Luxury footwear designer Jon Buscemi made his name in skate culture and streetwear. It makes him an unlikely infiltrator of the golf game, but that’s exactly what he’s done.
Jon Buscemi revels in raw expression.
In a world hot on hybrid, the decorated designer sees the strongest statements coming from styles that are unadulterated. This was true when Buscemi cut his teeth in the New York skateboard scene as a teenager, and it remains his constant compass as an adult while he reimagines the world of luxury at his namesake label.
Since migrating to the West Coast in his 20s, Buscemi’s day job of crafting kicks has introduced him to new people, new worlds, and even new hobbies — including one that couldn’t be further from his teenage passion.
“I really didn’t have a relationship with golf until I moved to California,” Buscemi tells Boardroom. “We used to screw around in Long Island on the municipal courses, but when I moved, I was designing shoes for DC. Guys I worked with, like Rob Dyrdek, were playing golf on the weekends because they were skating during the week.”
Quickly, the fuse was lit: “That was the first time I got a set of clubs and where the addiction started.”
Soon, the addiction infiltrated Buscemi’s occupation.
Connecting with FootJoy through an introduction from the team at HYPEBEAST, Buscemi is releasing his first formal foray in the country club game.
It’s a far cry from the skate and streetwear scene he grew up on, and that’s excatly how it’s supposed to be.
Growing up in the Golden Era
As a kid, Buscemi was introduced to a slew of cultures in an unsuspecting space: the suburbs.
Raised on Long Island in the 1980s, the home of the Hamptons was rich in upper-crust elegance. But Long Island is more of a melting pot than stereotypes suggest.
In that era, families from Brooklyn were moving out of the city in search of stability. With that migration came an exposure to diverse cultures, ranging from West Indian cuisine to the boom-bap sounds of hip-hop.
As an underclassman at Uniondale High, Buscemi came in contact with a new student by way of Brooklyn named Trevor Smith. After a few short semesters, the world knew him as Busta Rhymes.
“He’s two years older than me,” Buscemi recalls. “I remember the day his family moved to Uniondale, he was in the talent shows winning everything.”
With the leader of the Leaders of the New School at his new school, Buscemi and his skateboard peers were privy to a suburban experience unlike those endured in the Midwest or coastal California. The counterculture currency of authenticity in skateboarding put an emphasis on style that was unique, while the immigrant nature of New York put pride in representing one’s roots.
Buscemi brings that same sense of ideals to his first footwear collaboration in golf.
“I’m a purist,” Buscemi says. “If a skateboarder went skating in Timberland boots, it wouldn’t make sense. When I looked at this project, I wanted to go back to the beginning, and then elevate it from a material standpoint.”
Rather than trend hop, Buscemi finds inspiration from muses both kin and contemporary.
When FootJoy came calling, Buscemi didn’t want to put skateboard’s stamp on the world of golf.
Rather, the seasoned footwear storyteller wanted to double down on the elegance he associated with the game growing up.
“Everyone has their rich uncle,” Buscemi says. “Mine was in a country club. He wore Bespoke suiting, whale corduroys, and FootJoys to golf in. He was like the guy you’d see in the Ralph Lauren mansion.”
In 2022, Jon sees this same sartorial sentiment and gentlemen approach on FootJoy’s current roster.
Justin Thomas, Louisville’s 28-year-old golf great, is a class act from his stroke to his suiting.
“Justin has a style when it comes to his swing,” Buscemi notes. “He’s that dude that the idea for the collection fits perfectly. I had a sample golf shoe from the 1960s that was made in Italy and was Western-inspired. That sparked the idea for this Southern Gentleman look, and Justin fit that perfectly.”
Because of this, Buscemi’s FootJoy collaboration on the Premiere Series sees the time-tested saddle style taking on an even more elevated stance. Gold hardware is signature Buscemi, while premium pebbled leather straight from England establishes a sophistication recognizable in any era.
This Thursday, March 10, Thomas will begin his defense as the reigning champion of The PLAYERS Championship while fittingly wearing what Buscemi has nicknamed “The Player’s Shoe.”
But before JT tees off in pursuit of a record $20 million purse, fans will have a chance to buy the limited launch at retail for $370 on Tuesday, March 8.
For years, the cultures of skateboarding and golf — and the nature of each sport — have felt at odds.
To Buscemi, the idea of identifying with one camp meant vilifying the other when he was coming up in suburban Long Island. Older and wiser, he sees things much differently today.
“Skateboarding and golf have so many similarities when you’re looking at it as a 40-year-old man from a 30,000-foot view,” Buscemi says. “From a style perspective, and from a terrain perspective. But back in the day, from a skateboarding perspective, you thought [golf] was corny. But the number of skateboarders who are into golf now? It’s interesting because they see the similarities.”
Previously, John Wall was meant to play in his $1,150 Buscemi B-Court sneakers at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in L.A. While Wall warmed up in them, however, the league ruled the shoes ineligible just before tip-off.
Roughly four years later, with wear from Thomas in PGA competition, Buscemi will finally get his crossover moment in the sun. Shining on sports’ more storied stages is even more special because Buscemi stayed true to the ethos that inspired him. His FootJoy foray is one of many new movements in the world of golf.
Buscemi’s lens indulges the gentlemen aesthetic of past pros, but he’s well aware that this is only the beginning of the new flavors that will infiltrate golf.
“Golf has gotten so big in the past five or 10 years,” Buscemi says. “You have youth culture in there — including my son who’s 13 [and] has his own style and own way of doing things. You’re going to see a lot of change coming over the next decade. You’ll see different formats, you’ll see changes in architecture, lifestyle, and the way people younger than us interact with the game.”
Buscemi’s son doesn’t have to choose between skateboarding and golf — living in an à la carte culture where all arts and athletics are appreciated and accessible. What was first inspired by an elder uncle is now being delivered through Thomas’s smooth swing, all for Buscemi’s son to see.
“This is my first entry into a dream scenario in the golf world,” Buscemi says. “I did something super classic, but I’m not going to stop here. You’ll see a lot more from me in the next couple of years.”