A brief history of UK Pro Skate Shoes
The creation of your very own pro skate shoe is one of the highest awards you can be honoured with throughout your time in the world of sponsored skateboarding – aside from the fact that you and thousands of other folk around the globe can swan about in specially designed plimsolls that proudly sport your family name, it doesn’t hurt that the royalty cheques are (more often than not) rather healthy looking too.
We thought it would be amusing and educational to go back through the recent history books and look into which talented home-grown individuals have been honoured with footwear props over the years – both pro models and a few notable colourways – and compile them all with some info for you to have a quick scan over. This is not meant to be in any way comprehensive so don’t feel too heartbroken if we’ve missed your favourite childhood shoe off the list.
1996 – Geoff Rowley – Airwalk.
Near enough fresh off the plane to America and living in California full time, a 20-year-old Geoff Rowley was blessed with this signature beast from Airwalk. A far cry from the slimmed down, simple numbers he would later become famous for with Vans, these well-cushioned fellas look like they were designed for hiking and would survive a nuclear blast. I wonder how many pairs of these are left in existence?
UK Pro Skate Shoes
1999 – Geoff Rowley – Vans.
Turning the shoe game completely on its oversized head, in 1999 Geoff released his first pro shoe on Vans and took as bigger leap away from the footwear trends of 1999 as humanly possible. Out went the bloated bulletproof Deathstar looking space hoof, in came low cut, vulcanised and thin shoes that actually helped you feel your board. From that point on, the skate shoe industry embarked on a massive U-turn in terms of footwear design, all of which is single handedly down to good old Geoff, a 23-year-old lad from Liverpool.
2000/2001 – Danny Wainwright – Vans.
This brief history lesson is borrowed from Danny Wainwright’s own Instagram - @dannywainwright – in case you needed telling.
“This was the 1st one that came out in 2000 but not even close to what I wanted to do, I wanted a presto type shoe with running profile, super light and with a sock liner like a Huarache but it turned out more like a house brick that you could sink a ship with. Good times. Don’t know how I could walk in these let alone skate in them."
“My second vans shoe from years back, better than the first but still not quite as I'd wanted, the tongue felt like a full sized sleeping bag rolled up and stuffed in my shoe but the shoe did work quite well."
2003 – Tom Penny – éS.
Everyone knows the infamous story about éS repeatedly asking Tom Penny to have a think about what he wanted his debut pro shoe to look like, and him just sending them a Timberland boot (or Columbian hiking boot, truth be told) for the design team to work with, don’t they? Well in the summer of 2003, after years of designs, redesigns and all the rest, Sole Tech unleashed the first Penny shoe on the world. Obviously taking influence from Tom’s beloved Accel model, with some Columbian hiking boot genetics in the mix, the shoes flew off the shelves all over the globe to the waiting droves of eager Penny enthusiasts. éS issued a revamped second version of the shoe in 2004, just before Tom jumped ship to join the emerging Supra Footwear roster.
UK Pro Skate Shoes
2004 – John Rattray – Savier.
Savier Footwear then; the early 2000’s holding pen for many of the riders who would go on to make up the first Nike SB line up – namely Brad Staba, Stefan Janoski and Brian Anderson. Following a high profile stint on Circa, Aberdeen’s very own John Rattray also became a firm part of the Savier crew, and in 2004 became the first Scotsman to enter the pro skate shoe ring with the Reebok Workout-esque ‘Rattray’ model. Though Savier went the journey shortly after, John carried on to release pro shoes on another two companies – Osiris and éS - some of which we’ll be crossing historical paths with soon enough…
A few years behind his fellow Liverpool brethren Geoff Rowley, Brian Sumner landed himself a couple of pro shoes on the Tony Hawk era incarnation of Adio. Admittedly, The Tao wasn’t too bad all in all, though Brian’s foray into the signature footwear game will probably be best remembered for The Sumner, a suitably sized boot for the early-to-mid 2000s era from which it hails, the most memorable colourway of which came complete with an impossible to ignore Union Jack on the side.
Though their joint section on Lakai’s hugely anticipated first full length offering ‘Fully Flared’ was still a whole year away, in 2006 Nick Jensen and Danny Brady were given a special ‘Royal Family’ edition of the Telford shoe as part of the company’s first collaboration with Blueprint Skateboards. Several more Blueprint orientated collaborations were to follow over the coming years, but the release of this first Telford model is definitely the most memorable, mainly owing to the Dan Magee crafted detailing on the shoe itself, alongside the striking box artwork, and the fact that the duo embarked on a brief UK tour to promote its release.
2006 – Sidewalk – Globe.
Sometimes an opportunity comes around that’s simply too good to decline. 2006 saw the arrival of the Globe X Sidewalk Finale shoe. - “These twats will survive acid war" – say no more.
2006 onwards – Tom Penny – Supra.
Having parted ways with éS following the release of his second signature shoe, The Oxford Don quickly became part of the furniture over at Supra and has, since 2006, churned out a whole number of pro shoes which range from simple, slim looking designs to the space boot like high tops which Tom continually loves to rock. For someone whose first shoe (as previously mentioned) was modeled on a Columbian hiking boot, the Penny endorsed back catalogue of footwear is surprisingly varied and seemingly has something to offer everyone.
2007 – Vaughan Baker – Emerica.
Emerica was the home of Vaughan Baker and his nimble feet throughout most of his professional skateboarding career, and following the release of Blueprint’s ‘Lost and Found’ DVD back in 2005, he was granted his own collaborative colourway of their Trans-Em shoe. The original shoe itself was one Vaughan was fond of wearing, though with the involvement of Dan Magee this 2007 reworking had a distinctive Blueprint feel to it; the innersoles even featured some artwork drawn by V-man himself, which had been previously incorporated into Blueprint graphics.
2010 – Joe Gavin – Etnies.
Before Joe Gavin upped footwear sticks joined the Swoosh in 2013, he’d been part of the Etnies family for well over a decade. In 2010, his on-going service to Etnies was rewarded with his own Manchester based colourway of the RVM shoe as part of their first ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ project, which paired Joe and Manchester with Willow and his native Berlin. Obviously the shoe featured the famous Mancunion ‘worker bee’, with the predominantly blue colourway chosen as a nod to Manchester City Football Club.
2006/2010 – Jody Smith – DC
Throughout his extensive tenure representing DC, Jody Smith managed to rack up two separate colourways – the Denimtash in 2006 and the Crown in 2010.
The appropriately named Denimtash, as the name suggests, incorporated denim into their European Collective series (not sure what the ‘tash’ part of the name is about), with the more straight forward Cornish flag sporting Crown colourway arriving a few years later in 2010.
2011 – Barney Page – Etnies.
The second ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ project involved the ginger all terrain powerhouse of Barney Page and his beloved hometown of Exeter. This time around, Barney chose to customise Etnies’ Scam shoe, keeping the colourway simple (black and white, with some orange details), including Exeter’s crest on the tongue with his date of birth found on the insole. Barney also went in for the project’s accompanying video clip, shutting down a variety of spots all over Exeter, as well as further afield in the nearby West Country where skateable terrain is a bit more forthcoming.
2011 – Supra – Scott ‘Horsey’ Walker.
Through his involvement in Todd Bratrud’s The High Five board outfit (now Send Help), back around 2011, Essex’s Scott ‘Horsey’ Walker found himself in the States on an increasingly regular basis, and wound up included in Supra’s first Three Amigos project, alongside Furby and Spencer Hamilton, earning himself a one off colourway of their Amigo shoe in the process. The simple navy shoe was customised to include a Union Jack on the heel (obviously), as well as the Essex ‘Three Swords’ crest on the innersole.
So 2011 came around, and having parted ways with Osiris, Wee Rattbox re-entered the pro shoe game with his hugely popular ‘Ecosse’ model for éS. The shoe itself was a fairly straightforward affair and came accompanied with a video by Alex Craig (of H’min Bam fame) that also featured cameos from Div Adam and Rick McCrank, amongst many other notable heads. Also in 2011, éS released a special Rattray colourway of the Square Two in royal blue and white, which also featured the Saltire on the tongue. Unfortunately éS was placed on ‘creative hiatus’ for four years not long after both of these shoes were released, sending John back into the footwear wilderness for another brief spell.
2012 – Danny Brady – Lakai.
Over the years, Lakai have released several shoes sporting the Brady name, though these 2012 Belmont XLK’s definitely come to mind ahead of the others (for us at least, you may disagree). A simple, slim shoe offered in black and grey, the Belmont both skated great and also looked dapper down the boozer - what more do you need from a T’Brady endorsed skate shoe?
2012 – Chewy Cannon – adidas.
In 2012, adidas rewarded Chewy Cannon’s years of dedication to the Three Stripe cause by giving Gorleston’s finest his very own colourway of their Campus Vulc shoe. Chewy has obviously had more colourways since this one, though as this was his first, adidas threw young Louis a massive party in Liverpool in conjunction with his then shop sponsor of Lost Art which took in a packed out session at the city’s New Bird spot and a typically rowdy party/skate jam afterwards at the nearby Camp and Furnace venue. Check the Hold Tight Henry produced video clip of the proceedings here.
2015 – Nick Jensen – Lakai.
Prior to his departure from the Lakai camp, Nick Jensen was given one last pro colourway, this time around as part of a collaboration with Isle Skateboards that saw Nick and co customise the Griffin XLK shoe. Keeping it as stylish as ever, the shoe came in a timeless black and white colourway, proudly sporting the Isle logo on the tongue.
2015 – Lucien Clarke – Supra.
The most recent member of the UK scene to find his name embroidered on some footwear is Palace Skateboards pro Lucien Clarke, who came correct late last year with a special PWBC edition of Supra’s Quattro shoe. Aside from the shoe itself, which incorporates 3M detailing to help keep you easy to spot to motorists during your winter night missions, the launch for the collaboration saw James Edson and Daniel ‘Snowy’ Kinloch raid the photographic archives and piece together a PWBC retrospective exhibition which Supra took on tour around Europe in a typically lively fashion.