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.
June 8, 2018 2:55 pm
Is it strange the Lakai was not mentioned once in this article? Where do they fall on the scale of big v. small brand?
June 8, 2018 3:02 pm
Nevermind I see it mentioned once. whoops.
June 8, 2018 3:27 pm
dang bert finish the article or open your eyes before you comment. Last questions explicitly asked about lakai
March 16, 2022 6:48 pm
Yes the same thing I have read it on skateboardwarriors.com too anyway it’s pretty much helpful
June 8, 2018 4:15 pm
Lakai was mentioned a ton of times dumb shit
June 8, 2018 4:43 pm
Technically idk if you can consider Lakai a small or “core” brand anymore, as they were sold to a company called Altamont (different one) that owns a bunch of companies. TBH I think that’s why Koston and Mariano had no more qualms about leaving for Nike.
June 9, 2018 2:50 am
It was mentioned lots of times, literally in the last comment for example…
August 14, 2018 8:21 pm
lol Emerica’s suck
September 24, 2019 9:20 pm
Your mother sucks too but here you are.
October 12, 2019 7:21 am
It was mentioned several times Bert. Like 3 or 4 times. Go home Bert you’re drunk.
March 16, 2022 6:49 pm
https://skateboardwarriors.com/independent-skateboard-truck-review/ obviously this too
July 18, 2020 11:33 am
billie 19. small shoe brand.
June 8, 2018 3:48 pm
if the skaters want new shoes they should cum on them
June 8, 2018 5:07 pm
June 8, 2018 3:54 pm
Holy shit. Fuck this generation. Price factor is the only aspect and excuse I will understand. I haven’t seen a single bulky shoe in any lineup in the last decade of shoe releases on the market. Now when few brands are actually resurrecting the real og versions, I can agree but we fucking love them. Now when people are agreeing on the performance and aesthetic values of the old shoes, these little fuckers are smoking some garbage and telling how “good” materials are sports brands using. They’ve never had a shoe that actually lasts. Fuck, they are still on this thin vulc crap wagon I thought we were past and survived, but no. Don’t come back in your late 20’s telling how fucked your bodies are and how everything hurts. I always wanted to not look like everyone else, always wanted to stand out a bit and wear a shoe that not every bypasser is wearing, be proud to “represent” skateboarder’s company but these kids mindset is completely different, which on one hand is understandable for the “safe choice” factor, but they never go out of their way and test new things out. Also, knowing that Nyhah is on nike is the exact reason why I would never want to buy a pair of nikes. Even Busenitz being a cool dude and having a performance based shoe can’t make me wanna buy a pair of 3stripes. I have complete disgust for corporate sports brands in skateboarding and believe me, you can find affordable and appropriate for your needs skate shoe brands footwear, you just have to put in some little work, efforts and patience. Yeah, it ain’t as easy as going to mall shop and picking what’s on sale right away.
June 8, 2018 4:48 pm
Boy if you don’t shut the hell up!
June 9, 2018 1:25 pm
I totally agree that people should buy core over corporate, but as a kid it’s hard. I get all of my skate shoes from thrift stores because I ruin my shoes fast. I rarely find core shoes in there but sometimes I do. I got a pair of Emerica romeros the other day and I love them even more than any Nike shoes I have from thrift shops. The only shoes I’ll buy for full price are supra’s because I love Lizard King since he is where I’m from and he shreds hard af in them. I would like to try more E’s or Emerica shoes if I could find them.
June 9, 2018 1:37 pm
Yo I love Emerica, but buy a pair and tell me how long that lasts. I bought a few pair of eS accels and I think eS is still a quality brand. But I also have a pair of Adidas Tyshawns, and the insoles, the board,feel, the overall quality. Its a well crafted shoe. And 100 times more stylish than any core brand. I’m as bummed as you are, I grew up on eS and Emerica vids, they had some of my favorite skaters riding for them.
June 10, 2018 10:49 pm
I agree with everything you just said. The thing that makes me feel better is that all these kids are just cookie cutter skate park skateboarders. You might as well be asking runners about their shoes at that point. If they asked some kids that were lighting up some haggard spot at 3am (they gotta be out there) they would get a different response maybe. Another thing to point out is that the older generations aren’t going anywhere and will continue to support the companies that matter as long as their here. All I’ve ever skated is es and lakai and it’s all I will ever skate.
June 10, 2018 10:51 pm
They’re… god damnit
June 13, 2018 9:31 am
The older generation aren’t gonna save anything.
RIP LAKAI & EMERICA
December 27, 2018 10:00 am
I agree totally…..the skate scene is a total wreck….ruined for years…. Nike and the like have no business in skateboarding….trend following kids created this nightmare.
April 29, 2019 4:56 am
I know right? I remember when a fucking pair of vans cost 30$ .. jesus times have changed.. it used to be a source of pride to support some of these companies and their cheap offerings to skaters.. now its just a fashion show.
August 28, 2019 9:39 pm
October 12, 2019 7:52 am
I couldn’t agree more. These smaller skateboarder owned companies have no chance against the large sports companies of the world. And it’s fuckin sad. I used to skate Fallen shoes simply to support Jamie Thomas’s company. But then they had to shut down and has now been bought by some company. So I now skate Emerica and Es. With the kids these days, it’s all about fashion and popularity. Since when the fuck has mainstream and fashion been a part and skateboarding? There’s no respect anymore for the ones who created and revolutionized skating. It’s me me me posers who are stuck on Nyjahs dick. And it’s not even their fault. They don’t know any better.
Give your local skate shop your business, support true skateboard brands, and just remember where you came from.
April 8, 2021 4:51 pm
youre so right!
June 8, 2018 3:56 pm
i’m not sure what it is but I just feel like there’s not a whole lot of hype behind skate shoes anymore. i don’t seem to see a whole lot new designs, new pro models or even colorways. i just feel like the skate shoe scene is sort of stagnant, and maybe that’s why a lot of people are just going with whatever looks cool because there’s just not a lot going on right now, even from the bigger brands.
i remember checking ripped laces all the time for new skate shoe news all the time, but they rarely post a whole lot and i think it’s because there’s just not a whole lot of new development.
maybe it’s just me but in the last 4-5 years things have just seemed to slow down skate shoe wise.
June 8, 2018 4:04 pm
Good insight there actually, I second that.
June 8, 2018 5:21 pm
June 10, 2018 10:26 am
gravis wasnt core
June 21, 2018 1:42 pm
i was lucky enough to grab a pair of dylan’s in the oxblood colorway. the best shoes i ever put on my feet.
June 8, 2018 7:24 pm
feel the exact same. really missing ripped laces…
June 10, 2018 10:25 am
what happened to ripped laces?
June 12, 2018 1:02 pm
We’re out ripping laces.
October 12, 2019 8:04 am
That’s the thing though. Hype and cooler shouldn’t matter. There’s a certain lifestyle that goes naturally with true skateboarding. It’s have fun, skate or die, fuck the corporate world, fuck your city ordinance, “no security guard… I will not stop for you. In fact Im gonna do some more tricks in front of you”, etc. But now it’s not even skateboarding anymore. It’s just a fashion show on 4 wheels. They’re ruining a really good thing and they’ll regret it after it’s too late. Always support the TRUE skateboard companies and your local skate shops.