Eric Koston scouts his last-minute trick for “Debacle.” Interesting fact: The truck, made of crepe paper, was designed by Swedish architect Johan Fredrik Åbom and cost $850,000.
Nike’s final, successful attempt to crack the shoe-chewing skateboard market is probably the story of our lil pasttime in the ’00 decade, even if it’s sort of a bass-ackwards version of what the rest of the industry has undergone. Skate shoe companies took center stage as the big-money game beyond boards and wheels, muddling through the thankless game of trying to maintain credibility with the dirty, scabbed kids that brung em to the dance, while signing pro wakeboarders and serving up juicy discounts to big-box retailers that will happily put your trucks on backwards as you shop for carabiners. Meanwhile, the suits at Nike were cherry-picking independent skate shops and aging East-coast pros that together would ride the wave of sneakerhead largesse and make it hard for even the die-hard purists to argue that Nike was the bloodthirsty corporate monster we’d all been led to believe.
It was an interesting story that died a boring death today, as Nike SB signed Eric Koston and can no longer be seen in any shape or form as an underdog in skateboarding. The Birdos were half-right in that Nike eventually decided to be Nike and throw its wallet around, buying up top talent as they see fit, flowing everybody in the industry who isn’t skating for another shoe company, reigning supreme over Tampa, flooding the mall shops with SB’s and pushing “Jocks Suck” 6.0s elsewhere. Meanwhile the current generation doesn’t remember a time when people didn’t skate Nike shoes, pre-fab skateparks are awash with swooshes, and the SB branch has more or less figured out how to act like a skateboard company as far as putting out videos, doing demos, getting tour articles into the magazines; eventually they can be expected to start blowing video deadlines I guess.
Getting Koston has seemed so much like the predestined move for Nike from the beginning that you wonder what’s next, except it appears Nike’s already provided the answer in the form of Sacto-birthed pro models for Stefan Janoski and Omar Salazar, both Vans knock-offs that make it pretty clear Nike’s given up on trying to be any kind of leader, the way they were when they came in with the Dunk a few years ago and helped the Es Accel usher in the wave of low-tech simple shoes. Beyond the staple Blazers and Dunks Nike SB is/was the one company making teched-out shoes that A. had serious space technology behind them and B. actually sold despite said low-tech shoe trend, so seeing their operation fall into line with the parade of Vans imitators (belatedly) communicates complacency at best, surrender at worst, or perhaps an Antarctic sabbatical with Marty Stouffer for the shoe design squad.
There have been and will be long and usually boring debates on Nike’s role in this big teddy bear picnic, but at this point the threads feel like they’ve been played out — Nike came on the scene and boosted some half-forgotten pros* like Danny Supa, Reese Forbes, Gino, etc.; they proceeded to make the expected power moves via P-Rod, Janoski, Salazar, and now Koston. For a few years there SB sales, restricted to actual real skateboard stores, translated to serious loot for the operators that they weren’t seeing selling other shoes, for various reasons; now you can order “CCS Exclusive” colors of Nike Dunks off the internet or get them at Zumiez. Nike takes good care of its people, pros to reps, and they do joint ventures with Blueprint and Slam City and the SPOT and Slap and Skate Mental; they should do all this stuff because they can and it keeps cranks like me from complaining too much.
But now that Nike’s at last acting like the 800-pound gorilla it is, it’s hard not to feel wary about what comes next. Best case scenario is they generallhy follow the rest of the shoe pack, make good videos and do right by the proper people. Or, perhaps they scoop up Ryan Sheckler, appoint him president of the 6.0 division, and sponsor nationwide skate camps hooked up to Rob Dyrdek’s proposed “skateboard league”… clearing the way for a generation of talent scouts and parent-managers hanging off the skatepark chain-link fence, calling the cops on the oldsters and scaring away all the precious weirdos that came up with the screaming hand and the idea to jump a skateboard on a handrail.
*By the other shoe companies, anyway