I know it sounds stupid but the Eurostar is maybe one of my top ten favourite things ever. It takes away all the stresses of flying (Queuing, long waiting times, shit seats) and replaces them with a train service so brisk and effortless I can be in Paris in the same amount of time it takes me to go home and see my parents in Leeds. That is amazing.
Eurostar is exactly how, on an unusually warm Wednesday last week, I came to be sat in an (alleged) ex-Brothel opposite skateboarding legend Stefan Janoski, talking about the runaway success of his signature Nike SB shoe.
To say this shoe changed modern skateboarding is a brash understatement. Not only do most skaters love it, but its looks and low-profile mean it’s immensely popular outside of skateboarding and has likely single handedly kept some smaller skate stores doors open, especially in these times of austerity. Not only that, but since it’s inception and runaway success, almost every single skate shoe brand has attempted to follow suit in order to keep up, it’s inception spawned a wealth of inferior copy-cat designs.
Likewise when his team mates shoes have had constant revisions, Stefan’s has remained unwavering and consistent, choosing to endlessly experiment with colours and materials then to fix what isn’t broken. I caught up with Stefan to talk about the phenomenon that is his shoe, and to see what else he was working on, both with his art and his skating.
I’m good, a little hungover [Laughs].
How did you first get involved with Nike?
It was because Omar Salazar and Brian Anderson and a bunch of my friends rode for Nike. I had a lot of friends there and I didn’t have a shoe sponsor at the time so I was like, “hey Omar, hey Brian, hook me up!”
What have you been up to recently?
With Nike? Ah man, just kinda being amazed at the popularity of my shoe really, we’ve been making all kinds of crazy colours. I’ve been doing a lot of crazy trips outside of Nike too, with Habitat restarting and Asphalt Yacht Club, so I’ve been going on more trips with them then I have Nike. Nike are doing Chronicles III, and I was in number 1, so they’re kinda doing their thing without me now.
I can see how excited you get when you talk about your own shoe, what do you think it is about it that made it do popular?
I just think that its a really good looking shoe, for one. I guess the Swoosh doesn’t really hurt that either, cos everyone likes Nike, they make really good shoes. It looks good on everyone, girls can wear it, dads can wear it, babies can wear it, but then at the same time it’s actually a really good skateboarding shoe. It actually is really good for skateboarding. I think just the ‘classicness’ of the design, and how it’s a Nike shoe, with that low profile design you know? I mean, when I got on the team there wasn’t’ a design like that, they had Dunks, they didn’t have anything low profile. When we made mine it really stood out from the other Nike shoes at the time. It’s just a good shoe [Laughs].
It’s grown to the point where the shoe has almost outgrown many people’s knowledge of you as a skater.
Oh yeah, definitely
Is that frustrating or do you see it as two separate entities?
Nah it’s not frustrating, its good. I like it. Me and my shoe are like two different people. Actually my shoe’s name is the Janowski for some reason, as people don’t read the tongues properly, and they add a ‘W” into my name. I just say my shoe is the Janowski and I’m Janoski. He can go off and do really well and I can just reap the rewards.
What I remember is discovering this shoe that seemed to have just the right amount of protection but was still really thin. It’s really functional, not to mention it’s a really classic design. What was the thought process there?
I think I have the best tongue in all of skateboarding shoes, because its just a piece of leather. What companies do when they try to make a skateboard shoe is they stuff the tongue full of stuffing, and all that does is make your pants look weird, and it protects nothing and it does nothing. So, my little slogan for the shoe when I was designing it was, ‘function over protection’. Because for skateboarding you to be able to feel your skateboard, you want to be closest to your foot, but you can’t be barefoot cos your feet would bleed and it would really hurt. But, I said I’d rather my feet bled if it’s easier to do the tricks with the shoes then you’ll mess up less. So actually, the pain equals out. So if you had these big puffy shoes that were supposed to save your feet, but your’e messing up more it equals out to the same pain.
How did the lunar evolve from the original design? I like the idea of Nike bringing running technology to Skateboarding, as it makes sense, with the extra protection and weight-loss etc.
Paul [Rodriguez] and Eric [Koston] had Lunar on their models, and when I made mine it was before they could do all the fake Vulc sole and all the cup soles that were shaped like Vulcanised, so I had to do a Vulc sole cos they couldn’t make the toe as flat with the soles at that time. So they had the Lunarlon and they were like ‘We’re gunna try it with your shoes’, and we didn’t know that it would look good, but it just worked really well.
It’s astonishing the weight difference too
It’s crazy, they’re so light.
Do you plan on making a new pro model or would you rather develop the original design further?
Nah I think thats it for now, if it’s not broke don’t fix it.
Talk us through the idea for the Janoski Max, was the aim to have more of a lifestyle shoe as well?
Nah nothing like that, Nike just said ‘Hey check this out’, and I was like, “Woah thats insane, is it still going to be my shoe?”, they were like yeah so I was cool with it! [Laughs].
Are you stoked about the Flash Pack? I know some skaters are anti ‘active wear’, but anything that keeps you safe at night is good right?
Its awesome, less kids will be hit by cars while skating at night I guess. I wonder if it’s bad for skate photos though? If you’re shooting at night with a camera flash, all you’d see is glowing shoes. I dunno, I’ve not tried them.
Its a good move for Nike though right? I mean, encouraging being reflective at night.
That reflective stuff is amazing, I want them to do a whole shoe out of the reflective. Would look so crazy when you filmed in those with a light, just two floating feet! I like the Flashpack, is that ad out yet with the flashlights? Did you see that? Thats really cool.
I feel like in Action Sports, proper reflective stuff like that, that is safe, is kinda scoffed at. The challenge is presenting it in a way that makes it cool.
Anything presented in an un-kooky way will be acceptable you know?
What’ve you been up to skate-wise? You said you’ve been doing more stuff with Habitat?
These days it’s just content all the time for the internet, everyone always needs their content for the website, so just been doing that type of stuff. Same old stuff, skating and filming, but instead of working on one project it just kinda disperses through the internet.
Is your entire life just content now?
Yeah just skating and straight into the camera and straight onto the internet [Laughs].
How are the winters there and not being able to skate as much or do you get to travel enough to make up for it?
I haven’t been anywhere [Home] for longer than two months in over ten years so I don’t really have a problem with the winters or anything.
Obviously outside of skateboarding you’re an artist. How do those two worlds fit together?
They do for me. Lately because the skate companies want to do art shoes with me, so thats been nice. Like tonight I’m going to have six sculptures at the [Desillusion] party and then in Biarritz we’re going to do another one. Also Official, the hat company I ride for, they helped me set up one in London so when I had an art show there, they set it all up. I dunno if they are really related to each other, but I think since skateboarding is such a personality thing, it’s not just dependent on your skateboarding skills really, it’s more dependant on your whole person, so thats..
… your personal brand
Yeah exactly. I’ve always done art but when I started making sculptures in bronze people really started to like it and take notice, which has resulted in stuff like now, coming to Paris to show my work.
Do you get chance to check out other skaters art shows, like Shawn Powers show in NY recently?
I didn’t see that one, but I wish I did, I like that guy a lot. I went to Thomas Campbell’s art show. I’ve never been to an Ed Templeton show but I’m a fan of his art. It’s funny, a lot of my friends who skate are really good at art, cos skating is a really creative thing, so I think a lot of people who skate have other creative hobbies too. Through skating people get into photography and videography and art and it’s all the same creative sphere.
What have you got lined up next?
I’m going to South Korea!
No way, how long for?
10 days, just to skate and film, I’m going with my hat sponsor, Official. They’re a really cool company and I’m pretty excited. Everyone I know says it’s awesome, and i’ve heard it’s really good to skate so I’m looking forward to it. I’m not nervous, I’m more “woah”, cos it’s cool to go places you’ve never been, that are actually different cos a lot of places you go and you’re like “oh cool, lets go to Starbucks”.
Yeah kinda defeats the object doesn’t it.
You can grab Stefan’s shoe from any Nike SB retailer and find out more about him and Nike SB on their website.