FUBU or BUFU? A Podcast Indictment of Skate Shoe Companies and the Dark Age Few Speak of

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History is written by the winners, each new generation a fresh lump of clay for the victorious potter’s hands to mold into his own graven image, funny animal shapes or mixed metaphors of one’s own choosing. In skateboarding in 2017 the winners are clear and have been for some time — the heavyweight sporting goods manufacturers, whose near-mindless devotion to quality, largess showered upon long-suffering professional athletes and resolute stewardship of investor dollars grows with each telling. Around ritual bonfires, their names and the names of their boardroom directors are exalted unto the spirit world.

Sometimes, people forget. Truth bombs are deployed — Nine Club Ipod-cast co-host Roger Bagley lit one such fuse during last week’s newsmaking Marc Johnson interview, which turned, as it must, toward the claustrophobic pachyderm that had eluded the rest of the skate media world for the preceding nine months, Marc Johnson’s messy break-up with the Crailtap camp amid his move from Lakai to Adidas. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” Roger Bagley said. “Skateboard shoe companies make shitty shoes. Nike, Adidas, Converse make really great shoes. People got tired of buying shitty shoes and decided to start buying really good shoes. Their business started hurting.”

He elaborated on Instagram: the_breadcrumb_trail@thattomcox I never called them out…and they know what I meant by the comment. They make good shoes and they try their best to make the best possible shoes they can for a good price, but the majority of brands out there make garbage. Everyone wants to stay “core” …but, when it comes to spending $75 on a pair of shoes that aren’t comfortable on your feet versus spending that money on something that feels amazing…I know where I’m spending my money. Don’t get me wrong, I’m wearing @esskateboarding right now…but, the fact is “core” brands can’t produce a shoe at the same quality as these corporations….and the sad fact is people aren’t buying “core” skate shoes at the shops like they used to…and people can blame it on the corporations ability to market the shit out their products to the masses…but, when it comes down to it they just make a better product and “core” brands can’t compete

Skateboarders for many years nursed a guilt complex over purchasing shoes and other products from international shoe merchandisers, which had spent decades of years and millions of dollars building up the athletes, major-league sport organizations and associated fanbases that many picked up a skateboard to avoid in the first place. Whereas various tennis shoes and basketball sneakers got put to griptape out of necessity in the early days, most of these eventually were cast aside in favor of skateboard industry-birthed footwear concerns that promised flatness of sole, adherence to rapidly shifting fashions and a pureness of heart that could never be matched by corporate mega-cobblers’ social responsibility covenants.

But was it all FUBU or BUFU? Duffs shoes, out of the World Industries empire that was, did little to hide the human, environmental and moral toll exacted by Cobnobblers and Strombolis. The cultural crimes of the D3 often are mentioned, but less discussed are funny-sounding enablers such as the Oarb. As skateboarding collectively rejoiced in Tony Hawk’s 900 spin achievement, the validation that only can come from a blockbuster video game franchise, and all of the ensuing merchandise sales, did the irrational exuberance only serve to throw a garish, overpriced and low-quality shoe-shaped blanket over a truly horrific era, before the global shoe makers deigned to begin supplying skateboarding in earnest starting around 2003?

One marvels to think about what could have been possible had bulge bracket footwear companies been wholeheartedly embraced instead of rejected. Properly shod, Jamie Thomas, for instance, perhaps could have landed the Leap of Faith. Or, Bob Burnquist might have landed those couple Transworld covers. If Marc Johnson hadn’t waited until 2016 to move to Adidas, could his ‘Fully Flared’ part have been 26 minutes long? Backed by corporate shoe money, could ‘The End’ have offered more realistic pyrotechnics? If DGK had clung to the Reebok deal, could ‘Parental Advisory’ have offered a Jay-Z cameo instead of Beanie Siegel?

Should skate shoe companies just give up already and thank Nike and Adidas for letting them do business as long as they have? Will the late 1980s through the early 2000s in future decades be regarded as a dark age, or will technology eventually provide a way to retroactively apply VX-quality swooshes and stripes and circular stars to lesser shoes, as a form of atonement? Does VF Corp.’s Vans count as a skate shoe company or the other kind?

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3 Responses to “FUBU or BUFU? A Podcast Indictment of Skate Shoe Companies and the Dark Age Few Speak of”

  1. core skate shoe companies out of business fad | BOARD RAP Says:

    […] Click over to BOIL THE OCEAN for the full essay on core skateboard shoe companies, Nike/Adidas/CONS,… […]

  2. Art Hellman Says:

    Sole Tech made its bed. Dropping MJ and Creager for not chompin rails… ES dropping their whole team (which allowed Adidas to grab Silas and Nike had the smarts to nab Worrest)… the “core companies” giving heavy discounts to mall shops and exclusive purple and black colorways to malls…

    it’s all crap. while shoe companies may pay the bills, board companies still reign supreme for whether a skateboarder is “legit”… but for how much longer? still bummed TX and Miles are on Numbers …

  3. seth ceely Says:

    Honestly, I have grown up skating mostly Emericas and they are just as good as any shoe. The author paints a broad, simple brush when they paint all ‘core’ shoe brands as falling way short of their corporate counterparts. Lunarlon and the technology developed by Nike has been super impressive and unprecedented, but let’s not imply that Emerica and ES aren’t as quality as the average SB, Addidas or Cons. A huge part of it, that the author hinted at, is marketability and “cool factor” of rocking a Nike swoosh on your feet while you catch a tre flip with your front foot. In that sense, it seems that the increasing clout of corporate shoe brands falls in line with the increasing popularity of skateboarding, and how it has become more mainstream in general.

    Brands, especially Nike have always been amazing at selling a lifestyle and a culture, so it makes sense they have successfully tapped into skating and legitimized themselves even when starting on the outside of a seemingly tight-knit industry.

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