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MADE FOR SKATE

Getting your kicks wasn’t easy for skaters in the UK and Eu- rope in the late 70s and early 80s. You really had to scramble to get your hands on a pair of skateable shoes. Simply walking into a skate shop was only an option in a hand- ful of metropolitan cities, and high street stores or shopping centers were still decades away from carrying skate brands. “No one really carried skate shoes back then, you had to mail order them from the US,” said Don Brown about growing up skating in England. “And even Converse were hard to come by. You basically had to catch a train to London for a few hours from where I lived.” How did European skaters get by? Like they always did. By using that quintessential Do-It-Your- self-spirit on which European skateboarding is built. Already undeterred by the scarcity of rideable terrain and hardware, early European skaters would press on and appropriate any- thing they could into skate shoes. “A lot of people would get some kind of generic shoes out of department stores, anything that was cheap and disposable,” Don Brown said. Bottom Feeding for Cheap Kicks. All over Europe, any shoe was game to be tried out for skat- ing. “Way back in the early days, we had any kind of no-name, cheap-o-sneakers,” said former professional skateboarder Claus Grabke from Germany. Another option consisted of fish- ing at the bottom of the sales bin for the cheapest models by your country’s native shoe brands, such as adidas and Puma in Germany or Clarke’s in the UK. Over years of trial-and-error testing, a number of classic shoe choices emerged as mainstays of the continental skate scene. “I remember skating these adidas shoes called ‘Nizza’ a lot,” Claus Grabke said. “There were also those low-cut Puma shoes and of course the first high-top Nikes.” Over in England, Don Brown would rely on Dunlop’s “Green Flash” sneakers that were a staple among skaters at the time thanks to their flexible sole and good grip. The roots of the Dunlop company go all the way back to the mid-19th Century, when the Liverpool Rubber Company owned by John Boyd Dunlop patented a way of sticking rubber to canvas. The Green Flashes were “green” in more than one way, relying on entirely vegan materials – which is among the biggest selling points of a recent re-issue aimed at fashion-conscious club kids. Doing Things Differently Soon enough, traditional English shoemakers Clarke’s filled the gap with their Stunter model, a canvas high-top much in the image of a Chuck Taylor with a number of additional skate-specific features. These included ribbed ankle padding, as well as wrap-around toe rubber support and a padded heel section. Although the company declared in full page ads that “Sports Science Professors” had helped create this skate-specific shoe, the Stunter scored poorly in reviews in British Skateboard magazine, mostly due to the rubber crepe sole being “not very grippy” with an overall “knobby feel.” The review con- cluded: “It’s hard to believe that a major manufacturer could get it so wrong.” Skateboard shoes UK and Europe 82

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