Keith Hufnagel is a veteran of the skate and shoe game. Having established his own HUF stores in San Francisco, Hufnagel then created colabs with some of the biggest names in the sneaker game, none of which need any introduction to our readers! Soon afterwards he began his own cut-and-sew label which has done quite nicely indeed. With his long-time connection with DVS, many were surprised at his recent decision to diversify yet again and launch his own range of HUF skate shoes. We caught up with the man himself for the inside word on his new collection and to hear the latest from the house of HUF!
Interview by Dan Watson
Hey Keith, why are you starting your own shoe company?
Basically just having the shop forever and doing collaborations, it was a natural progression. An opportunity came about where we knew people who had factory connections and they decided to help us make shoes. With DVS, I was always just a rider. I rode for them for a long time and I appreciate everything they did for me, but you move on. Nothing against DVS at all, it just had to happen eventually.
What do you hope to bring to the shoe game that others aren’t?
It’s hard to bring something that no one has brought yet. (Laughs.) There’s no special technology. We’re just doing a clean, classic shoe that reflects our clothing. The durability will be there and the functionality. We want to support skateboarding, so we’ll pick up riders and give them professional models. Things like that are the long-term goal of the company.
Anyone confirmed yet? Want to give us any scoops?
No, just me, that’s it. I’ll have a pro model for the company in spring. That’s it for now. I’m working on it. Skateboard riders are very expensive these days. (Laughs.)
Are big companies taking away from core skate shoe business or are they helping?
I think they do both. They’re taking away from the business, but they give to the skateshops because they make money off their product and they also give money to their riders. It’s really a catch-22. Some of the original skate shoe companies are losing money from the big giants coming in. Some skate shops make money off it, some don’t. It’s a tough one I would say. I mean, we want to tap into that market too. I just wonder if everything went downhill who’s gonna stay in and who’s gonna hop out?
We’ve seen them hop out before.
Yeah, all the shoe companies that came from skateboarding like Vans, DC, DVS, Etnies – they’re in it for life. If they die, they die on a skateboard. Nike, adidas, Converse, whatever – they could stop doing it and still be successful because they grew up on other sports. Who knows? Skateboarding’s almost too big these days to go into a relapse like it did in the 92/93 era, so I feel like they’re here to stay.
Can we expect to see lots of influences from the non-skate world in your designs?
For sure. We’re trying to be original as possible. A lot of people just straight rip-off other shoes, which is not cool. We want to put some thought and energy into the design of the shoe and the functionality. Right now we’re handling the design pretty much in-house. It’s just Ben our clothing designer making the shoes along with a couple of out-sourced designs. He’s the one who does all our collaborations. I mean, it’s very easy to color up a shoe or pick materials. I’ve been doing lots of that. The factory helps out with the sole, the amount of padding to put into the insole and things which make them good for comfort and for skating.
Do you find that it's hard to keep credibility in the skate world and the streetwear market?
Not really, just because that’s our roots. We have skaters on our team who wear our clothes. We’re skateboarding and lifestyle.
So you wont be having knee-high patent leather ultra-straps and shit?
(Laughs). No, no, it’s not on the table yet. I guess we’re dropping the ball.
What were some of your favorite non-skate shoes to skate back in the day?
Man, I rocked Converse, Jordans, Dunks. It was basically whatever you could get for cheap because you knew you were going through them, Shoe-Gooing the shit out of them or putting duct tape all over them.
I was saving all my money to buy my next deck. You want to look fresh, but you also don’t want to drop that hundred bucks for a pair of shoes that you’re gonna destroy in the next two weeks. It was a different time, there weren’t as many shoes available as there are today.
How about your all-time favourite skate shoe?
Oh shit. All-time favourite skate shoe for me was probably the first DC Rick Howard because I skated in that one so much.
So once you have your team together can we expect to see a Euro Supertour in matching swishy Huf Footwear outfits?
Of course. Why not? I think it would be a little different, but I think that would be fuckin awesome.
You gotta have the swishy basketball outfits if you’re gonna do it right.
(Laughs.) Alright, we’ll do that for sure. I’ll pencil it in right now.
Interview by Dan Watson