Influencer Essie Golden on the "Air" Movie and Plus-Size Streetwear

Ben Affleck directed and stars in the movie "Air," which tells the story of how Michael Jordan and Nike's partnership came to be, resulting in the forever-famous Air Jordan shoe. (A pair the NBA star wore during a 1985 game sold at an auction for $560,000 in 2020.) If ESPN's "The Last Dance" docuseries about Jordan's career with the Chicago Bulls wasn't enough to fire the enthusiasm of the sneaker community, this Amazon Studios production certainly will.

Essie Golden — an entrepreneur who is the founder of Thick Laces, a streetwear community for plus-size women — already got to see the film. "As someone who is an extremely big dreamer, this movie made me feel like it's OK to dream as big as possible . . . Honestly, it's probably going to be one of my top movies," she told POPSUGAR in an exclusive interview.

"I think that's often something that's left out of history when you talk about sneakers and streetwear culture — Black women are at the forefront."

Golden and her business partner Katie Alexis started Thick Laces during the pandemic in 2020 to increase plus-size representation in fashion — specifically the sneaker world — while also allowing women to express their style, ask questions about size options and fit, and talk about upcoming collaborations or collections that are exciting them. "I was following a lot of plus-size women who were true sneaker fans, and they weren't getting shared or acknowledged," Golden said of her intention behind the brand.

Today, Thick Laces boasts over 10k followers on Instagram, offers a full line of merch, and maintains a blog with shopping tips and stories about influential women in the industry. Golden highlights Viola Davis's role as Jordan's mother in "Air" as being particularly inspiring, as she was the force who protected her son's legacy by ensuring his stake in Nike. Ahead, read more about the impact the film made on Golden's life as she considers her career in the sneaker industry.

On the movie "Air" and its influence on sneaker culture

POPSUGAR: What was your biggest takeaway from the movie "Air"?

Essie Golden: "Air" is such an incredible movie to me. I think the most exciting aspect is learning about how Michael Jordan's mom was such a crucial part of making the deal with Nike happen. I think that's often something that's left out of history when you talk about sneakers and streetwear culture — Black women are at the forefront. If Michael Jordan's mom wouldn't have pushed him and encouraged him, we wouldn't have what we have today when it comes to sneakers. On a wider scale, the movie shows that all you need is one person to believe in you, and you can make the impossible possible. What happens when all those things align is that we get an incredible shoe like the Air Jordan.

On starting Thick Laces, a community for plus-size women who love sneakers

PS: What inspired you to start Thick Laces, with your cofounder Katie Alexis?

EG: Thick Laces started during the pandemic. I was scrolling on social media and really getting into sneakers, but a lot of the popular sneaker pages didn't feature anyone who looks like me. I lived in New York for a very long time. I see plus-size women killing it in sneakers and streetwear, so it didn't make sense to me that they weren't represented on social media anywhere. I believe that everyone deserves to see themselves, and I don't wait for anyone to give me permission to be seen. So I reached out to Katie, and we decided to start a page to feature what we see in our everyday life.

PS: What does Thick Laces aim to do, and what does your day-to-day look like?

EG: This community has turned into something so much bigger than we thought it could be, and it's really started to change how brands see and view plus-size women in the sneaker and streetwear space. Thick Laces has been community based since the beginning. We are answering questions about the latest sneaker. We are making sure that women know where to shop for a wide width and for larger sizes in shoes and clothing. It's been really fun to educate and show women how to wear sneakers. We want them to be comfortable in the sneaker space and give them a safe space to ask questions.

On personalizing a pair of sneakers

PS: What's your favorite way to personalize a pair of kicks?

EG: It's as simple as changing out the laces or even changing the way I tie the laces. Something else I like to do is add sneaker charms. Of course, it all depends on what the sneaker looks like, but I love that a simple sneaker can be transformed just by changing the color of the laces, or tying them in a unique way.

PS: Where are some of your favorite places to shop for personalization accessories?

EG: Etsy is one of my favorite place to shop for sneaker additions. We also carry sneaker charms on Thick Laces. Tarik Star is also an incredible designer that does high-end custom shoelaces. I want every single pair he offers.

PS: What's your go-to sneaker outfit that's classic enough to transcend time?

EG: One of my favorite acronyms that my elementary school teacher taught me is K.I.S.S, which means keep it simple, silly. I believe that the less you fuss over your outfit, the better it looks. So I love a nice jean, a simple, classic tee — maybe even a graphic tee — and a pair of sneakers. They're the star, so keep everything else simple. If I have a little bit more time, I'm definitely likely to be more girlie, so I'll do a nice skirt with a chunky sweater and, again, a dope pair of sneakers. The style options are absolutely endless.

Amazon Studios is partnering with sneaker culture icon Jason Markk to launch a one-day activation across multiple cities called Fresh AIR. The April 2 event will celebrate the sneaker community and take place in LA, Chicago, NYC, and Miami. Follow @airmovie for more information and updates.