Online streetwear and fashion lifestyle hub Highsnobiety put on its journalistic hat (thanks to contributor Cullen Poythress) to explore the expanding world of skateboard footwear – where it’s been, where it’s going, and what it means to the skateboard industry as a whole. The introspective conversation included Pierre Andre Senizergues of Etnies footwear, Keith Hufnagel of HUF, and Kelly Bird of Lakai – three independent heavyweights with enough industry experience and personal skateboard history to write their own series of books – each.
While Highsnobiety did its best to corral these three particular voices about the subject at hand – how smaller indie companies fair against the excessively superior stature of bigger mainstream giants like Nike, Adidas, or Reebok even – the truth’s a bit simpler than any “insider” roundtable will lead you to believe. The truth is that markets mean numbers. Simple. Done. And whether folks like Hufnagel, Senizergues, or Bird embrace or dismiss the nostalgia of skateboarding before big business, the money’s here and it’s here to stay. They wouldn’t be selling their own “independent” brands without it being made. Survival requires profit.
To say that the big companies are “super-influencers” and quintessentially “calling the shots” because of the numbers that they generate and pay their employees is a truism times a billion. Yes, it’s true. Yes, it’s fact. But so what? I think what’s more compelling is where free-thinking skaters stand, regardless of their allegiance to marketing or the deep-rooted tribal nature of skateboard culture. Because, at the end of the day we support what we like, we support what we do, what looks like us, resonates with us, and what we lead ourselves to believe is the goal, real or imagined.
Skateboarding has existed before mainstream and indie sneaker brands, and it will continue to exist after them. No offense to any of its voices or the intellectualizing of the “values” at stake, but I don’t think it really matters.
Sure, it’s nice to have someone make shoes with me and my skateboarding in mind, but really, making a life out of an anti-authoritarian philosophy and way of life is more of a role play than anything else. I bet if I asked Huf, Bird, or Senizergues that when it comes down to it, what we do professionally is an “excuse” to justify what we do recreationally, they’d agree.
Generic Surplus “skate” shoes
I use my opportunity to write about skateboarding because skateboarding is what I’m genuinely interested and invested in. What shoes I wear when I actually skate (currently a black pair of Generic Surplus wing tips) is besides that point. Though I do blame some, Dylan Rieder (who actually rides for HUF) and Mark Gonzales, for inspiration. Dylan rides pointy shoes because he wants to. Mark has always been an advocate of skating in strange shoes and strange boards in order to excel his abilities. Whatever the case, some of us are too busy doing it to really bother explaining it. I do propose, however, that like Huf, Bird, and Senizergues, we only answer when we are asked by inquisitive journalist minds. And sometimes that forces some kind of justifiable rinky-dink conceptualization of an art that really has no words for the media or our capitalist society. Too deep of a response? Nah, too shallow of a perspective if you only want an economic “analysis” from skateboarding.
Whether you agree with me or not, check out the full Highsnobiety “Bold Steps Forward” piece here.