Any other weird shoe trends?
Cutting down full-cabs to half-cabs was pretty big in my day. Rick Howard was the first one I saw do that, and I was like ‘that dude is a fucking genius, that looks sick.’ I always thought the Half-cab could have been Rick Howard’s pro-shoe as well.
You ended up skating for Vans?
I did, off and on. Being a vert skater, you are already back against the wall, we travel with knee pads, and if you have some lame ass shoe on, its even worse, pointing out the herpes sore. In that first Real video I even said “I’m working on being marketable,” cause they had told me “we want you to ride for Real, and we want you to go far, but the reason James Kelch’s board sells is cause he looks cool and he’s a figure at EMB, and on top of everything he’s marketable” And I remember leaving the office and thinking ‘that fucking sucked, that conversation was fucked up,’ and basically they were saying, ‘don’t be a vert goon.’
Were there things you needed different for your shoes as a vert skater than a street skater?
You know what, I didn’t think so, I remember thinking whatever shoes my peers were wearing, like Mike Carroll’s Chukka Boots look sick. I think its all the same, I still skate in Era’s or Classics. I still wear low tops on vert. But because I was around Jake Phelps, who was wearing bigger shoes, I thought you needed hi-tops on vert, but then I realized, it didn’t matter, you were going to get fucked up either way. And I just want to feel my board most of all. I have been skating in Vans Era’s, I had 40 pairs that Vans sent me… but I ran out the other day and was skating some poka-dot Dollins. They were a pro series with a removable insole, which I hadn’t had in awhile, and I skated in them and it was one of the best sessions of my life. I’m sure it didn’t have just to do with the shoes, but I could still feel the board. So, I might be skating those for awhile.
What about the shoe for Syndicate? Did you have a lot of things you wanted to incorporate?
Yeah, without a doubt. I was working with that dude Jon, who is a designer. I don’t know if he’s still there, he writes for Hypebeast as well. And he came to the house with a sketchbook, and we sat there and sketched this shoe out… I’m sure you don’t know this, but I’ve been skating everyday lately, and I’ve been filming… but 10 years ago, I was so wrapped up in the motorcycle thing, and it was at the beginning of it becoming fashionable, and I remember asking “is this for skating or bike stuff?” and they said “it doesn’t have to be skating, if you want to make it functional for your motorcycle then do that.” So that is where I went with that. At the time I hadn’t seen the Mountain design in forever, and I said ‘that Mountain shoe is rad for your bike, cause right where your shifter goes, there’s that little lace saver.’ And I wanted the inside tire, its like an asymmetrical shoe, the inside is a higher high-top then the outside, I was like ‘the motor gets hot and it will protect your ankles.’ We tried to get that silver flame proof material, but it was too expensive. It has that little brass bolt on it, cause all my 4Q bikes have that brass hardware. There was a shit load of input actually on the high top of that shoe.
And this year we are doing an all black version, which is something I wanted originally, but it didn’t make sense at the time because it didn’t work with the red and white ones as a set.
Its kind of cool that its going to be all black, because I still have an all black sample at the time Jon was like “this all black one is so rad, but then it would mean the red one would have to be all red and that would be too loud.” I wanted the red and white one because of Oakland and the H.A. and I thought it would be cool.
And you changed the logo from the mountain to the bridge?
Well, a lot of people think its the bridge, but its actually the crane, one of those Oakland ship yard cranes.
And the insole is a gas tank?
That’s right, it has fish scale on the inside? I was way into painting those at the time.
And the box looked like a box for motorcycle parts?
Yeah, I actually gave them a box for an old Harley part that had mildew on it. It actually had a spark plug in it from the 60’s… and I remember getting the sample with the box and just thought it was out of sight, I remember being so stoked on just the box. Some people even thought there was really mildew on the box. I have twenty here and when they are stacked it looks sick. Part of the deal was when we did the shoe, I got quite a bit of them to give to my friends and skate them over time, and they look pretty neat stacked up.
Its cool you got to have that much input in the shoe. Sometimes its just a color-way and thats it.
Well, as I was saying, I’m kind of a vert skater, and not marketable, so when they came to me it was shocking that I spent so many nights thinking about it, and when they finally came to me, I had all these ideas. And I think that surprised them. I was getting some recognition in Japanese bike magazines, and I think they just were like “let’s pour everything into this one and let this geek go off with it.” It had a killer box, and cool bag, and motorcycle grips. It was high-top, low-top and two colors. And at the time they told me it sold better than any other Syndicate shoe, and I think so much of it had to do with that they put the extra buck into it. They did say they weren’t going to make a dollar on it, but it was a cool project. I was really shocked how much they agreed to do.