A Brief History of the Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski
The Dunk might be enjoying a renaissance right now, but there’s another silhouette which has equally shaped Nike SB’s standing within sneaker culture and skateboarding: the Zoom Stefan Janoski.
More commonly known simply as the ‘Janoski’, the low-cut skate shoe redefined the SB lineup, taking a step back from the hype to reaffirm the subdivision’s commitment to the community – one which hasn’t always been the most accepting of outside influences.
Made by a skater for skaters, Nike SB’s iconic creation is now over a decade old, but has already garnered legend status among skateboarding’s long list of footwear favourites.
Taking It Back
A perennial skater-favourite, Stefan Janoski had established himself as a key member of Habitat Skateboards and, of course, Nike SB by the time he was asked to design his first shoe with the brand in 2009. One of the team’s longest-standing members, he became just the second ever rider to get a signature shoe from Nike SB.
Early-2000s skate shoe design was heavily influenced by basketball, with ginormous, cushioned silhouettes dominating the market – the puffy-tongued SB Dunk being one of them. Bucking this trend, Stefan had big ideas for something a little… smaller.
Working alongside renowned Nike SB designer James Arizumi, Stefan set out strict skate-focussed parameters on how he wanted the shoe built and proportioned. ‘Stefan gave me zero references,’ says Arizumi. ‘He wanted each part of the shoe to have a specific reason for being.’
Nodding to his family’s winery in Vacaville, California, Stefan ensured the sockliner of the OG was made with cork. Elsewhere, the inclusion of a more traditional vulcanised sole unit – for the first time in a Nike SB shoe – would prove to be a masterstroke.
Beyond the Board
Despite its stripped back design, the Nike SB Janoski sparked a seismic shift in the skate shoe game. It was a throwback to classic vulcanised models of the past – particular those from a legendary Californian company based in Anaheim. Skaters realised they didn’t need tech-packed super shoes. After all, most just wanted the basics – namely grip, great boardfeel, good looks, and a reasonable price tag. The Janoski certainly ticked all those boxes.
Interestingly, Nike posted a nine per cent increase in sales the year after the release of the Janoski. However, it wasn’t just the kick-pushers who contributed to this. The canvas crep scene had a new favourite silhouette, with plenty falling in love with the Janoski and its minimalist, unpretentious looks. Soon enough, Janoskis grew to become streetwear staples, worn by skaters, casuals, and the cool crowd alike.
Kick-Flippin’ the Script
Perhaps ironically, the Janoski has moved away from the simplicity that made it a contemporary masterpiece, with Nike SB remixing it with performance and lifestyle tweaks over the years.
The list of Janoski variations continues to expand, with the OG Zoom Janoski followed by the likes of the Janoski Max, the Janoski Max 2, AC (Velcro), Lunar, Hyperfeel, Mid, Slip, Canvas Premium, Elite and Warmth. On top of that, the materials used for the uppers have varied between leather, canvas, mesh and suede. In the last 10 years, Nike SB have released over 1500 different versions of the humble sneaker, spanning across genders, ages, material builds, model offerings, and creation teams. Not to mention, it’s been part of Nike’s By You (formerly known as ID) platform since 2012.
Once garnering the affection of collaborators like Fragment Design, Poler Stuff, Thomas Campbell, Michael Lau, and Geoff McFetridge, the sneaker has stepped away from the spotlight in recent years. Nevertheless, thanks to the Janoski’s skater-first approach, Nike SB and the skate community have a modern classic, that will no doubt be thrashed for decades to come.