Tyler Mansour, better known as @arab_lincoln, is a genius at turning sneakers into eye candy. The South Carolina native has won acclaim across the footwear industry for his signature visual language: sharp hand shots, swirling lace mosaics, unique angles and more. After working under Ronnie Fieg for nearly a decade, Mansour now creates independently, producing captivating imagery for major sportswear brands like
Mansour’s obsession with shoes dates back to when he was in elementary school in the mid-90s, and Michael Jordan was his muse. Along the way, he’s developed affinities for silhouettes like the Air Force 1, SB Dunk and Superstar, but if he had to boil it all down to one model, he’d choose the Air Foamposite One. Its timeless design and cultural impact was a catalyst for his appreciation for sneakers, which is why he chose to highlight it for his Sole Mates feature.
In the conversation below, Tyler Mansour chats with Hypebeast about the sneaker access benefits he had growing up in Goose Creek, SC, why the Foamposites garnered a cult following, and when Wale signed on. one of his sneakers.
Who or what made you love sneakers?
Michael Jordan. Growing up in the mid-90s, he was that guy. I soon realized that basketball wasn’t going to be something I was going to pursue because I wasn’t good enough, but because of MJ I was still so invested in sneakers and all things culture, from outings to Nike commercials.
When did the idea to pursue sneaker photography come about?
When I was in sixth grade and my family bought a computer with a Kodak EasyShare 1 megapixel camera. I’ve always enjoyed photography, and having this camera started my journey because I thought it would be a way to combine my affection for sneakers with my affection for photography. As I started photographing, I delved deeper into the sneakers and learned more about the different technologies and specific aesthetic details.
“I often felt like an outcast growing up, but sneakers were my way to express myself and show people that I knew what I was talking about.”
You grew up in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Was there a “sneaker culture” there? What was it like to be in sneakers in a small town?
It was unique in the sense that people who shared an affinity for sneakers at the time didn’t know we had access to larger releases, which at the time were SB Dunks. Like basketball, I wasn’t good at skateboarding, but I liked the style of skateboarders and learned about people like Paul Rodriguez, Reese Forbes and Eric Koston.
I noticed that we had several skate shops in the area and big releases were waiting. Colorways like the “Tweed” tops and bottoms and the “Reese Forbes Hunter” bottoms were still on the shelves weeks after release because nobody in my area paid attention to the culture like that. I became a regular shopper at these shops and remember one guy even let me buy the “Tiffany” Dunks a week earlier. I remember being stunted in school and felt like this guy because I got them before anyone I knew. I often felt like an outcast growing up, but sneakers were my way to express myself and show people that I knew what I was talking about.
When did the Nike Air Foamposite first appear to you?
The Foamposites came to me when they downgraded the original blue colorway in 2006. The first time I saw them online I was blown away because they looked like something aliens had delivered to us. From there, I admired their association with Penny Hardaway and realized that the DMV [DC, Maryland and Virgina] claimed the sneaker as their own. I remember befriending a guy through NikeTalk, and he helped me get the OG blue pair for retail. Getting that first pair made me want to know even more about them.
Why do you think people are so loyal to Foams?
The Foamposite has always been ahead of its time. How many silhouettes today still seem ahead of time 26 years after their first release? Seeing some pairs reach the $3,000-$4,000 USD range over the past few years reflects the size of its fanbase. Another aspect of the foam is that there aren’t too many colorways to choose from compared to a Dunk or Air Force 1. This gives it a slightly sleeker edge.
You mentioned that you had a crazy story on Foamposite related to Wale. Can you tell us more about this?
Wale had a show at this venue called Music Farm in Charleston, South Carolina. I knew he was a big Foamposite fan, so I wore a pair to the concert. Halfway through the show, I walked up front and held one of the shoes with a Sharpie for him to sign, and he was more than willing to do so.
What did you think of the Foamposite hitting a new high during the 2012-2014 era when hit colorways like the “Galaxy” as well as the ParaNorman and Supreme collabs were releasing?
I love when other people gravitate towards the same silhouettes and appreciate the same design aspects about them. Whenever rumors swirl about the return of a certain limited edition colorway, it diminishes the monetary value of the OG pair, but the nostalgia value will never diminish, and that’s why I always welcome the idea. of reissues.
Where do you think mosses fit into the current sneaker lexicon and do you think they will ever return to that level of popularity of the early 2010s?
The buzz around Foams has started bubbling over the past few years with CDG Foams and classic retro releases, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another surge in the next couple of years. Seeing the CDG collaboration dominate our social calendars was a major factor for me to believe that the model still has so much potential to have another big moment in sneaker culture.
What are your favorite Foamposite colors?
The ParaNorman collaboration is an all-time favorite. Every time I look at them, I remember winning a chance to buy them at retail through Nike’s Twitter contest and the feeling I got when I opened their special perforated box. CDG collaborations are crazy. It’s amazing how they were able to retain the DNA of the Foamposite while completely retooling the upper. The white pair is my favorite of the two. And finally, the OG “Royal Blue” slice, given that this was my first introduction to Foams.
Which Foamposite features do you prefer to showcase through photography?
I love the angle Nike took with the Foamposite phone ads that captured parts of the outsole and part of the upper. Other details I love include the carbon fiber, grooves on the side panels and the One Cent logo, the latter of which I think is one of the top 10 sneaker logos of all time.
What would be your dream pair of shoes and what setting to shoot?
“Galaxy” Mosses in space. If any sportswear company is reading this, give me the platform to shoot in space and I promise it will be the most amazing shoot you’ve ever seen.
How has your approach to sneaker photography evolved from the day you were recognized on the NikeTalk forums to today?
Execution. I’ve always had the vision in my head, but I didn’t know what it would take physically and materially to bring these to life. I literally dream of photographing sneakers and I start to achieve what I dream of since I was 16 years old. I’m getting to a point where I feel good about compiling all of my work into a coffee table book and publishing it someday.
“The stories are of the utmost importance to me because they allowed a kid from Goose Creek, SC, who didn’t always feel like he was understood, to be inspired by the product and to carve out his own career.”
What excites you about this next chapter in your sneaker journey?
Working with my heroes. Ronnie Fieg was a catalyst for my whole journey because he believed in me and I got to watch him build an empire and learn from him. And now, because I know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into these projects, I’m thrilled to be a part of helping others express theirs. The collaboration is huge for me, and the fact that I have this unique opportunity to work in footwear through photography is special.
Why are sneakers and their stories important to you?
Products, tangible goods, consumerism, it all comes and goes, but stories live forever. The stories are of the utmost importance to me because they allowed a kid from Goose Creek, SC, who didn’t always feel like he was understood, to be inspired by the product, and to chart his own career.