Sneaker Book Club: Made For Skate
It's time for another instalment of Sneaker Book Club! The aim is simple: we look at interesting sneaker-related tomes that have been published over the years. The only stipulation is that the text must have been published in physical form: books, magazines, encyclopedias, etc. Without further ado, read on...
Made For Skate: The Illustrated History of Skateboard Footwear is celebrating its 10th anniversary with an updated edition that’s coming out in November 2019. To mark the occasion, Sneaker Book Club revisits the original edition, published in 2008.
While the historical image on the front cover of Made For Skate may suggest differently, footwear has been an integral part of the sport’s growth in the past 50-plus years.
The commonly accepted, abridged version of skateboarding history is that it began some time in the late 40s or early 50s. Along the way, a greater importance was placed on protecting feet as skate-able surfaces evolved — subsequently, so did skate shoes.
Here are just five (out of dozens) significant moments in the history of skate:
The First Skate Shoe: Randy 720 – 1965
Skate footwear wouldn’t exist today if not for the Randolph Rubber Company. Suede uppers combined with vulcanised soles to offer durability and boardfeel. Despite its use of reinforced ‘TUFF TOE’N HEEL’ inserts made from a mysterious material called ‘Randyprene’, Randy 720s were apparently not very durable. However, it set the foundations for skate-shoe design in the following decades. Brands like the Van Doren Rubber Co., better known today as Vans, would come along shortly after to build on Randy’s work.
Skate-etball: Wilson Skateboard Shoes – Late 1970s
The 70s experienced both a peak and sharp decline in the popularity of skateboarding. It was due to a number of factors, but what hurt the most (besides the bails) were the shoes. Wilson adapted a basketball shoe for skate, which sold readily at $17.99 during the boom, before struggling to sell at $3.00 following the collapse. However, this wouldn’t be the last time basketball shoes were used for skating…
Air Jordan 1 – 1985
Yes, it’s that iconic still of the Bones Brigade during the filming of 1987's The Search for Animal Chin. Given the AJ1’s current omnipresence in both the sneaker and skate culture, it comes as no surprise this connection began organically over 30 years ago. The combination of an ankle-hugging, durable leather construction and a flexible sole proved effective on the court, and it also happened to work pretty well on griptape! Your favourite skaters’ favourite skaters wore the Air Jordan 1 during their formative years: Steve Caballero and Lance Mountain, among others. A few years later, young Eric Koston missed out…
Globe – 1994
Across the other side of the ‘Globe’ in Australia, brothers Matt, Steven and Peter Hill got into the skate-shoe game. Like in America, surfing and skateboarding were paramount activities Down Under. Boasting street skateboarding god Rodney Mullen in their roster meant the designs needed to be functional, not just stylish. Having expanded into a huge organisation owning and distributing over 30 brands since 1994, Globe International is a force to be reckoned with. The company’s Melbourne headquarters also serves as the base for the Australian leg of Sneaker Freaker’s legendary Swap Meet.
Nike SB – 2002
Notwithstanding their late-90s efforts, Nike officially re-launched their skateboarding (SB) line in 2002. With the late Sandy Bodecker at the helm during the golden era, focus on the modified Dunk silhouette with more padding, audacious colourways and wild themes sparked a renaissance in contemporary sneaker collector culture. Whether or not this was beneficial or detrimental to the skate scene remains to be seen, but the current skateboarding zeitgeist (and the sport's inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics) was undoubtedly shaped by the impact of the Swoosh in the 2000s.
Made For Skate is published by Gingko Press. Keep an eye out for the 10th anniversary edition later this year.