Built to shred
The paper of record has skateboarding on the brain lately–witness their somewhat puzzling eulogy for Van Wastell the other day, mining blogs including our good friends at You Will Soon for reaction to the sad news. (Is that better or worse form than lifting man-on-the-street comments from message boards? Not sure…)
A few weeks prior to that, in a lighter take on the woodpushing realm, the Gray Lady turned her gaze toward the still-lucrative skate shoe industry, pursuing the question of why skateboarders gravitate toward easily destroyed footwear.* Which is of course an offshoot of the bigger question, are skateboarders really just a pack of idiots?
(BTO advises against pondering this question whilst perusing the TWS messageboards or watching that ESPN show where they show slams for a solid half-hour.)
NYT fashion/style reporter Justin Porter takes a meandering path through the usual fashion/function argument, and he’s sophisticated enough to note the structure of Etnies’ corporate umbrella and the business nuances of flow programs, while staying inclusive enough to take the obligatory editorial stab at articulating trick physics to the Joe Plumbers of the world: “The skateboard revolved slowly under his feet and seemed to freeze for a moment, waiting for gravity to catch up. Then the skater’s back foot flicked the board, and again it spun. He landed with a satisfying thump and rode away.”
I promise one (1) satisfying thump to the first person who can identify what trick Mr. Porter is describing there. Shove-it late back foot flip? Those hot at Thompkins this summer?
Anyway, later in the article none other than Mike Vallely shows up to flex flower-child poetics: When skateboarders looks down at their feet, “they need to feel a vibe there.” “[T]here had to be a way to move away from a subculture within a subculture.” (?)
Meanwhile industry sausage-makers weigh in on the import of the Lupe Fiascos and Pharrell Williamses of the world in financing DC execs’ boat payments, and eventually we return to the story’s central point–in Mr. Porter’s words, “Skateboarders know that they will quickly destroy their footwear, but still don’t always seek shoes that are indestructible.”
And here, in the final three paragraphs, Mr. Porter pretty much nails it: “Indestructible” shoes, which have been tried before, tend to look like shit. And despite the best efforts of the worlds’ mightiest shoe minds, such an indestructible shoe has yet to be devised, much less devised in any kind of aesthetically pleasing way.
I don’t know if function vs. fashion is the right way to look at it anyway. I mean, the Yosiris-led tech shoe era produced unmatched innovation, as Peter Smolik and Scott Pazelt proved once and for all in “The Storm.” Jerry Hsu skated D3s for crying out loud. And God knows, I’m living proof that vulcanized soles don’t come with coupons for switch 360 flips.
So while Emerica and Vans battle for the most minimalist silhouette on the runway, we’ve got Reynolds in the lab working on a better mousetrap and Es nervously hoping the pendulum swings back toward the moon boot. And maybe in another five years we’ll be shaking our heads, wondering how we took those 30-step drops clad only in stretch denim and waffle soles, while we Shoe Goo up some new $120 space-age Rodney Mullen construction.
*Note the Softrucks on the board in the mini-ramp photo accompanying the article.