Posts Tagged ‘Etnies’

Choices 3: Judgment Day

July 30, 2016

bubble.JOSH-KALIS

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

Tyler Bledsoe Is Majestic

December 4, 2013

Bigspinning Pacific Northwesterner Tyler Bledsoe is back on the scene after keeping sort of a lower profile in recent years, possibly seeking professional treatment for his previously documented infatuation with the color teal. The ledges in this remarkable Etnies clip exhibit a more verdant shade of green, suggesting some progress in his personal journey, and it’s comforting to realize that even having shed his spectacles his command of the backside bigspin remains uncannily intact on what has to be one of the tougher ledge tricks to lock into, much less spin anything out of it, much less in the middle of the ledge.

Board control’s one thing, but do Tyler Bledsoe’s recent feats suggest a genetic mutation that gives his feet greater mastery over gravity, similar to folks who from birth are unable to feel pain, or rapidly develop massive muscles? Could Tyler Bledsoe’s apparent gifts enable him to defy physics in other ways such as sprinting through waist-high water or executing hairpin turns on frozen lakes? Did ancient Mayans develop a two- or three-year calendar based around the frequency with which footwear companies try to launch camouflage shoes?

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?

The Year Of The Lion

January 3, 2011

Looking back on that “top ten” list I’m seeing now a lot of rap songs, not a lot of transition and almost everybody did some kind of crooked grind pop-over. So be it…

Some other really good ones:
Matt Bennett – “Brainwash”
-I’ve been a fan of his pretty well-established range of tricks so it was nice to see him stretch for this (switch f/s hurricane for instance)

Bryan Herman – “Stay Gold”
-predictable, but would’ve won this site’s heart if his part stopped after the schoolyard

Tyler Bledsoe – “Hallelujiah”
-eight, nine months on and the backside tail flip-out clip still isn’t old

Rory Milanes – “This Time Tomorrow”
-partly for the song

Chewy Cannon – “Make Friends With The Colour Blue”
-felt almost like it would be unfair to stick him toward the top half of this year’s list after last year and the Adidas part, but this dude is a machine. The switch backside smith grind

Greg Myers – “Skateboarding Is Forever”
-I see some of the critiques of this dude’s style but he’s got a lot of super hard tricks and I think is probably overlooked for how vicious some of his flip tricks are

Chad Timtim – “Trio”
-The most aggressive sidewalk-cruising part of this year with a guest appearance by one of the most urban tricks, the switch pop-shove it nosegrind revert. Honorable mention to Levi Brown’s very major b/s 180 over the two poles in this same vid.

Steve Durante/Fred Gall – Seasons/Orchard web clip
-NJ’s bash brothers in what would be my vote for the best shared part

Wes Kremer – “Skateboarding Is Forever”
-As mind-melting as the Torey Pudwill part, but with more wall-rides

Brandon Westgate – “Stay Gold”
-I still have difficulty getting into his styles* but it’s hard to deny all the San Francisco hill-blazing

Feel like Leo Romero returned the SOTY race to where it ought to be, that is, a genuinely hardworking dude that most folks can get behind as elevating the trick and/or gnarliness bar while being fairly representative of skating current and/or enduring themes — in Leo’s case you get a sometimes subtlely dazzling angle on handrail skating, a satisfactory anti-social demeanor and often a cowboy hat or a moustache, which you know, Chris Cole won it twice these past few years, and I don’t remember him getting behind cowboy hats like that. These are the weighty issues I feel are at stake when Thrasher/Phelps appear to be edging dangerously toward giving the one award that matters to some pampered television personality, and in the process totally fucking up my fragile worldview.

Wouldn’t even pretend that I’ve seen enough photos to pick out a “best of the year” or anything, but this Yaje Popson SSBSTS had all the elements.

Special mention to all rocket scientist video surgeons at Krooked who managed to not only make the first 3D skate dvd, but to execute it with a minimum of heavy-handed editing and sanctimoniousness that probably would’ve sapped the silly fun out of such a project with a lot of slow-mo if it had fallen to somebody like Ty Evans. On a related note, this blog (also predictably) fell into the camp viewing the annual TWS video project contest as a terrific hose-job for the Etnies effort, so here’s a link to that if you missed it.

*it’s a personal problem, I realize

So I Keep On Buying Porsches

August 5, 2009


Dragonslayer

Apropos of not very much I’m going in for a video clip post because I’m busy as all hell this week. Rather than try and formulate some kind of commentary around this mess, and until I get my act together enough to address the TWS vid and this other shoe topic, I present to you this already-sort-of-old-in-internet-time Tyler Bledsoe clip from Etnies that has kind of a Michael Sieben twang to it. New tricks and I can dig it; it’s like the taller the kid gets the easier it is to watch his skating. The pop out of some of these tricks is sort of ridiculoid (particularly the b/s lipslide to b/s tailslide at the AVE ledge), and can we get some type of You Will Soon poll on the historical equivalent to the A’s fitted that so many youngsters favor nowadays? Make it so…

Easter Egg Hunt

June 8, 2009


Dig dig deep for your soul

One of the enduring traits of the Crailtap set is the childlike whimsy they’ve been able to maintain over the years, starting with the Lance Mountain reset skit, through Keenan’s tumultuous skate down the block and the ongoing adventures of the pink/flame decks, who hopefully are teaming up to fight the hoverboard by the time the next Girl video comes out in 2015. So it is with this spirit that Eric Koston, for the moment apparently still a free shoe agent despite recent visits to the, er, Portland airport, has thrown the latest curveball in the ongoing game of which company will have the honor of covering his feet and paying him untold billions in endorsement cash: via Twitter, Koston is now strategically hiding pairs of shoes in and around Los Angeles and doling out not-so-subtle clues as to where they can be found.

I guess I’m not sure what we’re to make of the initial pair’s identity, but any 411-o-phile worth his issue 30 with the AWS industry section knows that Koston is revisiting Ronnie Creager’s timeless “Day in the Life” section, where in between skating a two-stair handrail and getting his grin on, Creager drove around to various LA zones and planted oodles of World Industry products. (It is rumored to this day that the motherload remains undiscovered and that this partially inspired the Kurt Russell vehicle and cautionary tale of family piracy, “Captain Ron.”) All I’m saying is, let’s not all be totally surprised if Koston’s next move is relocating to Arizona, also known as the place old pros go to nurse knee injuries and skate ditches, where he and Creager will soon preside over the unholy resurrection of Nadia footwear.

From The Muddy Banks Of The Great Gray-Green Greasy Limpopo River

February 3, 2009


All set about with fever trees

I would like to begin this week by welcoming back one of my favorite shoe color schemes of years past, the gray/white/black/dark green combo that I personally trace back to the first run of the original Kalis model on DC, released in 2000 or so.* (Try as I may, Google turns up nothing helpful and unlike certain Canadian blogs I don’t have vast expanses of frozen tundra on which to stack boxes of old sneakers into fun igloo shapes.) Basically, the upper (?) was gray, with dark green detailing; the midsole (??) was white and the bottom of the sole was black. In a time of kaleidoscopic D3 color-feasts I remember marveling at the relative subtlety of the whole deal and, upon purchase and wear, even earned a personal thumbs up from the best skateboarder in town at the time. These were charmed days to be sure.

Anyhow, I got a very bizarre but also disturbingly welcome sense of skateboard shoe deja-vu when I spied this new color of Lakai Telfords on deck for release sometime this year (below), and only a month or so later saw a pair of Adio shoes (above) in Thrasher that tapped pretty much the same palette.

Now, I thought I saw a similar color of Etnies Raps somewhere recently, which would make this color a certified trend and also certify me as a footwear trendspotter, all but assuring my escape from WordPress skid row and onto one of those street fashion websites that Lupe Fiasco or the Cool Kids name-check in their conscious-but-not-really-conscious hip-hop songs. (I assume I also would get rich at a certain point.)

*Probably the idea predates this, but I haven’t any clue at all.

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.