Archive for September, 2021

Purple Sprite, Narrowing Palettes, And The Trilogy Conundrum

September 26, 2021

It is the nature of the human animal to prod and push and gesture wildly at boundaries. Elon Musk, noted billionaire playboy by day and alleged costumed superhero in evenings, is developing a spaceship to land persons as yet unnamed on ‘Planet Mars.’ A Harvard genomic master intends to make un-extinct the powerful wooly mammoth and set them loose upon wild tundras, for profit and pleasure. Nude mountain ascents have become so commonplace as to be regarded as gauche. China intends to have a functioning weather-control system in place before ‘I Like It Here Inside My Mind/Please Don’t Wake Me This Time’ turns 10, and out in Texas they’re working on warp drives.

For several years, skateboarding’s ‘pro elite’ lusted after spins. Time was, the more rotations you could wrest from the vert ramp’s miserly lips, the taller you stood amongst the several dozen other skaters who drifted in that overcast subcultural wilderness that was the late 1980s. This of course followed on the parking-lot pirouette challenges that made hallowed the names of yesteryear’s freestyle kings, and later, pre-Nike skateboard footwear barons. Later on, people built names and fiscal fortunes on many times they could flip the board, how many stairs they could jump, how many kinks they could clank through.

The year is 2021 and skateboarding is all business. Commercial behemoths such as Nike Inc., Red Bull GmbH, PepsiCo Inc. and Frog Skate Boards have seeded their statistical analytics into the modern youth, who heavily fixate upon monetizing social media followings, tabulating trick totals to piece together podium-climbing Street League runs, and stacking minute upon juicesome minute of footage to propel various SOTY campaigns. For pros of a certain age, the business world presents the last and greatest realm in which to level up — a thistly thicket where survival depends on wits, savvy, debt tolerance and nerve, where contest dominators such as Tony Hawk operate on an even playing field as street-level operators such as Steve Williams. And, those who choose to make a go of selling boards in this turbulent hour chase a singular goal, an achievement as elusive and rarified as landing ‘the 900’ — running three separate board companies under one roof.

Such a feat of course was first accomplished by Steve Rocco’s World Industries, under which in the ‘early 1990s’ a whole crop of sister brands sprouted — Blind, 101, Menace, Plan B, eventually the mighty Prime.* Since then, doubling up with a sister brand to house the proverbial homies has become de rigueur — Girl/Chocolate, Alien/Habitat, Zero/Mystery, Baker/Deathwish, FuckingAwesome/Hockey — but precious few others have made the leap to three. The venerable DNA Distribution offered the internationally flavored Seek in the early ’00s, but hobbled it with furtive visuals and no video push. Crailtap at various points flirted briefly with Ruby decks and briefly incubated Skate Mental but neither became a full third under the Girl umbrella. Giant’s period running the power trio of Element, New Deal and Black Label proved short-lived. Street Corner’s confidence in its abilities beyond maintaining the stalwart Think brand at one point was enough to back the sadly short-lived City as well as the not as sadly short-lived Lucky board concern. Black Box distribution gave Garrett Hill and Forrest Edwards a brief shot on the pricepoint-oriented Threat before the center of gravity shifted and retrenching became required. In the post-Rocco era, only the steady hands at Deluxe have been able to consistently manage such multiples, from Real and Anti-Hero to the once-vibrant Stereo and since, Krooked.

Now comes Jason Dill, unlikely industry kingpin, whose FA/Hockey pro stables steadily bulge, and a line of would-be flowees extending around the proverbial block. Jason Dill, who knows something about flying close to the sun, has pondered and shied from a third board company in the past, a rumored ‘Funeral Home’ concept that supposedly was to have included Austyn Gillette and Jake Anderson, among others. The purity-of-youth bottled in Michael Nicholas’ excellent ‘Untitled’ seems to have Bill Strobeck thinking otherwise, though, with key men of the crew regularly popping up in winking Instagram postings centered around a ‘violet’ theme that the Slap boards brain trust already has tagged as the company’s name; other Supreme-orbit talents including Efron Danzig and Kris Brown have been rumored to be in the mix.

If pursued, the venture would represent a bold wager on the demand elasticity of the Supreme/FA merchandise and the wallet-depth of skaters and those willing to spend to present as skate-adjacent. A third FA appendage risks cannibalizing the dollars, euro, yen and cryptocurrency currently dedicated toward Hockey lightning bolt hats, lovingly embossed FA decks and Supreme mattresses; as the global economy wobbles, FA and Hockey already are pushing the envelope to lift the price ceiling on 7-ply maple sticks above the $55 purgatory that has mired the hard-good industry for ye, these past 30 years. Meanwhile shops ponder the constraints of the physical board wall, along with the capital intensiveness and logistical hoops that e-commerce represents in the eventual post-Covid19 era.

Do Jason Dill and William Strobeck, who survived the harshest diversions that New York had to dangle in the early ’00s, retain enough subcultural surefootedness and business knowhow to shoot the moon and successfully maintain a third board imprint? If ‘Violet’ indeed is the name, does it compensate by representing the ‘safest’ name choice of the three after Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen already persuaded shop owners to plaster a big f-word across their walls, and followed that up by naming a sister brand after a major-league sport with no wheels involved? Does ‘Hockey’ sometimes remind you of the short-lived ‘Bike’? Between Blue, Crimson, Yellow brand, Bronze, Silverstar, Platinum and Golden State Wheels, are potential colour-themed names for skateboard companies running perilously short after only about 70 years?

*Named in memory of Transformer great Optimus Prime

D3 The Movie

September 19, 2021

A good tale richly told is an oat for the soul. By now, the story of the Osiris D3 2001 is a tale knowed by many, and familiar to millions more. A rapid rise, debauched excess, noise, tragedy, riches, confusion, an all-too-public fall and, yes, a long road back to redemption. It is a story uniquely American in the telling, and it may be the story of us all.

Take not its name in vain. A vision out of time, gaping lace holes and a tongue a-puff, soles as flat and broad as a hippopotamus’ hoof. From there, things grow murky. This was all right around the turn of the century. Onetime Evol filmer and noted Robotech fan Brian Reid co-founded Osiris shoes and put on his onetime roommate David Mayhew, amongst others, developing a series of professional-use and “crazy layered” shoes intended for the commercial market. While Osiris dodged murderous factory managers in South Korea and jealous h8ers stateside, the original D3 hit stores in 1999.

In skateshops, on Limp Biscuit stages and at random ‘raves,’ the D3 stood tall, shouldering aside rivals with its burly physique and raw grip. And yet behind the scenes, discord and vitriol soon fermented. Bad feelings over allegedly purloined D3 royalties preceded David Mayhew’s exit from the big Storm tour bus; in the years since, barbs and sideways comments over design and inspiration credit for a shoe that is widely regarded as a prime example of early 2000s excess, for years a kind of subcultural albatross heralding minifigure hats, toilet-brush goatees and metallic turntables, slowly spinning into infinity.

Did the phenomenon manifest entirely from the vision of A-Team Member David Mayhew? The wizened hand of Osiris footwear architect Brian Reid? The truth may remain unknowed, and few cared until money came back into the picture via the recent puffed-out tech shoe revival, with a sort of vindication for David Mayhew via A$AP Rocky’s UnderArmour-produced D3 clone that landed the former Maple pro on the GQ web page. A potent stew of sneaker-centric content farms, the D3’s rich narrative and that ever-seductive intoxicant, righteous anger, touched off a series of think pieces and jousting interviews. From there, the D3 media war escalated with a Vice magazine mini-documentary, in which Brian Reid and David Mayhew further traded claims and shots.

This week brought a new chapter, as David Mayhew sat for a 3.5 hour Nine Club panel discussion covering the D3 design process. “In my mind I was like, ‘I want something buck wild,’ he relates. “I saw this hiking boot, had the vision, called Brian and tried to explain it over the phone… he came up with the bottom, and the back… it obviously became a hot kind of button issue, but at the end of the day I don’t care what people believe, I can put my head on my pillow.”

Obviously a feature-length film is the only logical next step in this decadeslong war over the monstrous footwear’s legacy. And yet the media arms race so far has overlooked the D3’s real and decisive role in skateboarding culture. Beyond the double-kick deck, urethane wheel and cut-off jean hem, few products have proven as pivotal as the D3. The excess it represented served as a sort of conceptual rock bottom for the overengineered puffy tongue era, setting the stage for the resulting simple-shoe renaissance that followed in the mid-2000s — and no company capitalized better on this shift than Nike Inc. and its classic Dunk silhouette, widely aped by competitors who subsequently fell over themselves in a rush to commoditize minimalist shoe models. Rather than munch popcorn as David Mayhew and Brian Reid stake competing claims for the D3’s dubious stylistic attributes and still-seeping cash flows, they perhaps should be recognized as authors of a cautionary tale that remains relevant as ever, as shoes again gather puff and reach deeper into the ever-confuzzled consumer’s wallet.

Will ‘D3 The Movie’ fully capture the D3’s corrective role in the ever-mutating skate shoe continuum, or is the longer runtime of an exclusive streaming series justified in this case? Or is this ‘Max Max’ type beef that can only be resolved in the ‘Thunderdome’? Can it be true that the original concept for the D3 included packaging each pair with a miniature set of oars to justify a price premium recognizing the shoe’s capacity to serve as scale-appropriate liveboats for common household pets including gerbils, hamsters, mice and even juvenile guinea pigs?

Brian Panebianco Inducted Into Filmers Who Rip On The Board Hall Of Fame After Camera-In-Hand Varial Heelflip Sets Internet On Tilt And Forces Executive Committee’s Hand

September 4, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — Brian Panebianco was inducted into the Filmers Who Rip On The Board Hall of Fame this week in a unanimous vote by the body’s executive committee, meeting in emergency session.

The decision, announced Saturday by current FWROTBHOF chairman Chris Gregson, arrived less than 24 hours after the release of the Sabotage/DCShoeCoUSA joint video, which Panebianco edited and largely filmed while also delivering the closing part.

At a hastily convened press conference outside FWROTBHOF headquarters, Gregson said that the body’s executive committee began discussing Panebianco’s immediate induction before the video, and his part, was even over.

“At least three people hit the group chat simultaneously — ‘varial heelflip filming a Kevin Bilyeu line, not even looking?'” Gregson said. “On the vintage Kalis deck.”

Gregson said a FWROTBHOF board meeting was called via Facetime before the ‘Sabotage X DC’ credits ended, with several board directors replaying Panebianco’s coast-to-coast Baldi bluntslide and observing that he’d done the trick on at least two nonconsecutive occasions. FWROTBHOF executive committee members Gregson, Brad Johnson, Matt Eversole, Jamie Thomas, Jon Miner, Greg Hunt and Beagle and recent executive committee addition Gustav Tønnesen all voted in favor of Panebianco’s induction.

The FWROTBHOF’s move was met with jubilation in the streets of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, New York and elsewhere, as thousands thronged to inner-city plazas to celebrate, guzzle mouthwash and tip over cars. For nearly a decade, Panebianco has been the focus of a campaign pushing for his recognition among filmers who merit as much time in front of the camera lens as behind it, with proponents circulating hash tags such as #ForceTheFWROTBHOF and toting signs saying “switch crook Anderson Hall” during downtown demonstrations following Sabotage video releases.

That furor reignited upon the ‘Sabotage X DC’ release this past week, as backers again praised Panebianco’s 180 to switch crooked grind variations and switch backside abilities, as well as his pivotal role in returning DC Shoes to cultural relevance and his longstanding commitment to documenting urban grime, including but not limited to some of the most egregious ass sweat seen in some time in the just-released video.

FWROTBHOF chairman emeritus Mike Manzoori acknowledged that the nod for Panebianco was long overdue. “Whereas, the executive committee historically hath limited itself to one induction per year ere these past six centuries, yon council of esteemed elders hath agreed to reconsider this policy, herewith to depart upon a pilgrimage to Tokyo to seek guidance,” said Manzoori, reading aloud from a long and curly scroll. Tokyo is recognized in FWROTBHOF bylaws as the spiritual birthplace of the VX1000.

Panebianco’s induction this week is unlikely to quell longer-running criticisms of the FWROTBHOF’s arcane and largely opaque practices of choosing new members and directing the organization’s activities. Gregson’s appointment followed a nearly 18-month gathering of FWROTBHOF in a remote mountain retreat, during which only sporadic announcements were offered via smoke signal and the official FWROTBHOF Instagram account hardly ever posted.

Observers now expect activists’ focus will shift to Alien Workshop filmer Miguel Valle, whose switchstance prowess for years has been regarded among the FWROTBHOF’s most glaring omissions.