When Roman introduces himself the connection is immediately evident; not only is there a similarity in their mannerisms and speech, but also in their profound love for everything sneakers and Hip Hop. We sat down with father and son to discuss everything from similarities and differences between their generations, to what it’s like to share the same interests and much more.
“I’m Roman Sabajo, 14 years old and currently in high school in Amsterdam.” When asked about his hobbies or interests, he pauses. “I think I’m mostly just focused on school, and in my spare time I do what I feel like in the moment.”
Have you always been aware of your father’s status?
“A little, I think. With everything surrounding Patta, I have always been ‘the son of,' so it’s a label that I’ve come to accept.”
Edson, what exactly inspired you to start Patta?
“I simply wanted to do something with sneakers,” he answers instantly. “I had four interests, that being one of them. The others were Hip Hop, football and women. I have a wife, so that’s that. Things outside of these interests didn’t really matter to me. At some point me and Gee just felt the urge to do something with sneakers, so we opened Patta.”
Roman, when did you realize how big Patta had become?
“It was always something small to me, because I’ve been around the store since I was little. Whenever I would mention my dad to others though, they’d be like, ‘WHOA!’ I wasn’t used to that, because to me Patta was just this small store.”
“But you knew once you saw how it had grown.” Edson laughs. “When we’d go to Sneakerness at some point you were like: ‘Alright, you go do your thing and I’ll be over there …’”
Roman nods in agreement. “I can’t hang out with him, he’s too famous! Every minute there’s someone that recognizes him and wants to talk.”
“I do find that hard though, because I just want to go out with Roman and buy some shoes, but the moment I get there I realize I’m that guy. It kind of sucks because I have to divide my attention, and I really just wanted to hang out and do a father and son thing.”
"He’s basically a celebrity.”
We asked Edson if he feels he consciously handed down his culture to Roman.
“No, I think he more or less discovered it by himself. For me it’s more about providing tools. Everything is there, and you take what you want, whether it’s music or fashion. I remember Roman would listen to Hip Hop, Big L and that kind of stuff. I thought he did it because he felt like I wanted him to, so I told him that he doesn’t have to, and he said, ‘What are you talking about? I just really like this music’. Once I started paying attention to it I could see him taking in songs in the back of the car, trying to figure them out.”
Roman laughs, “I knew all the words, but didn’t want to rap along because it might’ve been a bit uncomfortable.”
“But I had no idea. It’s kind of funny that an 11 year old is doing that on their own, playing with words and all. It’s special.”
Is there a difference in having a sneakerhead as a parent?
“I don’t think there’s that big of a difference. I think it’s more or less the same, we might just listen to different music and wear different clothes. At the end of the day we’re all people.”
But do you notice differences in your relationship with sneakers and Hip Hop compared to your peers?
“I’m probably more invested in it, because I’m so deep in that whole culture through him. It’s funny, because sometimes I get to school and others will be all impressed, while I’m like it’s just a sneaker. I just like sneakers.”
Do your interests in fashion match?
“He really has his own style.” Edson says without hesitation.
“Yeah, I think I’m a little different from him.”
“He’s younger, and I don’t force anything on him. His hair for example, if it were up to me, he’d get a fade and that’s that. He likes to keep it long on top and fade the sides. The other day he told me he wants to dye it purple. If that’s what he wants and is comfortable with, who am I to say no? I dyed my hair blonde in the past. If you want to do something creative, by all means do it. Do as much as you can, maybe I’ll even learn from it.”
Asked about what inspires their respective styles Edson —full of conviction— says:
“Hip Hop. Still.”
“I think it’s mostly just experience,” Roman adds. “I’ll look for things and either like them or not. Sometimes I show friends and they don’t, but I try to expand my horizon slowly with the things I like.”
Do you look to your generation for that inspiration?
“I do, but I mostly just look online. Maybe there’s something here, maybe something there. I just look for things I like.”
Edson, do you see similarities between his generation and yours?
“I think they similarly form groups together, but the difference is that back in the day we didn’t have any tools. The generation before me didn’t immediately give back. They were like, ‘we’re cool and you’re just a bunch of toys’. Now, these kids look up to us and we’re giving them pointers and advice. I think that’s the major difference. There are crews just like we had, maybe even more so because they have the internet as well. You just have access to everything now.”
What about the differences?
“I personally feel that it’s way different now. It goes from one trend to another, and there are all these hypebeasts who want everything and it’s all limited.” Roman says. “In his days you didn’t have any of that. You would just go to a store and get an expensive pair of shoes, because that’s what they were. Now there are exclusive releases every month, and many aren’t even that great, but everybody jumps on them and wants them to resell later. It’s a whole new market.”
Edson nods in agreement. “He’s said it all.”
Do your kids keep you up to date on what’s happening?
“I mean, we have 23 employees at Patta, and out of those about 15 are under 25-30. That’s how you stay aware and keep current, it essentially keeps you young. I’m technically already that old guy in the club, which is crazy because I hated that back in the day. I swore I’d never become that guy, but now I am [laughs]. It just gives me a lot of energy; I feel great being around these kids and providing them with the tools to do their thing.”
What do you hope to teach younger generations about building businesses and spaces for Black culture?
“You have to love yourself first or you might as well quit. Once you love yourself, you can give to others as well, and you’ll know your own strengths and weaknesses. That’s really the number one rule. Without this you’ll just be playing shop, or doing it because you see others doing it as well. It has to come from within, you can see that with us as well because we knew absolutely nothing. We were just heads.”
Roman, do you ever see yourself following in your father’s footsteps?
Roman thinks about it seriously, “I really have no idea. It’s possible, but I might also end up doing something completely different.”
Edson, would you want him to?
“If he wants to, then he should go for it. The intention is that someone younger will take over at some point. That could be Lion, or Lee, or you, or whoever,” as he points at everyone in the room.
“At some point Roman could also join in. If that doesn’t happen that’s fine as well, you can’t predict the future. It’d be nice for it to live on in good hands, be it in his own way. He might change some things here and there, but you’d know that foundation is there and it would never go too far off. That goes for my daughter as well, or Gee’s son, or Tim’s son, but that’s all for the future. I’m almost 50, and I’d like to retire around 55-60, so the first step would be for someone within the office to take over. That way I can just sit back in the Bahamas and this can all keep running. It’d be great to walk around the Bahamas and spot a Patta bag, that’s the end goal.”
Asked about their influence on each other, Edson continues "We have different perspectives. If I have a particular thing, or question, he’ll tell me this or that, or why he doesn’t like it, or what’s popular at the moment.” Edson pauses, then continues. “I’m mostly just concerned with him doing well in school though. That’s really my thing, especially since I didn’t always do well in school myself. I’m lucky that due to my mother, his grandmother, I didn’t drop out. So I do find it important that he finishes school, and we set incentives for him to do well.”
He tells us they have planned a trip to Japan together. If Roman doesn’t do well, the trip won’t happen.
“I also really don’t want to repeat the year.” Roman adds.
“I’ve repeated the same year in high school twice. So as a parent I want to continue to stimulate him to do well in school. I don’t really approach him as a father, I mean of course I am his father, but I see him more as a friend. I did the same thing with Vic (Crezée). He started coming to Fat Beats when he was 12, and at some point his mother asked what I was doing with her child. We agreed that for every year he’d do well in school, we’d do something together. One year we’d make a mixtape, the next we’d record a radio show, and so on. So if you want to do cool things, you have to do well in school. That’s the way the world works. If you don’t work, nothing happens. If you work hard, the whole world opens up for you.”
Do you feel you understand that the world opens up to you if you work hard enough?
“Yes, that’s the one thing he has always repeated to me.”
Edson laughs. “See, that’s me being a father.”
“But a good one.. you’re a great father.” Roman adds.
Images by Jan Dirk van der Burg
Words by Dennis de Groot