Posts Tagged ‘Es’

Who Killed Es Footwear?

August 15, 2011


I’ll be missing u

It’s gotta not be the shoes: First thought I had upon official confirmation that the pioneering freestyler behind Sole Technologies was mothballing Es, not even ten years ago the mightiest shoe company out, was that the actual product probably had nothing to do with anything. The slippery slope greased up, in some ways, by the resurgence of the Accel itself (personally would ID the Nike Dunk as a co-conspirator) put footwear trends on a path toward the reigning minimalist silhouette atop a white vulcan sole to the point where shops might as well be doing their own Half-Cab and Chuck Taylor renditions. If anything I’d think the commodification of super-simple shoe designs bought Es a few more years than they might otherwise have had if the pendulum had swung violently back toward the basketball court, but then again a meteor could have struck the planet and we may all have wound up atomized.

Then some other people are quick to heap blame on big fishes Nike/Converse/Adidas/probably not Reebok for trolling through the shallow end with their fat wallets, fucking up the food chain for mellower sea creatures that never harbored deeper ambitions, sort of like the Jamaican lobster sang about in “Little Mermaid.” That lobster is convincing and seems wise. But if that were the case, how come Es can’t survive but companies with a fraction of the name recognition and history and established sales/shop networks can still make it? Thinking here of Vox, Dekline, the revived Axion and Duffs, NSS. Or what about little-loved competitors like Globe, Osiris, Circa? How come Circa still has two subdivisions? This may be one of those deals where the amorphous “international markets” comes in as the explainer, but I always thought that was why Es kept around those occasional space-age models in the garish colors.

You look at the Es team website and it’s interesting. On one end you’ve got journeymen pro-dudes like perennial teamriders Rick McCrank and Rodrigo TX, more recent addition John Rattray, you could even include Justin Eldridge here. And then you’ve got a slew of relative newbies like Jimmy McDonald, Kevin Terpening, Ben Raemers, Josh Matthews. We can carve out a middle tier for Bobby Worrest/Kellen James/Mike Anderson but if you’re one of those types who likes to dissect “fit” when it comes to roster moves it would be easy to formulate some messageboard post questioning the cohesion. Maybe there’s a cautionary tale about putting too much weight on up-and-comer internet favorites as opposed to picking some genre lane and staying in it, which seems like it’s working for a company like Emerica. Or maybe it’s a lesson about going the super-team route, and how you better have a good backup plan if and when your super-team scatters to the four shoe sponsorship winds.*

And maybe this episode is more a sign o’ the times than anything else, since it seems like a really big company hasn’t unwound in a while. Es is quite a bit diminished from its Menikmati heights nowadays, but it doesn’t sit right to see this end for an operation with so much history. First three Koston models, Muska’s airbag, Penny stepping in from the wilderness with a switch front-foot impossible of all tricks, the “Enjoy Skateboarding” series, a good run with Ronnie Creager, the Accel obviously, the overlooked “Especial” video, the first Arto shoes, the Contracts, etc etc.

As one of those people who skated in Accels or derivatives like the Square One more than any other single shoe over the past 10 or 12 years, I mourn Es, though partly it’s out of confusion as to how the company with the little tilde thing wound up on the chopping block as opposed to others shopping for some pro-backed identity in an overcrowded segment. I was and still am considering a separate post that may serve as a sappy love letter to the Koston 2, one of the hardest to love shoes ever made that gave back twice as much after they were broke in, and in some ways were ahead of their time in terms of a less-padded tongue and being something like an unapologetic mid-top.

*Another thought, might things have turned out different if Pierre-Andre had cut Koston in via an equity stake?

1990s Antique Roadshow: CCS Catalogue From Spring 1998

March 13, 2010

Eric Koston is featured on the cover here in some original Es Koston’s and the same Four-Star wind pants that he wears to help him do that humongous backside flip in “The Chocolate Tour.” This appeared during a reboxing of some old magazines and briefly I toyed with the idea of doing a some type of Police Informer spoof with old CCS and Cali4niaSk8express catalogs, but later saw that somebody else already did it. Most interesting are the board graphics and the shoes. Slick bottoms were gasping their last breaths, there’s a nice Andy Roy Anti-Hero, and there are boards from 23, Invisible, Acme, Scarecrow and Wu-Tang. This was around the time when Birdhouse was beginning to bank off Tony Hawk’s X-game reign, and Flameboy and Wet Willy rode high in the saddle. The Kris Markovich circle-K Duffs shoes are in here, along with two pages of Axions and the beloved DC Boxers. There are only two pairs of Vans and “loose fit” is the watchword for the pants section.

By the way, what’s become of Police Informer lately?

7. Bobby Worrest – “Right Foot Forward”

December 24, 2009

Sometimes lost in the humorous digs toward Bobby “Big Government” Worrest’s fluctuating waistline, comical tattoo art and internet movie adventures is the fact that the lil beardo does some of the hardest tricks dreamable by those who do their deepest thinkings within the confines of a dive bar, as opposed to EAS2. The 360 flip noseslide pop-over is one of these, the up/down opening run on the block at DC’s Pulaski Park is another, and so is the backside tailslide kickflip out on a fairly legit handrailing. Bobby Worrest remains a BTO favorite because he is still pretty East Coast after all these years, stays awesome while not taking himself or his skating especially serious, kickflips humongous street gaps and continues to go by the name of “Bobby” well into his mid-20s, which is something. Thoughtless web uploaders have failed to make this section accessible via YouTube but the whole video’s up here, and the part in question starts around 11:10.

Now That’s What Boil the Ocean Calls Skateboarding (’00s Edition): 30-21

November 9, 2009

30. “Beez 3: Unusual Protocol,” 2007
beez

The shadowy Midwestern Beez collective deconstructs the skateboard video, as well as the concept of skateboarding itself, and puts it back together in grotesque shapes of their own choosing via a technocolour-soaked nightmare that challenges (or occasionally outright assaults) the viewer. There were two Beez productions before this one, but the third installment takes things to fresh levels of depravity and ecstasy, often with a skateboard somewhere within the frame. Seeing this video for the first time can be a perspective-altering experience that people might not welcome or enjoy, at all, but the level of originality and sheer weirdness going on here are denied at one’s own peril. In ten years Beez will still have an unsettling and exhilarating effect on people.

29. “Inhabitants,” 2007
inhabitants

Serving more as a stylistic guidepost than the forward indicator that was “Mosaic,” Joe Castrucci’s second time around the Habitat mulberry bush was in some ways a little too straightforward and on-the-nose when it came to all the forestry footage and part-part-part-part sequencing. Skating- and presentation-wise it’s all pretty awesome though, and ages well in the way of DNA productions, with Steve Durante expanding upon ground earlier tilled by one Brian Wenning, Danny Garcia on the frontside shove nod, Fred Gall smashing buildings and Raymond Molinar spitting out tricks a little bit like a granola’d-out Henry Sanchez. Marc Johnson had SOTY in the bag for 2007, but if Thrasher was accepting of “Inhabitants” footage as a late-arriving 2008 entry, it’s sort of shocking Janoski wasn’t a heavier contender with this long time coming two-song ender section that highlights pretty much all the stuff he does good.

28. “Art Bars: Subtitles and Seagulls,” 2001
art_bars

Would we refer to this period as third-generation Foundation? Far removed from its Rocco-roots, the gold-plated glory of the “Rolling Thunder” era and emerging from the non-starter “Duty Now For the Future” realignment, by 2001 Beagle and Swank had put together a pretty classic lineup that included Kris Markovich at the height of his second wind (third, if you count Prime?), a gap-minded Ethan Fowler, Daniel Shimizu at the pinnacle of his giving a shit about shit, Mike Ruscyzk no-comply flipping up stair-sets and the Magic F debut of back-tail champ Justin Strubing all mixed up in washed-out colors and grainy film footage. For Foundation the decade would approach but never really top the “Art Bars” period, eventually ceding most of this team to attitudes and lethargy before settling for the cookie-cutter glam of Corey Duffel.

27. “Naughty/Gnar Gnar,” 2007/2008
gnar_naughty

Mushing these two videos together is kind of cheating for the purposes of this type of nerdy list, but we’re gonna justify it because the originality at play re: production value, format, music, lineups and ah, yea, skating more than offsets the ham-handed attempt at a “big video” that was “Krooked Khronicles”… not a bad video by any means, but nothing close to what the KRK can scheme up. Blurring hazy nights and overcast days in New York, London, DC and parts unknown, Mark Gonzales and Sam Salganik cobble together the sort of unhinged collages that the Krooked camp is capable of, with a revolving cast of characters that fade in and out at the edges; these vids won’t go down as any kind of “Questionable”/”Virtual Reality” one-two punch but were a seriously soothing antidote after years of over-ramped slow-motion and the rising wave of HD productions.

26. “The Good Life,” 2006
the_good_life

Jimmy Lannon ought to be rich and pro by now, and probably if this video part had come out in 1996, he would be, but then again if wishes were ponys I’d be running a profitable dog food factory and Danny Renaud would still be embarrassing other pro skaters right now. Building upon the foundation of the Dango, Joe Perrin’s Killa crew drips sweat and liquor across the Florida police’s favorite locales, with hulkster Jon Newport, flippiter Nick Matlin and Renaud the dirt dog fresh off vacation from Habitat. Ryan Nix’s closer part is pretty heavy and bad-ass enough to ensure his name will pop up in “where is ___?” threads for years to come but maybe the best section is John Buchanan, eating the brown acid and switch laser flipping when Torey Puds was still getting flowed from Shortys – there is a switch 360 flip in this section that’s nearly worth the price of admission by itself.

25. “Menikmati,” 2000
menikmati

Kinda easy to mock now for the indulgent intros and goony music and general dramatics, but it was a shiny new decade and the kid Arto Saari was frontside boardsliding 20-stair handrails, switch backside lipsliding and blazing super hard lines all over the place in Koston 1’s. Despite the archive-raiding Tom Penny retrospecticus, which was itself a pretty crafty move, the feature length and obvious hard work that dudes put into “Menikmati” raised the bar for the video age to follow and helped bring to an end the era of the profile pro, for better or worse. Ronnie Creager’s sore-thumb appearance wears a little bit better than some of the others but there’s still some interesting stuff to be seen all these years later, like Bob Burnquist switch frontside nosesliding a hubba, the concept of a contest/demo section, and the dork-trick rodeo at the end that now seems weirdly ahead of its time. The last trick in this video is Eric Koston’s backside noseblunt on the Bricktown rail, now sorta quaint, at the time pretty much unheard of.

24. “North,” 2002
North

Bearing far more weight than any production prominently featuring a giant beaver ought to, Jeremy Petit’s landmark “North” played a big part in revitalizing the Canadian scene for international purposes and pointed the camera toward lesser-knowns that weren’t hooking their fingers and polishing icey Chinese mahjong symbols. This video was also one of the early beneficiaries of message-board buzz, if I remember right, with a blitzkreig part that put Keegan Sauder back on the map and the first of many Russ Milligan sections to feature a serious-business switch bigspin flip. Tony Ferguson rolled gracefully toward retirement too but the gem was Ted Degros’s magical opener part, with precision flip tricks like the second coming of Toy-era Kerry Getz and that exquisite lightness of foot that still makes you wonder why he is not somewhere blowing up right now. If we were going to tackle the thankless task of assembling some “100 best parts” list of the past decade this one would probably rank in the top 20.

23. “Roll Forever,” 2005
roll_forever

This video stands in the long shadow of Real vids past, but holds up better than some others on the strength of a varied line-up and some future hall-o-famers getting comfortable with their own shit. Peter Ramdonetta for instance always left me sorta cold before hitting his stride around this period and pouring on the power-beast sauce with those kickflips. Darrell Stanton bic’ed his head and went absolutely bananas with the Clipper, and it was around this time that Dennis Busenitz and his mile-long powerslide skidmarks began amassing disciples for his current reign as underground king. Keith Hufnagel and Max Schaaf too. As a free full-length video with a generally good soundtrack, “Roll Forever” was for sure the high water mark of that year’s wave of promo DVDs, and unfortunately (or not) it was pretty much downhill from there…

22. “And Now,” 2008
andnow

By 2008 TWS had through a process of slow elimination mostly removed the aspects of their videos that weighed them down (lengthy intros, sometimes painful voiceovers, multiple montages) in favor of a more focused formula that was still the standard in production-value gloss and heavy rosters. This one will probably remain as the best of the second half of the ’00s, along with “Time to Shine” maybe – Holland and Ray lucked out with a grab bag of hot-shoes-of-the-moment in Malto, Nick Trapasso and David Gravette, with Matt Miller doing some more tech stuff and Kenny Hoyle nollie backside 180ing off buildings, while Richie Jackson offers enchanted boat tours on rivers of chocolate and pole-jams all the bad little boys and girls.

21. “Manik Promo,” 2007
manik

When watching a video like “Fully Flared” or “Menikmati” it’s sometimes tempting around the 40-minute mark to concoct in your head super draconian rules for skateboard videos – must run no longer than 15 minutes, zero filler footage, minimal interludes and dead airtime, enough “artsiness” to keep it interesting, non-shitty music and surprises, that type of thing. The 2007 promo from the Pacific Northwest’s Manik checks off a lot of these boxes with a very tight four-part video that packs the tricks into its 11-minute runtime; of note are Mikey Burton’s warehouse run, Josh Anderson (now said to be fucking with Kayo Corp.) invoking the power of the Muska, and Jordan Sanchez’s light-speed kickflip catastrophe. While we’re on the topic, more videos maybe should consider incorporating classical music.

Sole Tech: One Foot In Heaven, One Foot In Hell

January 26, 2009


The First Power

Balance is a concept that is critical to skateboarding. And I’m not just talking about the kind of balance that keeps Joey Brezinski in five-panel hats. I’m talking about the cosmic kind of balance. The mystic force that binds us together, and ensuring that for every Saddam Hussein there is a Crocodile Hunter, for every Mark Rogowski a Tim Brauch, for every chaotic evil arms dealer a lawful good veterinarian with a fuel efficient car.

The skateboarding world has explored these concepts of course via the turn of the century battles between Flame Boy and Wet Willy that spilled out across the bottoms of countless World Industries boards, as well as videos such as Mystery’s “Black and White” or, to a more British extent, Blueprint’s “Lost and Found.” And who could forget Digital naturist Bill Weiss’s dearly departed Balance skateboards.*

In the early 90s, Todd Swank even attempted to smash good and evil particle beams against one another via Foundation’s Super Collider-Super Conductor, despite the whole project being hated upon by shook scientists who feared the experiment would create microscopic black holes that would send the world back in time to the days of coordinated freestyle routines.

Thankfully that never happened and here in 2009 we find Sole Tech shoes exploring the concept of cosmic balance through the ultimate late ’00s medium, collaborative footwear endeavors. About a month ago Emerica announced its collabo with Barrier Kultist Deer Man of Dark Woods, the scary-voiced proponent of devil worship through ski masks and the abrupt transition discipline of skateboarding, who is also Canadian and regarded in certain circles as a boss figure.

Representing the side of light is that sworn enemy of Satan, car thieves and other evildoers, Mickey Mouse, who has a shoe coming out with Etnies as part of the only collabo more bizarre than a shoe designed by a masked barrier-skating devil worshiper. I know! This is all part of Etnies’ recently revealed collaboration with Walt Disney that also includes some high top Tinkerbell shoes.

Meanwhile, Sole Tech’s resident black sheep Es is pursuing a relationship with Clipse. “Quit searching for the E’s cuz the O’s is long,” indeed.

*Except, like, all of us.

The Savvy Consumer

October 19, 2008


Built to shred

The paper of record has skateboarding on the brain lately–witness their somewhat puzzling eulogy for Van Wastell the other day, mining blogs including our good friends at You Will Soon for reaction to the sad news. (Is that better or worse form than lifting man-on-the-street comments from message boards? Not sure…)

A few weeks prior to that, in a lighter take on the woodpushing realm, the Gray Lady turned her gaze toward the still-lucrative skate shoe industry, pursuing the question of why skateboarders gravitate toward easily destroyed footwear.* Which is of course an offshoot of the bigger question, are skateboarders really just a pack of idiots?

(BTO advises against pondering this question whilst perusing the TWS messageboards or watching that ESPN show where they show slams for a solid half-hour.)

NYT fashion/style reporter Justin Porter takes a meandering path through the usual fashion/function argument, and he’s sophisticated enough to note the structure of Etnies’ corporate umbrella and the business nuances of flow programs, while staying inclusive enough to take the obligatory editorial stab at articulating trick physics to the Joe Plumbers of the world: “The skateboard revolved slowly under his feet and seemed to freeze for a moment, waiting for gravity to catch up. Then the skater’s back foot flicked the board, and again it spun. He landed with a satisfying thump and rode away.”

I promise one (1) satisfying thump to the first person who can identify what trick Mr. Porter is describing there. Shove-it late back foot flip? Those hot at Thompkins this summer?

Anyway, later in the article none other than Mike Vallely shows up to flex flower-child poetics: When skateboarders looks down at their feet, “they need to feel a vibe there.” “[T]here had to be a way to move away from a subculture within a subculture.” (?)

Meanwhile industry sausage-makers weigh in on the import of the Lupe Fiascos and Pharrell Williamses of the world in financing DC execs’ boat payments, and eventually we return to the story’s central point–in Mr. Porter’s words, “Skateboarders know that they will quickly destroy their footwear, but still don’t always seek shoes that are indestructible.”

And here, in the final three paragraphs, Mr. Porter pretty much nails it: “Indestructible” shoes, which have been tried before, tend to look like shit. And despite the best efforts of the worlds’ mightiest shoe minds, such an indestructible shoe has yet to be devised, much less devised in any kind of aesthetically pleasing way.

I don’t know if function vs. fashion is the right way to look at it anyway. I mean, the Yosiris-led tech shoe era produced unmatched innovation, as Peter Smolik and Scott Pazelt proved once and for all in “The Storm.” Jerry Hsu skated D3s for crying out loud. And God knows, I’m living proof that vulcanized soles don’t come with coupons for switch 360 flips.

So while Emerica and Vans battle for the most minimalist silhouette on the runway, we’ve got Reynolds in the lab working on a better mousetrap and Es nervously hoping the pendulum swings back toward the moon boot. And maybe in another five years we’ll be shaking our heads, wondering how we took those 30-step drops clad only in stretch denim and waffle soles, while we Shoe Goo up some new $120 space-age Rodney Mullen construction.

*Note the Softrucks on the board in the mini-ramp photo accompanying the article.

Freeze the ocean

August 3, 2008

Like many a faceless internet blowhard, there is little I hate more than being wrong, and I would sooner plunge my face into a soggy pile of Frank Gerwer’s befouled trousers than admit it. Yet over the six months or so that I’ve yammered away in this space I’ve definitely been completely totally wrong about a few things, and my conscience won’t let me watch Trapasso’s part in the new TWS vid again until I’ve set things straight, although most of these are fairly obvious. Anyhow. Boil the Ocean regrets the following errors:


Adio: not actually out of business
I sort of jumped on board with the rumor-mongers on this one, mostly because it seemed so plausible to me. Like, why wouldn’t Adio go out of business? Yet as Duffs has taught us time and time again, it takes some fairly extraordinary fucking up to fall out of the skateboard shoe game. And although several of Adio’s higher-profile dudes jumped ship and they apparently closed a warehouse and fired a bunch of people, they do indeed keep on keepin’ on with the business of making ugly skate shoes for slow-witted Journeys customers. But, they still have a pretty solid team in place (Brezinski, Broussard, Montoya), and provided Kenny Anderson doesn’t fall under the spell of the Converse dollar they may well outlive Dekline.

As if to prove they’re not only still around, but have enough extra money to buy an HD camera, Adio put up this podcast a few weeks ago that features some pretty gnarly skating by Nick Dompierre and the rest.


411vm: Still existing in some form or another
More news that seemed a long time coming, except that as soon as I said something about it 411 changed their website into some portal to action sports-themed Friendster knockoff Skateboard.com, with this announcement, which was later removed. (And the 411 website is now back to its normal self, such as it is.) As Europeskate notes both these skateboard media powerhouses belong to the illustrious Wasserman Media Group so this may be more of a reshuffling than 411’s card being pulled, but for now, the future of those free DVDs in cardboard sleeves remains in question, so maybe I wasn’t actually wrong, yet.


Es shoe designs not all that bad
Like most other thinking people I made fun of Es shoes’ more out-there designs when they unveiled their fall 2008 goods, but I don’t think I really gave them enough credit for doggedly sticking with their tradition of teched-out shoes in a time when the fashion pendulum has swung so far toward the minimal. Also, having gone through several pairs of the Square One, I ought to say that it’s probably one of the best skate shoes made right now, and in Es’s storied history. Which isn’t to say that Es doesn’t make some ridiculous, silly-looking damn shoes. But the percentage of wearable shoes put out by Es is probably about equal to the average skate shoe company, except that instead of numerous Dunk/Era/Half-Cab/Stan Smith rehashes, Es makes neon spaceship boots. Which is of course their God-given right as an American company owned by a French freestyler.


Burton/Gravis not the devil, probably
I realize I’ve gone pretty hard at Burton and Alien for everything that’s transpired over there recently, and I don’t really take any of it back, but I do think the above shoe from the upcoming Gravis “IVSkate” venture is cool.

Es loses their damn mind

June 4, 2008


The Osiris of this shit

I feel sort of bad ragging on Es, because it seems like they’re really trying. They figured out pretty quick that they weren’t going to be able to hang on to their Menikmati-era all stars, finally scrapped the ill-fated “YeS” project, put together a fairly interesting team and got busy moving on. Last year’s Especial promo wasn’t bad at all and they’re staying busy on their website, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re fighting a losing battle, because it’s becoming so plainly clear that they’ve lost their way when it comes to, you know, the actual shoes.

Now, in an age where one could start a skate shoe company and bank off rehashing the dunk, Chuck Taylors, half cabs, eras, and on and on, I do give Es a lot of credit for trying something new, over and over again, often with simply bizarre results. From what I can tell, with their new fall lineup, they’re betting big on the technological shoes of the late 90s/early 00s coming back into fashion. Will they be right? You be the judge…


The amazingly ill-conceived Scheme remix makes it back for another season! The total cluelessness of this design is endearing to me, especially as they insist right on the sight that it’s not a throwback. Embrace it, Es!


It seems to me Es has been trying to push this design in various forms for a while now. I can’t be bothered to go back and check of course. Do the euros even go in for the teched-out shoes anymore?


Currency symbols really aren’t anywhere near the worst all-over print, but it’s still pretty stupid. Keep your head up, Accel.


This “TXL” may or may not be a Rodrigo creation. If it were, I’d guess the language barrier might explain some things. I picture TX tilted far back in an office chair, eyes far off and muttering “it’s crazy like,” while a pair of designers scribble furiously and dart frightened, confused looks at one another.


Having milked their thesaurus dry, the Es team muscles in on C1RCA territory with the mysteriously named “FV-1.” Although I guess it could have been designed by Fausto’s ghost? Actually don’t mind the colors on this one but packing in not-one-but-TWO airbags at the height of the vulcan era is a bold move indeed.


Like the half-formed afterbirth of a Vans janitor’s trunk sale. Moving on…


This one, wow. The color combo is almost ridiculous enough to work, almost, but these knockoffs of dearly departed pro models never really work out.


Here we have an example of taking a great idea that hasn’t been blown out yet (black soles on lighter shoes) and screwing it up with the all-over-print panel in the back. I guess your pants might cover it up, but still. My gut tells me that it shouldn’t be this difficult, but what do I know.


This one really isn’t that bad, aside from the laces. Classic Es design and it looks like they threw in one of those SLB/AVE inner-sock things, which deserves to be revived every few years. Some colors other than white/black and gray/black would help, but this is good mostly.