From the ground up

Following last week’s review of classic skateshoes, here comes part two featuring five more for you to enjoy. See them after the jump.

Randy 720 (1965)

Most of you may think of Vans being the first company to produce skate shoes. They weren’t. When the Van Doren Brothers laid the foundation for their shoe empire, the Randy 720 was already around for a year. Manufactured by the Randolph Rubber Company  in 1965 (In fact Jim and Paul Van Doren used to work for the Boston based shoe company before they went on to build their own one in 1966.) it was the first ever shoe especially designed for skateboarding purposes, so to say the mother of all skateshoes.

During the mid sixties skateboards still lacked every feature of a modern skateboard such as kicktails or concaved shapes. Therefore the means for creative expression were limited to carves, wheelies and the occasional handstand. However the Randy 720 was especially marketed in regards of feet injuries skaters faced. Having their roots in surfing, most of them prefered to ride their boards of course barefoot, sooner or later turning their feet into bloody stubs. Thanks to the unforgiving concrete.

Etnies – Lo Cut (1993)

The early nineties saw skateboarding going through some significant changes. Once again hitting rock bottom, it shifted its focus from vertical to horizontal, abandoning Vert skating in favour of street skating. Resulting in a loss of its mass appeal and popularity it had been enjoying the ast couple of years and eventually decreasing sales. Quite frankly an awesome 10 feet Christ Air looks a lot more awe inspiring and entertaining than a sketchy tripple varial flip off a sidewalk.

Pants and shirts grew to ludicrous dimensions in relation to more and more shrinking wheels, coining the line „Big pants, small wheels“. Due to the technically demanding nature of contemporary street skating not only wheels, but also boards and above all shoes became slimmer and lighter. Most companies had difficulties supplying shoes that met these criteria. So skaters just grabbed some razorblades and helped themselves, turning their high tops into more fashionable and flexible low tops.

One of the first few companies who reacted to this growing trend was Vans, who released the Half-Cab, a mid top version of Steve Caballero’s first pro model. But it wasn’t until Etnies introduced its Lo-Cut model, that low tops were truly established. Released in 1993, it became an instant classic, leading Etnies to an anual sales of $1 million.

Duffs – KCK (1995)

Kicked out of SIMS, sleeping on fellow Skater and friend Natas Kaupas’ kitchen floor, virtually job and homeless Steve Rocco had nothing much to lose, when he scraped together $6000 to buy some skateboard decks with which he started his own company World Industries, becoming not only one of skateboarding’s most prolific but also most controversial entrepreneur. The late 80s early 90s were difficult times, which called for a creative approach in order to survive. Rocco being the gamechanger he is, just thought: Fuck the rules. He went on building up a world class team of all street (!) pros by drafting them from his competitors, running controversial, pornographic (x-rated board graphics) and drug glamourising (fucked up Blind kids series) ads and was more or less giving the finger to all the established companies, eventually beating them at their own game.

In 1994, sitting on his throne looking down on his empire, contemplating on his next big move, he thought: why not start a shoe company?  So he got together with professional skater Rodney Mullen and founded Duff shoes, which might be most memorable (besides for its shoes of course) for their controversial yet elaborately produced video ads.

The most prominent style created by Duffs is without doubt the KCK-short for Kareem Campbell Kicks. It is by far one of the most beautifully designed skate shoes of the early nineties. It features a simple yet sophisticated construction, comprised of a cup sole, all leather upper and a second lacing option, which also acts as lace savers. Though the company is still around making skateshoes, it is not owned by Rocco anymore. On the emergence of DC shoes he „graciousley step[ped] aside for the new champ.“

DC x Supreme (1998)

I found it especially hard to name one particular DC sneaker that would be representative enough to be featured in this article. Not because there are not any to chose from, but because there are too many of them. Being a constant innovator DC introduced a large number of novel materials and production mehods, such as laceless shoes, shock resistant air pads, reinforced midsoles, laser etched patterns and most notably  a water resistant upper material made of wolverine. When DC started out in 1994 it quickly became apparent, that it would rise to fame in no time, considering their allstar team which included at that time Danny Way, Colin Mckay, Rob Dyrdek and Rudy Johnson.

After just one year in business revenues were already about $7 million. Whereas other company’s teams would go on tour in a shabby old van, sleeping in motels or on friend’s apartments kitchen floors, DC was flying their team all over the world, building ramps, that would scare any sane person shitless, for Danny Way to jump over… yeah basically anything he wanted, including the Big Chinese Wall.

Around the turn of the century DC was already the biggest skate shoe company around, not only providing shoes for skaters, but anyone who wanted to sport the latest fashionable kicks. So it was kind of a no-brainer to finally engage another very important focus group: sneakerheads. It’s without doubt DC which can be creditet for elevating skateshoes to the ranks of collectibe footwear. In 1998 they teamed up with New York City’s own Supreme to design a limited edition sneaker, which might have been the first shoe made by a skateboarding related company people have actually stood in line for in order to get their hands on it.

ÉS – Chad Muska Pro (1997)

During its heydays in the late nineties éS shoes sported an impressive team and released a number of outstanding shoe designs, that would become instant classics. Besides Eric Koston one must surely not forget to mention one of the most laidback and charismatic figures in skateboarding, Chad Muska. Back in 1997/98 he was getting a lot of coverage, due to his mad skills and style. His reputation for gnarly yet style driven skating is perpetuated in his boundary pushing video parts in Shorty’s Fulfill the Dream and TWSFeedback. In 1997 he was crowned with his first pro model, which might have exceeded his team mate Koston’s pro model not only in terms of sales but also in popularity and design. I remember how just everyone had them, (preferably in the original navy and white colourway) or if not wanted them so badly, they would give virtually everything they had, just to own a part of The Muska. I think the real reason for its huge success is due to the hidden stash pocket located in the tongue, which made 14 year old boys feel really badass, because they now had a secret place to hide their weed at (if they had any). This kind of became a trademark feature on his following shoes. Questioned by designers on why he needed that much stash room, Muska allegedly replied: “Yo, I gots a lotta weed to fit in there, man!”

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