Title: Director of Operations & Volunteers / Freelance Writer / Blogger
Company: Redeemer Church / @nikestories
Based in: New York City
I have been a churchgoer all my life and that, in combination of being a New Yorker has given me the unique opportunity to meet people with particularly unique and diverse backgrounds. Drew is one of them. I met him back in late 2016. While I don’t remember the exact time or situation in which I met Drew, I distinctly remember thinking over the nascent weeks of our rapport, “man, he has the coolest sneaks”. This thought would ring through my head routinely– every, single, time I saw him. As Redeemer was arguably a church that in its characters reflected a style of the more traditional dress, I always appreciated sighting a fellow church goer who was strong in the sartorial.
As Drew and I developed a friendship, I discovered he had an insatiable passion for shoes and for Nike. I subsequently discovered he had a thriving Instagram blog called @nikestories.
Despite increasing pressures to create new and original content– products of a culture that drives the multi-billion dollar influencer market that is social media–Drew has built @nikestories differently, rising to influencer status by looking to and honoring the past, pulling from archives and mixing old with the new.
“For those who were asking on my stories, this is the Nike Women’s Skeek – designed for the rugged activities of Olympic Gold medalist skier Picabo Street.”– NikeStories
Years later, with a life expanding into multiple fields and an ongoing joint project with HighSnobiety to chronicle the complete history of every Air Jordan in history, I chatted with Drew about his life behind the shoes, his unconventional work journey, and finding balance.
You’ve been working as Director of Operations and Volunteers at Redeemer Church and simultaneously living a second life creating content for your Instagram account, @nikestories, which profiles stories on the past, present, and future of Nike sneakers.
When did you start @nikestories, and what drove you to commit to this incredibly cool passion and hobby of yours?
I started @nikestories a little over four years ago on Instagram. At first, it was just for fun and a way to post pictures of my sneaker collection. I quickly gained a cult following and realized I had a lot of material most people didn’t have access to. I’ve always enjoyed talking about sneakers and the history behind them, and Instagram gave me a platform for that. The interaction with people around the world and the eagerness to share new information with people each day is a thrill for me that hasn’t died down.
Why are you pursuing both a career in ministry and a career in sports and content creation? What makes each worth it?
@nikestories has always been a creative outlet for me; an opportunity to switch gears mentally after thinking about how to run a church all day. Plus, the account has given me a ton of opportunities to freelance write for companies like FinishLine, Eastbay, HighSnobiety and Jordan Brand. I enjoy writing, and want to teach people about the shoes I love and grew up with. Working for the church is rewarding because I love God and want to see the church flourish in New York. Creating and sharing content on @nikestories is rewarding because a lot of people don’t even realize the stories behind shoes and the athletes that wear them.
Let’s talk about balance. You’re a full time director at Redeemer Church, omnipresent with @nikestories, and a father of a 3-year-old daughter. What actionable tips would you recommend to someone living a multi-hyphenated life like yours and how have you managed to find ways to flourish in it?
I think the key is to constantly remind myself what matters most. First, my relationship with God is most important. A close second is being there for my wife and daughter. And then third is my work. I’ve always been a decent multi-tasker – in fact I enjoy juggling a lot of things at once – but it takes a lot of discipline. It’s definitely not easy working full time, plus running a big Instagram account, plus caring for my daughter (I’m home with her two days a week so my wife can work part time). Every day has its frustrating moments, but as long as I keep reminding myself that I’m living for God and my family, things have a way of working themselves out.
Who is someone or something you’d like to partner with, work with, or have lunch with?
I’ve always had a fascination with street art – in particular I’m a big fan of KAWS (Brian Donnelly). One of his statues is actually in our office lobby in midtown. I have some ideas I’d like to run by him someday for a @nikestories x KAWS x Jordan Brand collab. I also love what Stephane Ashpoole of Pigalle is doing in his community in Paris and would love to meet with him about a collab as well.
If you had to choose any other non-Nike shoe you’ve got your eyes on, what would it be?
How do you do wellness or aspire to be well in your day to day life?
My goal is to get to the gym to lift once a week, run once a week, and play tennis 2-3 times a month (weather permitting). I also partner with a Jersey City sneaker store to run a monthly basketball pickup game at my local Boys & Girls Club. I love being active and playing sports, but it gets tougher both physically and time-wise as I get older. I have to set monthly goals to ensure I’m staying in shape. I’m a skinny guy with a high metabolism, so I need a lot of calories everyday. I drink a lot of water and eat a lot of protein and carbs. I definitely need to eat more veggies though.
– Susan Im
Drew Hammell is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and currently serves there as Director of Operations & Volunteers and on the LAB team, a new presbyterian congregation meeting at Baruch College. He is also known for his contributions to the creative space under the alias of his thriving Instagram blog, @nikestories.