Hearing Frank Rivera aka Frank The Butcher talk about one of his many sneaker collaborations — such as the Insta Pump Fury 20th Anniversary sneaker that he did with Reebok or the Forum High Crest that he did with adidas — is like listening to a historian recount some important event; he takes his time to explain why the shoe’s original release was important, how it affected the culture at the time, why it’s still important today, and how his design pays homage to the shoe’s past while making it relevant to a new generation of sneakerheads.
If ever there was such a thing as a streetwear historian, Frank The Butcher is him. And his collaborations aren’t the only place he brings his deep understanding of the culture. It’s in everything the Boston transplant does: his The Butcher’s Block interview series, the gear he’s curated as a director at Concepts and Boylston Trading Co., the designs he does for his own Business As Usual clothing line, even the hip hop mixtapes that he helps produce and curate. Everything exists in context for Frank; this shoe was worn by such-and-such a person during this period of Boston’s sneaker movement, this or that rapper’s music inspired a whole generation of underground imitators. In a world with as notoriously short a memory as streetwear, nothing gets by Frank The Butcher. He’s the Google of streetwear.
Frank The Welder
Yet, ironically, the story of Frank The Historian begins with a piece of sheet metal. Well, lots of pieces of sheet metal. He told XXL,
“I had my first daughter when I was 19. So I went to work, for real, at a young age. I was welding, factories, sheet metal. So while all of my friends were out enjoying themselves, the joke was, I was the blue collar guy. Like ‘Frank the Welder,’ and then it landed on ‘Frank the Butcher.’ It was a joke, but it stuck and I kept it.”
But after the death of his little brother in a car accident in 2005, Frank decided to make a run at his dreams, to flip his passion for fashion and the local radio show that he and at the time into a profession.
Almost ten years later, Frank is not only a local street culture legend in Boston but the genesis for collaborations and projects that have reached people all over the world.
Concepts X New Balance 999 “Kennedy”
He began with The Weekly Drop, flipping the show into the “a voice for the culture” by bringing his friends and contemporaries on to talk about everything streetwear.
Then in 2011, while Frank was serving as a manager/designer at Concepts, he designed the Concepts X New Balance 999 “Kennedy”, a nautical-themed shoe inspired by JFK’s love of the sea and the president’s time as a lieutenant of PT-Boat during World War II. That shoe is still considered one of the best New Balance collaborations ever and marked Frank’s true arrival as a powerhouse in the world of sneaker collaborations.
Business As Usual X Reebok Classic 30th Anniversary
Since, it’s seemed to be a parade of successful releases, from the revival of adidas’ Forum High Crest, to sneakers co-branded with Burn Rubber’s Rick Williams’ creative agency, The District Life, to the redesign of the Reebok Classic Leather, which also marked the launch of Business As Usual (and was released alongside a pair of Mitchell & Ness collaborative hats). There’s been non-shoe collaborations too, like the Boylston Trading Co. X Lexdray luggage series and apparel from The Butcher’s Block.
The All Is Fair Mixtape
In all of his interviews, when asked about what inspires him and keeps him creative, Frank always comes back to his love of hip hop. He told Life+Times,
“I had a crew of friends growing up that were rapping and producing. Producing just became a hobby that I never left alone. It was always a want and need to do more music even as I got more acclimated to the fashion industry and being creative. Music is like my drug”
He fed his addiction for that drug again in 2013 with the release of his All Is Fair mixtape, a 17-track project done in collaboration with Paul Mighty and featuring a slew of underground rappers.
Frank The Historian
What’s next for Frank The Butcher? Well, the streetwear historian continues to make his own history with his Business As Usual brand, he continues to foster the next generation of history makers by exposing them to the best in streetwear via The Butcher’s Block, and he’s even taking his knowledge of the culture to the classroom, offering a SkillShare class with Rick Williams called “Fashion Collaborations: Creating a Successful Product Together”.
One thing is for sure, Frank will always continue to fight the good fight, to sell the things he thinks needs to be sold, to revive the classic shoes that need to be revived. For no matter how dark the days of Internet immediacy seem to become, Frank The Butcher, Frank The Historian will always be there, reminding us when that deep mahogany suede was first used by Nike, or why you can’t beat Reebok Classics, or some other tidbit of streetwear knowledge that had seemingly been forgotten in the let’s-make-a-buck fray.