This evening was a milestone in shoe nerd skate history (I consider myself one so, chill!) The famous “Made For Skate” shoe museum came to town for the 20th anniversary of the Nike brand’s SB line. An acronym which stands for SkateBoarding by the way, not for SnowBoarding or Straight Ballin’ as some of you might think. For us living in Berlin and even some of the neighboring countries, this was a reason to cancel all plans and watch & listen to Jürgen (Made For Skate’s President and highly acclaimed shoe collector) for a full night. Trust us, he felt the pressure but in the end, we all saw history and that banging new Oski part.
Text by Roland Hoogwater.
Presentation by Lea Isabell Uhle.
Photos, Film & Edit by Louis Deschamps.
20 years is a long time, in fact, I had only been skating for 2 years when Nike entered our subculture. And like many others after me, in actuality, Nike’s presence in our culture started way earlier. One of the best things about skateboarding is that like many other activities it started small and expanded as the love for it grew (* if an activity survives the trend phase.) during the early days when we came from the sea to the land – as our pre-skate ancestors did – some of us might not have worn shoes to skate. Surfers, who in fact started skateboarding do not wear footwear while surfing, so why wear it while you are surfing the concrete? It might impede your board feel, or mess up your grip, right?! But as skateboarding grew and the possibilities with it, the search for the type of footwear that would “work for us” started as well. Boating shoes are often commented on as being the first type of shoe skaters used. And still, to this day, we will wear a slightly changed boating shoe to skate in. But they are notoriously thin, they might have protected your feet compared to no shoes. But things like ankle stability, a stable midfoot, or heel locks were not included in these models. Soon Ollies, Grinds, and other forms of tricks were introduced and in the ’70s and into the 80s people started looking towards basketball shoes for support. Nike’s Jordan 1’s in particular became a staple after it was featured in Animal Chin (Ask Jürgen for the story behind this!). And ever since that moment people like Lance Mountain have been working and reworking these types of shoes into versions that they could call their own.
Long story short, “Do It Yourself”, DIY is what started our culture and DIY is what drives our culture still in many ways. So when Nike SB came into being, they took the personality of the skaters on the team. Things like their cultural background, sports they played, and the spirit of making “your own” and they started putting that into shoes like the Nike SB Dunks. That particular classic 1985 silhouette was made adaptable for skating at the start of the SB program by retooling it. Using long-lasting materials and adding the signature puffy tongue (which was slimmed down for a minute in the Ishod versions of the shoe). Those design choices began attracting not only people like us (skaters) but also people who are into collecting sneakers. Nike SB had that playful character and I myself remember seeing some of the first lines of shoes and being befuddled by the colorways that were being put out. You have to remember, this was not the time of bright-colored shoes, these were the éS PJ Ladd brown suede times. And before you knew it those models clashed on your local skate shop wall with Mondrian, Heineken, and Raygun Dunks.
By the way, if you collected enough of the limited releases during those early days, put them under your mattress, waited for the right moment in time, and sold them at their peak. You could indeed be straight up ballin’ right now! I know some of the people in my own small city had the foresight and stacked away multiple boxes for prosperity. And word on the street is that the Made For Skate exhibition is worth about half a million.
At the same time, when Nike entered the market, they did indeed raise the level of quality of the skate shoe. Especially during those early SB days, people got interested in the concept of Nike in skating, they wanted to try it and got hooked because of the level of comfort and durability the shoes offered. This led to a lot of – then normally priced – really expensive shoes being skated until there was no life in them at all, which was about double the amount of life that many other skate brands’ shoes offered.
Staying on the durability train, Nike SB also introduced their own models separate from other lines. The E-Cue and the URL were cool different-looking models. They also looked over to other sports and picked models like the now unfortunately discontinued (we need them back) Zoom FC’s. Some of the models they created were pretty, and some of them were crazy-looking. Like the Zoom Tre (AD) or the Zoom FP, but all of these models were focused on bringing different looks and vibes to skaters’ feet, while at the same time bringing you that Nike Tech feel and comfort that we had not seen in skating before. One could say that in recent years, that early day “visible tech” has made way for more “invisible tech” but this legacy of introducing interesting materials and shapes into skating, lives on into one of our favorite Nike SB pro-model series spearheaded by Nyjah Huston (Love or hate him, his footwear is amongst the most progressive in the current SB line). While skateboarders were looking at ever slimmer models of skate shoes, kids in skate shops might have got their parents to buy some of those boat shoe type models once, but after about two weeks their parents would come back to the shops and salespeople could say “Hey if you take this Zoom Tre shoe he can learn how to skate as well as in these other shoes, but you don’t have to buy a new pair every couple of weeks.” Trust me, I have been in these rooms, and that pitch not only worked, but many skaters’ feet were also in fact, saved in the process.
Back to 2022, we are now in the middle of the second SB Dunk boom. With prices rising, and raffles overflowing the shoe has seen such a nice resurgence both on the feet of skaters and in the collections of sneaker collectors. Being a shoe design enthusiast myself I often wonder why a Ben & Jerry’s Dunk costs this much in the shops and 20 times as much on trading platforms like StockX. And in a way, the prices of shoes remind me of the type of market prices being asked for by gallerists and auction houses for contemporary art. Which is the largest unregulated market in the world. And like art, these design objects that we skate in, really deserve their own place in a museum. Not only because they are valuable in the marketplace but also because they mean something within the history of skating. There are Dunk Mid’s that are directly linked to skaters like Lewis Marnell or Sweden’s very own Oskar Rozenberg Hallberg a.k.a. Oski. And it would be a shame if these types of shoes just came and went with the people that skated them.
Finally, I don’t want to wrap things up without mentioning some of my own absolute favorites that might have been dropped too early, before the skate world was really ready for them. Shoe designs that I feel would work so well in the current 2020… climate. First off, the original Nike SB Zoom FC, an indoor soccer shoe turned skate classic. A model that had newer versions but never with the original shape or the cool-looking mid-cut sole. Secondly, the Paul Rodriguez 3, especially the white colorway and the black silver colors could really do some damage today so maybe today is still a good day, what are you saying Paul? And lastly, it would be great to get the pre-SB but still Nike skateboarding shoe the Lien Lo to make a comeback on skaters’ feet. Just imagine a Vincent Huhta line in these bad boys! Nuf said somebody needs to step up and bring the past into the future for all to enjoy! Until then, just visit the Made For Skate shoe Museum and visit the shoes you have been dreaming of for a while now and will be in the future.
Special thanks go out to Nike SB for both supporting us and for having a strong sense of humor 🙂