For years, James Geisler asked his grandmother for a pair of Heelys shoes for Christmas. And every year, Geisler's mom told her not to give them.
Geisler, 25, had been a fan of the brand of "roller shoes" since elementary school. At that time, shoes with wheels in the heel were both popular and age-appropriate. Geisler never grew out of his Heely love.
He realizes there's something more than a little absurd about a "half-bald dude" in his 20s moving down the sidewalk, alternately walking and gliding like the slickest sixth-grader in town.
Why not add in some tricks, throw on outfits in varying degrees of frumpiness, and set the clips to a hip-hop soundtrack?
The results, as captured on Geisler's popular TikTok feed, are hilarious. Geisler, who works for a Twin Cities ad agency, has refined his content strategy, sometimes setting his moves to songs in the latest dance challenge crazes. He also incorporates skits, new locales, slow-mo shots, and some of his own originally produced music, which Geisler records under the moniker JamesG.
Taking the advice of friends with popular TikTok accounts, he's consistent, and tries posting one clip a day. "TikTok is pretty new, and the algorithm works," says Geisler, comparing it to other social media platforms where paid advertising is the best way to grow an audience.
And yet, over the weekend, Geisler made his biggest splash yet on Twitter, thanks to a series of complimentary posts from BuzzFeed staffer Josh Billinson, whose first post about Geisler's Heely exploits has been watched more than 1.5 million times.
I found a guy on TikTok who just does Heely tricks and he’s my new hero pic.twitter.com/3Kq0KQwrx5— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) January 4, 2020
Now I want a pair of Heelys pic.twitter.com/yUFmx9Orqy— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) January 4, 2020
The clips' rapid spread came as a surprise to Geisler, who was hanging out with his girlfriend's family in Pipestone when friends in town, ones who don't even know James, started asking her if she'd seen these ridiculous videos of some dude Heely-ing around. Geisler, for his part, had people reach out he hadn't heard from since college or high school to say they'd seen his work.
"It's like, you work on your music forever, and then it's the Heelys videos [they see]," Geisler says. "It's still sweet though."
"I'd obviously love to get sponsored," he says. "It's the joke everyone makes, that Heelys should sponsor me, but now I've heard they're actually talking internally about it."