Walking Blues

Couldn’t walk a mile off in my air forces (via Fuse Gallery)

Confronted with shoe walls awash in vulcanized soles and increasingly minimalist silhouettes I can’t help but wonder if we’re seeing the skate shoe business, known to some as the last and final bastion of early-00’s profitability for the industry, on the verge of commoditizing itself like what happened with hard-goods. Despite noble efforts from PJ Ladd and TK to goose footwear pricepoints – a bold move in the shadow of a global recession monster – the market seems to dictate that kids basically want $50 Vans, or close approximations thereof, heel bruises and short life spans be damned.

Of course sooner or later tastes will change and tongues will puff up once more, but you have to wonder if technological innovations like the space-age materials currently being pushed by Gravis dude above, or Sole Tech’s shoe lab, or DC’s continued efforts to promote its Super Suede material, are doomed to become the shoe version of carbon fiber decks and air-core wheels. Concaves and dimensions come and go but the skateboard deck hasn’t changed much in the last 18 years, even though the hammer era saw kids of all weight classes snapping boards faster than ever. Who’s to say that the current generation, who don’t remember the armoured tanks we used to push around in, don’t see shoes the same way now?

Now this isn’t my usual sepia-toned spiel about how we all need to go back to the good old days and skate only painted curbs so I don’t feel so horribly insecure. Paying nearly twice as much for shoes that were harder to skate in and only marginally more comfy is a bargain only a fool or a well-paid masochist like TV’s Steve-O would entertain. But I kind of wonder if the shoe companies aren’t painting themselves into a corner here, profit-wise. Meanwhile you’ve got deck conglomerates pushing and shoving to get into the footwear business, and with companies like DC white-labeling the Lynx to shops or whoever, what’s it even mean to be a skate shoe company anymore? It’s like they’re tiptoeing toward blank deck territory, which recently obliterated professional skateboarding forevermore.

But even though there’s so many skate shoe companies now all basically pushing the same product relatively cheaply, nobody really wants anything else right? So how is this different than boards? Most kids don’t give a shit if they snap a board in two weeks versus a month, cuz that’s how boards are. Or, kids don’t care enough to light a sales fire under those Almost disc-decks. The Arto shoe purportedly lasts six weeks longer than a comparable shoe*, but are kids that now buy six pairs of shoes per year going to flock to Gravis so they only have to buy shoes four times per year? People used to a regular turnover maybe don’t want their shoes to last longer, like how you want a fresh board every so often and aren’t trying to ride the same deck for 12 months.

Shit, I don’t run a shoe company, maybe the simple-shoe revolution of the 00’s is all part of their master plan to move more shoes faster. It just seems like it could wind up biting them in the ass, the way all the deck manufacturers are hustling to diversify into clothes and whatnot. Consider: with next to nothing in the way of construction advancement (slicks aside) deck prices have stayed roughly the same for almost 20 years, or at least seriously lagged the inflation rate. (Ye olde inflation calculator puts a $55 board in 1992 at $75 in 2008 dollars.) Skateboard economy, heal thyself…

*however they calculated that one

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13 Responses to “Walking Blues”

  1. Rikku Markka Says:

    I think the younger kids are way too into their shoe choices; i.e. choosing a shoe based on the colorway(s) so they can match it to a certain outfit, rather than whether they can actually feel their board while wearing the shoes. I know quite a few skaters who have more than 10 pairs of skate shoes, and rarely do they wear the same pair in consecutive days. A kid today didn’t buy a pair of shoes simply because he saw someone at the local park with the shoes on already.

    I’m of the opinion that once I find a product (be it wheels, decks, whatever) if I find I like it, I keep buying that product. As far as shoes, I continually buy Vans Old Skools (also known as 36s). I will destroy the Old Skools in a few days since they are mostly canvas, but as soon as I put the shoes on and step on my board, I have to be able to feel the board, and those shoes accomplish that. I don’t want to wait for the shoe to break in. So all this shit about super suede, and heel pads, or reinforced uppers are not for me.

    I’m glad companies are making simpler shoes by copying what Vans has been doing for decades (have you seen all the Half Cab ripoffs this past year?). But none of those copies are going to make me try them out. If anything it’s better now than in the early 00s when (Y)Osiris was making D3s, DC was making pro model running shoes, and eS was making moon boots.

  2. Kenji Says:

    Rikku: I own quite a few pairs of shoes myself. I think it’s just the relatively recent merging of skateboarding and streetwear cultures that drives this mentality. Streetwear heads are EXPECTED to be able to step on a board these days, and you can see many a skateboarder rockin brands like Crooks & Castles or The Hundreds.

  3. Bob Dylan Says:

    Kenji- I don’t believe you.

  4. theProgram Says:

    i like where you’re going with this…and this statement sums it up: “are kids that now buy six pairs of shoes per year going to flock to Gravis so they only have to buy shoes four times per year?” the answer is no.

    i will probably come off reeking of silver sulfide here, but kids these days are more excited about getting new shoes than finding shoes that last and/or skate well, methinks. with skateboarding being much more accepting among parental units, said units are not as opposed to going and dropping $80 every other month (or monthly) for Little Johnny (TM) to have a new pair of skateboarding shoes, unlike BITD when if your shoes ripped in 2 weeks you were fucked for the next 6 months unless you found some PUMAs on the sale rack at JC Penney’s for $10. but than again, we were skating airwalk ones in those days, so what do i know?

  5. camelsarelame Says:

    It’s very true that if you look on the wall of the shop here you will see 6-8 styles with nearly identical lines to vans chukka lows. Then again, different kids will get hyped on different ones for a variety of reasons. Some like a krayzee colorway, but mostly kids just identify with the label on them. In that sense it is very similar to skateboard decks. Kids will choose the company with the image/team/whatever that catches their interest.

    I don’t see Gravis doing too well…They got Dylan reider and Arto as their go-to pros. I feel like kids who have been skateboarding for a year may vaguely know of arto, but not feel compelled to buy something with his name on it. As the industry grows and tries to make new superstars out of hawt skaters, the younger skaters who are just starting care less and less. They’re more concerned with figuring out a way to put themselves on youtube. Maybe if dylan skated the berrics more kids would buy his stuff. I know that exposure of a pro doesn’t directly equal sales for the company or anything, but it’s just a thought. As long as they keep all their shoes thin enough to make your feet really sore after a day of skating they’ll probably do okay.

    On a side note, i’d sort of like to see habitat shoes do well. I kind of liked those rock climbing shoes they made

  6. Vitis Says:

    It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for Timothy Geithner and Young Money to be tagged in the same blog post, but surely that’s a first.

  7. art hellman Says:

    There’s a sale on our gabardine suits today.
    They’re all thirty percent off from yesterday.
    There’s Fortrel polyester, leather, wool and tweed.
    Just a Visa or Mastercard is all you need.
    We’ve got every color, we’ve got ev’ry shade.
    We’re located next door to Willy’s Fun Arcade.
    We got every fabric that was ever made,
    But I’m known in this city as the King of Suede.

    We got portly and regular and extra-long.
    (Is my size up there?)
    We got tailors to fix it, if it comes out wrong.
    (Is my size up there?)
    We got all kinds of sweatshirts, you can take your pick.
    (Is my size up there?)
    With the collars ripped off, like that Flashdance flick.
    (Is my size up there?)

    Our prices are low, my staff is underpaid.
    You can buy off the rack, or have it custom made,
    And it’s all guaranteed to never shrink or fade,
    ‘Cause of my reputation as the King of Suede.

    If you need a tuxedo for your junior prom,
    (Is my size up there?)
    We can get you the best one that’s made in Taiwan.
    (Is my size up there?)
    We got jackets with patches on the elbows, too.
    (Is my size up there?)
    And we’ll sell ’em all factory-direct to you.
    (Is my size up there?)

    Well, I never made it past the second grade.
    It took all of my life for me to learn this trade.
    But my friends are all thinking that I’ve got it made,
    ‘Cause I’m known the world over as the King of Suede.

    There’s a two-for-one sale on our three-piece suits.
    Check out our suede pajamas and our suede-covered boots.
    You can try on our suede underwear if you choose.
    Do what you want, but don’t step on my blue suede shoes.

    King of Suede.

    Don’t miss out on our giant liquidation sale.
    (Is my size up there?)
    Look for our color catalog in next week’s mail.
    (Is my size up there?)
    There’s a sale on our double-knit slacks today.
    It’s the same old sale as yesterday.

    Thirty years in the same location I have stayed,
    There I am, right next door to Willy’s Fun Arcade.
    I got tough competition but I’m not afraid,
    ‘Cause it’s my destiny to be the King of Suede.

    King of Suede.
    King of Suede.
    King of Suede.
    I’ll always be King of Suede.
    I’ll always be King of Suede

  8. carbonite Says:

    That Gravis shoe technician looked scared as fuck…like there was a Burton executive off-camera pointing a rifle at him or some shit

  9. FYIS Says:

    This is a complete bite of another blogs, posted months ago.

  10. smimizu's hurricane Says:

    then give a link so your accusation has foundation

  11. FYIS Says:

    Sorry to Royce for mixing his stuff in this, but it can’t be denied.

  12. camelsarelame Says:

    So any post having anything to do with current trends in skateboard footwear is a bite of that random dude’s short paragraph about his distaste for thin/basic shoes? There was like, four posts on his blog…

    FYIS, you a dummy

  13. theProgram Says:

    FYIS = WDE

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