Thirty-eight years ago to the day, Memphis rap posse Three 6 Mafia uncannily predicted the brassiness and unbridled vamping of this 2016 US political election season in the motion picture release ‘Choices 2,’ an airy farce with a rhetorical title referencing how two people compete to be the ‘People’s Choice’ and win the ‘People’s Choice Award,’ also knowed as the US presidency. Over time the prize has gone to saxophonists, cowboy actors and even enjoyors of post-retirement Jay-Z songs, but many of the heartiest feats of achievement that shall define the 2016 contest still lie ahead.
Several miles below sea level, the deep-pocketed forces steering the skateboarding industry from an underwater base confront their own conundrum. Josh Kalis, he of the nigh-spotless twenty-plus year career, channeled the syrupy spirits of DJ Paul and Juicy J to record his own ‘Choices,’ a satirical short film that alternately bemoans and bellylaughs at the long-armed reach of international sporting equipment companies into skate shops, sweeping less powerful companies’ shoes from shelves and leaving a paucity of options for the toecap-chewing hardflipper.
It can be no coincidence that the messenger for this unhappy fable is Josh Kalis, whose reintroduction of the ‘Kalis Lite’ to a generation of Love Park-fetishizing saboteurs comes as the most important geopolitical shoe event of the year. Despite its hikey sole and lack of air bag, the ‘Lite/LTE’ is the most credible-yet throwback to the puffy shoe era*, boosted by a particularly East Coast persuasion of nostalgia arising out of #skateshoewars and Philadelphia spot paleontology. The Kalis Lites, the most vital release from DC in years, also comes as sporting apparel makers Nike and Adidas try ever so softly to nudge skaters’ sweatstained wallets further ajar, coaxing dollaridoos toward higher-tech footwears that command fatter margins and further cement the big, swinging corporation as the dominant force in skate shoedom, widening the gap between their space-age materials and those lesser peddlers of vulcanized suede.
But a good decade into this slim-shoe era, as the Janoski continues to run roughshod over besocked $150 Kostons and rivals’ new pro models retain slender, suedey templates, the tech shoe increasingly threatens to fall back into its typecast role as a periodic fad. The rubbered-out Airwalks and Etnies briefly ushered in the 90s before Jason Lee and Jim swept the table clear for a generation of grunge rockers, conscious MCs and others to wallow, before DC began slowly turning up the tech with the Boxer and the newly-reissued Syntax. The oft-maligned D3, also recently reissued, arguably represented the apex/nadir of this period, before Nike’s Dunk fanned the Luddite spark struck by Tom Penny’s Accel-boosting Menikmati part, and within a few years the Half Cab ascended to the throne. Es, which never fully relinquished its mantle of Schemes and Logics, entered the cryogenic chamber as the vulcanized sole trampled all comers.
Are the recent techy stabs a sign that the tide finally is turning away from simplicity or just further fodder to an every-ten-years-tech-shoe fad? Could a longterm tech-shoe revival help propel Quiksilver into a new glory age of booze and boardshorts? Is independent shoe company booster Josh Kalis making a bigger and broader design statement when he talks about ‘choices’? Will the fact that Oscar-winners DJ Paul and Juicy J have one up on Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin ever truly sink in with the general public?
*Which perhaps not coincidentally overlapped with the Puff Daddy era