A Nigerian student at the University of Minnesota, Taoheed Bayo, is making waves after designing a sneaker for Nike, that mirrors his Nigerian and African heritage.
Bayo’s roommate had messaged him about a Nike design challenge that he thought Bayo could not pass up.
Nike had put the word out it was seeking designers to deliver a unique riff on the company’s classic sneaker. Weeks later, the Nigeria native and model was among three dozen across the country chosen to compete in the Nike BY You X Cultivator contest.
Each had two weeks to create their own Nike shoe and develop a unique backstory that could appeal to consumers. Once that was done, they had to market and sell their custom sneaker.
Bayo, 21, reached back to his Nigerian roots and youth for inspiration, creating a shoe grounded in his heritage. The result: the Afro-Yute Air Max 1. The Afro-Yute’s been selling, but it’s also delivered something else Bayo had wanted — it’s teaching others about Africa.
“The most intense part, it was the designing,” said Bayo, who also goes by TBuzz. “The most integral part I think was having a story that resonates with a lot of people and making sure that it’s authentic as possible. But, you’re also trying to design a shoe that you want everybody to buy, not just something you like.”
Bayo settled on green for the shoe base because it represented Earth and Africa. Like the Nigerian flag, he chose white as a compliment to the earthy color.
In the comment sections, young people shared their enthusiasm for Bayo’s project, while others visited Nike’s website to purchase his Nike Air Max 1s.
With the Nike Challenge over for now, Bayo is back focusing on finishing his degree in actuarial science, a study that combines math, statistics and insurance.
He said he isn’t overly concerned about his shoe sales. By the end of the year he’ll know how Afro-Yute did compared to his fellow Nike creatives.
For now, he is more concerned that young people learn about their history and talk to their parents about their family ancestry.
“I was born in Africa. I was born out of my roots,” he said.“For all the people that was born in the United States, it’s your duty, whether you like it or not to seek your truth and, you know, find your heritage.”