Remember the endless Core vs. Corporate shoe debates we used to have just a couple of years ago? Those conversations are long gone (since it’s pretty clear who won), but what exactly is making Nike, Adidas, Vans, and Cons such dominant forces in skateboarding? Is it their bottomless marketing budgets, their ability to make a superior product, their rider picks, or something else?
Rather than hypothesize or ask a bunch of crusty lifers (who will inevitably get their panties in a bunch) we decided to hit up some kids at the skatepark to find out what might convince them to wear or support a “core” (a.k.a. small or skater-started) shoe brand.
Now, before you pull your hair out and start calling the people we interviewed idiots, just remember, they’re kids. They didn’t grow up in a time when éS was the company with the best team, or when C1rca was actually able to pay riders. These are skaters living through a time where all of their favorite pros ride for a handful of big-named brands, so ease up on the kids and be receptive to the next generation.
You’re wearing Vans. What would it take for you to wear a smaller company’s shoes?
I had a pair of éS shoes actually. I got them for cheap and I just didn’t like the way they felt. They were too bulky and felt like old DC shoes. I like skinnier shoes. It’s all about style. It sucks because if you’re not a stylish brand you can’t make it.
What was the last shoe video you watched?
The last one I liked was the new HUF Video.
Did that make you want to buy a pair of HUFs?
Honestly, I forget that HUF makes shoes sometimes. So no, that didn’t make me want to buy them. I forget New Balance [Numeric] is a skate shoe company, but I saw their video. I just don’t see people wearing those so I don’t think about them really. The culture around the brand is important. Bigger companies can get their name out there more, and have a history of making good products. I know that Vans has good products because they’ve been around and I’ve always worn them and they have a culture.
Do you think having a giant team with all big names is more effective than having a team with a few upcoming skaters?
Yeah, little kids want to imitate their favorite skaters. Are you going to buy the shoe that Nyjah is wearing or the shoe that some young pro who is fresh out is wearing? Maybe that [new] dude has a good part, but Nyjah is what makes you want to buy the shoe.
Jonah: 15 – Elijah: 19 – Milo: 14
You guys are wearing Vans, Nike and Cons. Have you ever skated a smaller shoe brand before?
Milo: I’ve ridden some small brand’s shoes before and I just find Vans are easier to get and more affordable. I like Converse and Vans, specifically the Vans slip-on.
Jonah: I find the big companies to be more reliable because they have more money. I love Converse, the Vans slip-ons are great, too. I don’t know if the smaller brands like Etnies can live up to the same standard as Nike. The big sneakers are easier to get, whether it be online or at the mall.
What would make you want to wear a small brand skate shoe?
Jonah: A really cool, but simple shoe design could have me interested in them. Nothing too complicated or logos all over the place.
Milo: If I saw a lot of people wearing them I would definitely be more interested. It says something about that shoe if I see a lot of random people wearing that shoe.
Elijah: Yeah, if I saw a lot of people wearing a certain kind of Emerica shoe I’d be more tempted to buy it than if I saw a lot of people wearing a Nike shoe. Those core brands don’t appeal to me visually, the bigger companies usually have a more simple look.
What’s your favorite shoe company?
I’m wearing Nikes now, but they were a gift. The Vans slip-on is a perfect skate shoe for me. I find them comfortable.
What else do you look in a skate shoe?
Getting my money’s worth. Vans are easy to get, cheaper, you can buy them online… If a shoe is really popular I’ll try them. It’s happened before. I’ve seen a lot of people wearing Etnies but I haven’t tried them yet. Etnies are a lot more expensive than the shoes I usually buy. I’m not a big spender so a low price plays a big factor in my shoes.
You’re wearing Nike. What would it take for you to wear a smaller company’s shoes?
If they felt good on my feet and if I knew that they skated good… I just know Nike feels good. I’ve been skating for 5 years and I’ve almost always worn Nikes.
What do you think brands like éS and Emerica are doing wrong?
They just don’t make shoes that kids like. If they skated better and looked cooler then more people would like them more. I would like them more.
Who’s your favorite skater, and would you buy their pro shoe?
Reynolds. I skated Emericas once and I didn’t really like them. I didn’t like the way they looked and they lasted like two weeks.
So the company being “core” over big corporation doesn’t change anything for you?
No, I don’t think it matters. The quality is more important.
You’re wearing Vans. What would it take for you to wear a smaller company’s shoes?
I used to really like Vans and have worn them my whole life but if an older skater friend recommends a strong skate shoe I’d probably buy it. I’m wearing these Adidas because my friend, Antwuan, told me their material is really strong and durable. I feel like Vans are more of a fashion statement now.
If I see a lot of people wearing a skate shoe I usually have a pretty good idea that it’s a good shoe. I really wanna buy a pair of HUF sneakers. They don’t look the most durable but I really like their clothes and they have a good reputation too.
Why do you think many skaters aren’t buying smaller shoe brands like Etnies or Lakai?
I don’t wanna say it, but it’s a little too old school. Everyone is jumping on the Converse, Nike, Adidas wagon. Style and trends are more important than anything.
What do you think big brands do to get people onboard and make them trendy?
I mean, I haven’t seen an éS skateboarding commercial or anything recently. I go on the Berrics and a whole bunch of skate sites and I never see stuff for them. I just see Cons and Adidas and Nike. I guess that’s the downfall of those smaller companies.
Do you think teams have anything to do with that?
Well, Brandon Westgate left Emerica and that was like “Ah, man why’d he leave?” and I don’t think I’ve worn Emerica [shoes] since, but not because of that. Hell yeah, teams are important. Nike’s team is stacked and everyone likes those guys so people are obviously going to buy those [shoes]. Not too many people even know who’s on the éS team.
What would make you buy a pair of Emericas or Lakais?
I don’t ever see people selling those shoes for cheap, which is what I’m going for. Maybe a new design too. They’re all bulky and pretty behind. I wanna see some wavey shit. Toe caps or some shit [laughs].
Christian: 16 – Seth: 18 – Jean: 18
What’s your favorite shoe brand and why?
Christian: Vans has a great culture associated with them, and Adidas makes a great shoe. I feel good wearing Vans, supporting that skate culture.
Jean: Adidas has the best comfort and board feel out of any sneaker.
Seth: Yeah, Vans has a great thing going with House of Vans, and Adidas uses the best materials for their shoes. Like with Adidas, you can land primo and not break your ankles. I don’t know how Vans would do.
What would it take for you to wear a smaller company’s shoes?
Seth: If more sneaker companies had places like House of Vans I think they would get more support. Everyone loves skating at House of Vans. Or if these companies did more events and give the appearance that they’re actually on the scene.
Jean: I’ve ridden éS before and would definitely ride them again.
Christian: I’ve ridden Emerica shoes before and I would wear them again if I came across them. I would probably wear Emerica shoes more often if they were easier to get. Like if they had their own store, I would go there.
James: 20 – Todd: 23
You guys are wearing Vans and Cons. What would it take for you to wear a smaller company’s shoes?
Todd: If they remade the Westgate. The ones that looked like running shoes. I had a pair of those, they looked like aliens and a spaceship.
James: When Stay Gold came out I really wanted Reynolds 3s. I would skate them if they were given to me. I’m definitely not going to buy them. I’m a creature of habit and these are my fifth pair of [Chucks] in a row.
So you’re less likely to spend money on a shoe if you don’t know what it’s like?
James: Yeah, for sure. It’s rare that I pay full price for shoes. I try to find some sort of sale.
Todd: Price is huge. These are my first pair of these, but I would not buy them from a skate shop for like $80.
What can companies like éS, Emerica, and Lakai do to make you want to buy their products?
Todd: I think they’re kind of screwed. It might be too late, honestly. Actually, the Ryan Lay shoes for Etnies look cool… I would buy them because he’s sick, but only for a homie price, like $20. I’m not going to pay full price for any skate shoes. I’ll spend money on non-skate shoes. I wear these Vapor Max shoes and I dropped like $150 on those.