Professional skater, musician, designer, store owner, photographer, style maven... Chad Muska has more than a few handy tricks up his sleeve. As part of the Supra family since 2006, Muska was also instrumental in the brand’s evolution, adding his unique sensibility to the cause, most famously with the original version of the Skytop. In fact, you can find his name on the tongue of every pair! We sat down to talk about his latest project and left KNOWING that the best is yet to come. As seen in Sneaker Freaker Issue 21.
Let me ask you a tough question first up. Are you feeling as jaded as most people by the sameness of everything these days? What’s your take on the skate sneaks right now?
I try not to focus too much on the industry as a whole. All the things that we’re dealing with in this global market comes back to the product, because companies are scared that people aren’t going to buy what they make, so they’re creating ‘safe products’ which are essentially boring. You get the same exact shoe across the market with a new logo on it or the same t-shirt with the same safe graphic. When economic times get tough the product becomes bland and that’s where it opens up for people that are willing to take these risks to be innovative and stand out amongst the cookie cutters. But it’s really hard for me to judge the industry on the whole because I don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing. I try to experience things from one-on-one contact, whether I’m walking into random retail shops or even from friends of mine. I’m not on the internet researching every day, I’m just trying to focus on these ideas that I have and get inspired by the things that I come across in my life.
One of your ideas turned out to be one of the most popular and most copied shoes of the last half-decade. How do you feel about the first version of the Skytop now?
The Skytop I has become a classic shoe in my eyes. I mean, now when I look at it, it just looks like a standard shoe almost. But I remember at one early point thinking ‘There’s absolutely nothing like this, it’s just so different!’ As popular as it got and as fast as it gained popularity... if it was going to die I think it would have died by now already.
The Skytop I has become a staple in our company and I think it’s fair to call it a classic. Hopefully some day you’d be able to compare it to a Half Cab or even the Dunk. It’s been copied a lot and at first it was like ‘So and so’s got their version!’ and then eventually, every brand had their version as well. There’s really nothing you can do about it, except continue to market your product as being the original. You know it’s funny... I know the Skytop I did better than the Skytop II, but for me personally, I like wearing the Skytop II more.
Something I’ve been thinking about recently is that it’s impossible for anything to survive long enough to become a classic. It just gets lost in the digital chatter... Everything’s so fast it’s at a point where even quality becomes disposable.
Definitely, man, it all comes back to the internet. As amazing and cool as the internet is and as much opportunity it creates, it also has so many negatives. People constantly want something new, which in turn leads to not allowing things to shine and become classic any more. You know what I mean? Things just come and go so quick, it’s like kids can’t even watch one TV show. They’re just flicking through the channels. It’s like anything that’s cool, it doesn’t stay underground and cool for very long anymore, because eventually someone’s going to talk about it or blog it or post something about it and then it’s blah, blah, blah. It’s definitely different than it was five years ago. Things are changing very quickly. When I came out with the Skytop I, I guess it kind of polluted our industry. There was nothing like it and now there’s a definite over-saturation of those style of shoes in the industry which then makes me think... okay, what’s next?
Speaking of which, I’ve got the Skytop III right here. That’s what’s next! How would you describe it to anyone who hasn’t seen it? Where would you start?
History tends to repeat itself and it seems like everybody has been looking for ‘80s gear and old school high tops, so I thought the natural progression was the whole ‘90s, technical era. I worked closely with Josh Brubaker who is an amazing shoe designer and really understands the visions that I have. There’s inspiration from different shoes in there of course, all added with our own twist. If you look at the lines closely you’ll notice it really pays attention to the details found on the original Skytop. With the Skytop II we went a little bit higher than the first version and then on this one, we obviously came down to more of a mid-cut to throw everyone off.
I don’t know what anyone thought we were going to do, but they probably assumed we were just going to go even higher I suppose. It’s hard for me to explain the shoe in a couple of words, but it’s definitely part tech-runner and part basketball shoe, mixed in with the lines of the original Skytops...
That’s a fair description. The rubber cage is the most striking feature.
Actually we had the shoe design without it and we were looking at it like, ‘Yes, it’s cool, we like it, but it needs something else!’ We weren’t sure exactly what it was but then Josh had one design mocked up that had the cage. When I saw it I was like, ‘Oh, shit, that’s it, that’s really what’s going to set this apart!’
It’s interesting that you reference the ‘90s, because it was a time when brands had the balls to say, ‘Here’s where we think the future is, if you don’t like it, don’t wear it.’ Now brands seem to be petrified of what kids are going to think.
Absolutely. If it was up to me I would have made the Skytop III even crazier! I’m envisioning shoes in my head that I don’t see anywhere else right now. When I started at Circa back in the late ‘90s, the tech era was dying down at that point but I still had a lot of ideas I was trying to bring to the table. Right now, the market is going to open back up for way more technical shoes. Personally, I’m all about learning more about production, finding out what techniques can be used, from moulding pieces to seamless stitching to sonic welding – all these different applications that are possible.
Your name is still on the tongue… Is that weird?
It was definitely weird when I was 17 and I saw it for the first time, but after 15 years I don’t really think about it any more. I see it as a blessing and an honour. It’s still kind of crazy just seeing these ideas and visions that I have come to life. Everyone’s always told me my whole life, ‘You’re a skater!’ and they sort of pigeonhole you, so to see the stuff that’s come out of my skateboarding life and into other realms has been just so amazing.
Do you feel like the shoe could be the start of a new era? I know everyone’s waiting for something big to come along... but no one has a clue what it will be or what it will look like.
Well, hopefully this will be it. I think there’s definitely going to be a change, things are getting more futuristic again. I mean, as big as the plain and simple thing has been, it’s still just part of everybody playing it safe. Personally design-wise, I’m definitely all over the place and I’m thinking of so many new and exciting designs, but it’s hard for me to find places to sell a lot of the stuff, because it will be too crazy for what the shops want, especially on the skateboarding side. I have stuff in my head right now but if I presented them to the skate shops they would probably laugh at me and never sell it. I mean, the same thing happened with the Skytop I and eventually all the shops that thought it was horrible and said they would never wear it couldn’t deny the fact that people wanted this product. It’s like when we look back on the ‘70s or the ‘80s and their distinct looks, it’s hard to say what the 2000s will be remembered for. I think it’s time for the world to define a new style and a new chapter and go ahead.