The Ganja Grind: Skate Brands’ Losing Love Affair with Dad Shoes
Skaters have set fashion trends for decades, but skateboarding’s legacy shoe brands were late to the party when it came to the chunky sneaker craze.
Published on January 15, 2019

Cannabis and skateboarding are like peanut-butter and jelly; they’re both great on their own, but even better together. In our column The Ganja Grind, we’ll take you into the fold of what to look out for in the world of skateboarding. From interviews with our favorite pros and compilations of social media hijinks, to video reviews and sneaker releases, this series will get your week rolling.

Think of a menswear fashion trend from the past few decades, and skateboarders will tell you they started it. Graphic t-shirts? Skaters will take credit for that, thank you very much. Normcore? Skaters, they say. High-water cuffs and Converse? Been there, done that. Those fanny packs-turned-shoulder bags that can only accommodate two joints and a dead iPhone? Definitely skaters. “You know, Supreme is just a skate shop,” they’ll say.

And like clockwork, once the mainstream fashion industry has caught up to the latest progression, skaters are already pushing onto the next big thing; from baggy cargos to painted-on ripped denim, bootleg corduroy, and then Dickies, until it’s eventually back to velcro hip pockets… but this time in camo. It’s a cycle as old as fashion itself, but that won’t stop your local skatepark lurker from claiming that Peter Smolik was the first person ever to wear track pants outside the gym.

In 2018, though, instead of accepting credit for the year’s biggest sneaker trend and moving on to something new, the skater-owned shoe industry tripped over itself. Departing decades of forward progress in favor of a few steps backwards, skateboarding’s endemic shoe brands dove clumsily into the fashion industry’s recent obsession with overtly clunky dad shoes. But in an attempt to catch-up to multinational sportswear brands with relatively new skate divisions, homegrown skate shoe brands failed to score significant points with fashion fiends or young rippers, and appealed mostly to aging ex-skaters. It was a literal dad move in all the wrong ways.

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A perfect storm of late ‘90s/early aughts East Coast nostalgia and rushed marketing, the beefy skate shoe resurgence was set in motion in late 2017 by Philadelphia’s resurgent downtown skate scene, and vintage-obsessed skaters like New York transplant John Shanahan. Combined with an overall need for core shoe brands to differentiate themselves from relative industry newcomers like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance, as well as the larger, haute-couture fashion world’s year-long obsession with oversized lawn mower kicks, the table seemed set for companies like DC Shoes, éS, and Osiris to ride the wave and grasp at a return to their turn-of-the-millenium dominance.

In September 2017, as Balenciaga and Adidas’ Yeezy line began to push clunky silhouettes back to retail shelves and into the hearts of hypebeasts, skaters everywhere marveled at the release of independent Philly skate video Sabotage 5, in which Brian Panebianco, Kevin Bilyeu and a who’s who of the Brotherly Love locals were able to land never-been-done tricks in vintage DC Lynx that had been collecting dust bunnies for nearly 15 years. Once again highlighting skaters’ foresite, the final Sabotage installment premiered just eight days after the initial release of the Balenciaga Triple S, the $800 sneaker largely credited with sparking the dad shoe trend.

And so after a decade overshadowed by major athletic brands producing slim, pared down skate shoes hailed for their “board feel” and quick break-in times, skateboarding’s sneaker companies went as big as they could, bringing back near stitch-for-stitch reissues of the aforementioned DC Lynx, as well as the DC Syntax and Legacy, the éS Scheme, and, of course, a steady supply of the era’s most memorable baked potato, the Osiris D3 2001, complete with both OG and newly-fluorescent colorways.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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