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Six Kicks With Steve Caballero

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Thrasher magazine's Skater of the Century Steve Caballero blessed Bondi's recently, flying high in the Masters division. He slipped off his deck for a little bit to talk to us about six pivotal sneakers in his life, the minefield of athlete endorsement deals and staying at the top of the game.

Six Kicks

1. The first sneakers I bought myself were... Nike Blazer 77s.
I bought some all-leather Nikes back in 1977. I wanted then because all the cool kids had them at the skate park. The first day I wore them was at the Winchester skate park in 1977. I don't have them anymore.

2. My go-to sneaker brand is... Vans.
Vans have a good style and design. My favorite model is the Half Cab.

3. My beaters are… Vans Half Cab.
Half Cabs once again, mine are in ridden condition though. The toes are worn down from knee sliding on a vert ramp.

4. My show stopper shoes are… Metallica x Vans Half Cab

5. I love women who rock …. Vans Old Skool Low Tops.

6. My holy grail is… Any Bape colab.
I'd love to get some A Bathing Ape sneaker colabs. That would be cool!

SF: Welcome to Melbourne, Steve. Are you still enjoying yourself – travelling the world and skating? Does it feel like a real job?
SC: Yeah, well I’ve always treated being sponsored as a job – from day one. Even though skateboarding started out for me as a hobby, I knew that once I got hired as someone to help promote a product, I would be expected to perform for that. So I’ve always considered my sponsorships a job, so for my whole career since 1979 I’ve been working for Powell Peralta, and since '88, I’ve been working for Vans, so everything that I do for them to me is considered work.

What about Vans and Powell Peralta has kept you loyal? I bet you’ve been offered a few deals from other places as well?
Yeah, you know, I’ve stayed loyal to Vans because I just know everything is a relationship and they’re not always going to be happy-go-lucky, there’s always going to be problems with relationships. What I found out is you just have to stick with it and you have to compromise. There have been three times I could have left Vans because of how I was feeling, how I was being treated, but I didn’t, I didn’t base my career and my decisions on how I was feeling. But feelings come and go, you know, we don’t always feel the same way about something, especially if you let some time pass. Later on we might think, “Oh man I was thinking that way, and I’m glad I didn’t decide something when I was feeling that way because it can change your destiny of where you’re leading the future.” So I’ve stuck through the hard times and the good times with Vans and am be proud to say I’ve been with the company since ’88, and very proud to say I’ve been with Powell Peralta since 1979, there’s been highs and lows in that company as well. But in the end, it’s something that I can show for who I am in this industry and I think loyalty goes a long way, you know, it’s very respectful. I’m very honoured, it’s something that not many skateboarders can say – that they’ve been with these companies for so long. So it’s just a testament of enduring things in relationships. I’m glad I did because if I had left Vans, who knows where I would be now. I stick with companies that want to support me and I support them back, 100 percent.

Wise words! We’d love to talk about the Cab and Half Cab. You were the first skater to get a signature sneaker. What did you think when Vans originally approached you?
You know what, when Vans first approached me in 1988 to sponsor me, I was excited because I’d been wearing their shoes since 1977 and throughout that time I was just getting shoes but never getting paid for it. So I signed the contract and eventually the Cab came out, and for three years it became really popular and then in around the early 90s,  I started seeing this trend where a lot of street skaters started cutting my shoe in half and then duct taping it and sewing them together. So I started doing the same thing, because I am a trendy person myself, and finally after the third pair I was just like, “Man, I’m over this, I’m calling Vans up”. I called Vans and said, “Hey, let’s make these shoes like this and call it the Half Cab, we’ll put a silhouette of me doing a trick on it, let’s go for it.” They liked the idea and that’s now the staple, that’s how the Half Cab was born.

Nice. It must have felt weird to have people cutting up your shoe initially though?
Yeah well if I wasn’t a trendy person the Half Cab would probably not be here today! If I see something or a way something is going, and I am attracted to it then I will go with the flow. I saw the trend of skateboarding go from vert skating in bowls to the streets,  and I went with it. A lot of skaters that couldn’t hang with the street skating kind of fell off and they’re out of the sport. I wanted to still participate with the industry and I knew I had to adapt to that. I knew I had to sacrifice everything that I’d learned up to that point and put that away and discover something new about skateboarding, so I put the popsicle stick together and learned how to kick flip and just kind of did my own thing. I learned a lot in the 90s about a skateboarding aspect that I never even knew about. So yeah, it was cool.

Stay tuned for an extended interview with Cab in the upcoming issue of Sneaker Freaker Magazine.

Interview and portrait pics by Terry Ricardo. Additional photos via I Dig Your Sole Man and Vans.

Originally published on March 5, 2013

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