen that pair before. Hearing “What are those?” used to be a positive thing.
Also, back then, just because you had money, it didn’t mean you were going to be able to source those kinds of sneakers. It was for those in the know. Now the trainer market is basically run by people who have money.
Massively. I can’t stress how important the passing of traditions is, as they hold valuable stories that are connected to our identity.
The media reports how young Black British boys or people from inner-city areas don’t contribute much to society. The reality is they contribute to the world in many ways, one of them being trainer culture. Black boys have got a massive role to play, because we have influence. We like to consume. And when we consume, we influence people. But our influence can’t just exist on a consumption level.
The whole premise of “Please Don’t Touch” is to bring a greater sense of self-value to Black British youth through the preservation of the front room and to also put a spotlight on the contribution we make to sneaker culture.
Right now, people need uplifting and something they can relate to. Hopefully, my project can do that.
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