To what extent do you, a skateboarder, actually design a shoe?
adidas sent out two members of the design team to Philadelphia, and we had lunch, and spoke about all my favourite shoes, and spoke about my influences. Then we went around downtown Philly to all the different shoe stores and talked about all the different elements and aspects of shoes. I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted: open toecap, distinctive lines, a distinctive architecture that wasn’t functional but just gave it a decorative aspect without being overly tech, and I wanted it to be cupsole. From there, the designers opened up different conversations and things fell into place and influenced the rest of the parts to follow. I had so much say in it, even down to the texture on the sole, and the way that there is no padding on the sole, in the shoe structure itself, it’s all in the insole, which is a huge thick thing. I feel like that was a contemporary thing that we were able to do because the insole technology now is so much better than it was ten years ago.
That big soft rubbery blue thing really does feel nice. The slim versions are out now too, but if the first one was the perfect shoe that you could think up, was it weird doing it again and changing it?
Those changes were all mine and Scott Johnson’s. Scott Johnson definitely led the way in those discussions, but he was articulating things that I was feeling. All throughout the designing of the first shoe, and the conversations for the second, I felt, “Man, I wish this was ten years ago and my 14 year-old self, who was such a shoe nerd, could come to the fore and tell them exactly what to do with it”, because now I’ve let these things slip away and they’re not so important to me any more. After wearing the first shoe for a while, I was thinking it was a little bit floppy. After you break it in, on the toe it would form waves, and that was because there were three separate panels on the toe. Now it’s hard to figure out which idea was mine and which was Scott’s, but I’m pretty sure that from the beginning we knew we had to make it one panel, and keep those lines but make them just decorative. Stitches, that even if they blow out, are not going to affect the panel itself. So now, as the shoe gets older it still keeps its shape, which is, you know... Beautiful. There was this thing at the back of the shoe, where if you wore it for a long time the inner heel would kinda disintegrate and it would look like you were walking with a weird limp, like your ankle would go in at the back. Walking around New York I’d see people wearing my shoe and it had just been worn into the ground, and the inner heel is demolished. So they’re just walking with sideways feet, and I’m thinking, “No way. This can’t be my shoe”.
“I’m responsible for this, I need to do something.”
Exactly. So I told Scott about this, and he said that it might be because there’s not enough structure. The first shoe has mesh in quite a bit of the inner upper, it goes from suede to mesh, and the new shoe has only suede.
The new shoe has mesh on the outside, and the first one didn’t.
Yeah. We switched those two things around to keep the breathability, but we wanted the mesh out of the heel so that it would have better structure and stand up more. We also narrowed it down; we narrowed down the u-throat, the lace things, which gives a new structure to the shoe. Those were the main things I wanted to address, and I felt that the heel was slipping a bit, so I told Scott and he said that maybe we had to raise the padding a bit so it catches your heel more. But I think the new slimness of the shoe fixes that problem. Scott suggested moving the main stitch, the separation between panels, moving that back from the ollie box to get it out of the way. From there we just spruced it up, and those decisions were all Scott’s. The sprucing. There’s a little detail, the place where the stripes go towards the laces, there’s a bit of a raised patch of suede and as you follow that raised patch down it all of a sudden goes flush into the shoe, in this cool mixture of flushedness and raisedness. Haha!