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Sunday, January 22, 2006

15 Things You Didn’t Know About… Skate Shoes

Words: Adam Salo

1. While a pro shoe is often the sign of a respected and seasoned veteran, some veterans are younger than others. Bastien Salabanzi, 20, became the youngest pro to earn signature shoe, the Vans Tag XLT, at the ripe old age of 16.

2. So where did the name Lakai come from? As Kelly Bird explains it, there was a “ginger freak named Malachi” in the horror classic Children of the Corn and a teenaged Mike Carroll adopted the name to give him a catchy handle for the ladies to remember him by. In 1999, Carroll had a new naming dilemma when he and Rick Howard were starting their skate shoe company. Thinking back to all the success he enjoyed with his nickname, he blurted “Malachi” at an executive brainstorming session. The name had to be shortened in order to fit on tongue labels and heel moustaches. Thinking long and hard, Carroll asked, "What about Lakai?"

3. When he was on éS, Paul Rodriguez wanted an Air Jordan style shoe as his first pro model. He later found a short cut by going to the source. Of the many athletes that Nike sponsors, there are only eight who have pro-model shoes. Rodriguez is one of them, sharing the honor with such notables as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

4. Stacey Peralta was the first skater to receive endorsement checks from a skate shoe company. In 1977 Vans was paying him $300 a month, a considerable amount at the time.

5. The first ever signature skate shoe was created by upstart French brand, Etnies, for Natas Kaupas in 1987.

6. Vans began stitching Steve Caballero's name into their shoes the following year. Soon skaters took to chopping off excess material converting the high top into a low top. Vans noticed the trend and the Half Cab was developed. Seventeen years later, the Half Cab is still in production and is the longest running pro-model shoe in skateboarding.

7. Despite the fact Vans has introduced dozens of pro model shoes over the last two decades, the checkerboard slip-on popularized by Sean Penn's character Jeff Spicoli in the film Fast Times at Ridgemount High remains its best selling shoe of all time.

8. Anthony Van Engelen gave tattoo artist Baby Ray a pair of special purple slip-ons from DC Shoes named The Tigon (a name inspired by Napoleon Dynamite's tiger and lion mix). Baby Ray then gave the shoes to Metallica lead singer James Hetfield.

9. While most brands stick to the proverbial cash cow when gathering leather materials, DC Shoes recently released a water resistant shoe with an upper made of wolverine. The H2 Zero model utilizes the unique waterproof quality the animal's skin provides. Fierce.

10. When Circa was developing a pro shoe for Chad Muska, he requested a stash pocket to run the entire length of the tongue. When designers asked The Muska if he really needed that much stash room, he replied, “Yo, I gots a lotta weed to fit in there, man!”

11. In the late '90s, before Tom Penny took his European hiatus, éS wanted to give him a pro model shoe. Penny sent the designers at éS a Columbia hiking boot and told them to replicate it for his shoe. The shoe was never made and it would be some time before the company approached Penny again.

12. For his second pro shoe on Emerica, Donny Barley requested a Chinese slipper design. The shoe company graciously declined.

13. Sole Technology used to have a brand called Sheep. The brand was created to offer a cheaper skate shoe to compete the influx of mall store brands. Unfortunately, the import duty for the canvas and rubber shoes was actually more costly than suede models. Sole Tech hyped the brand by appealing to a niche market: the vegan skater. Rider Ed Templeton signed on other vegan and eco-friendly riders. The company didn't last, but Sheep paved the way for a multitude of synthetic kicks available today.

14. Due to the physically demanding nature of his skating, Bob Burnquist wanted a neoprene-sock lined inside a high top for his pro shoe on éS. He helped design a sample that featured asymmetrical lacing and rubber bump lace savers. The sample was so bizarre looking it made its way to the Emerica mansion where it was displayed on the mantle as abstract art.

15. The heads at Osiris will think twice the next time they contemplate discontinuing a sleepy seller. When Dave Mayhew wanted large lace loops for his third pro model, the folks at Osiris were less than optimistic about the samples. The D3 was very technical, bulky and the lace loops made it look awkward. It sold decently the first year, but sales began to dwindle. Six years later something inexplicable happened. “We were just about to pull the shoe from the line,” owner Tony Magnusson remembers, “when it took off like a friggin' rocket.” The updated D3 2001 is rumored by many accounts to be the best selling pro-model skate shoe of all time.

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