When A$AP Rocky set out to remake the Osiris D3 into the “skate raver” friendly Under Armour shoe this year, he reached out to Dave Mayhew to get his blessing. Rocky, like a lot of us, thought Mayhew was the main Osiris D3 designer, since it was his old pro model shoe.
But both Under Armour and Rocky weren’t completely on the mark. While Mayhew was the face and ambassador of the shoe, the man actually creating the molds and the unique style of the shoes back then was Brian Reid, a designer who also co-founded Osiris.
Curious to hear his side of the story, we hit up Reid to hear what he had to say about ultimately losing credit for a shoe that, for better or worse, has stuck around for 20 years.
What was once just the ugliest skate shoe of all time may now be the most legally contested one. The D3 does it again!
So I want to get your side and Osiris’ side of Under Armour copying the D3.
Oh, so you want the truth? [laughs] You don’t want the side, you want the truth.
How do you feel about Dave getting the credit as the designer for the Osiris D3?
We went shopping and bought a couple of shoes, and I went designing and he went skating. That was the relationship there.
There are two different shoes, there’s the D3 the D3 2001. The 2001, which is really the shoe that’s in question here, is not the D3. They’re totally different shoes. The D3 2001 was completely designed in Korea. Dave wasn’t even in the time zone, the continent, the country, zip code, area code, nothing. So when we designed that and brought it back, Dave didn’t even really like it. He was like, “Wow this is too big. I can’t skate in it.”
Then he signed up on the endorsement deal, obviously, and we told him that we would make him another shoe later. It was gonna be called the D3 NTX, and that was super thin, low to the ground, and way more skateable. It was still technically crazy, but you could actually skate in them.
The fact he’s sitting in GQ with Rocky frolicking on top of some car, like two little giddy school girls, and they’re saying he’s a “legendary shoe designer,” I’m like, ugh. Not only did I design those shoes, but I’ve also designed many since then. The proof is in the pudding. It was my company, I named it, I sponsored Dave. It’s those things that are a little upsetting.
Did anyone from Under Armour try to make contact with Osiris about the design?
I finally got through to someone over there and basically they said, “We reached out to Mayhew because it was his shoe.” Technically he endorsed it. George Foreman didn’t invent the grill, he endorsed it. They were either duped or didn’t do research because they’re sitting there in interviews with GQ and Esquire and on the manager’s social media accounts talking about how legendary of a shoe designer Dave is. Dude, show me one other thing he’s done.
Legally, do you have grounds to take legal action against Under Armour?
At one point we did trademark the loops. We called them super loops. However, I don’t know where that stands. I don’t know how well the company kept up on keeping the trademark or how long that lasts. But regardless, it’s so iconic you just know where the original came from. It’s such a piece of pop culture to the point where any time I saw something that even mocked it, I was a little bit proud.
I heard there was a lawsuit involving Dave Mayhew and Osiris around the D3 2001 back in the day. What was that over?
Yeah, there was. I just went to our lawyer and Dave and I and the company signed something that said we’ll never talk about it. So like, I can’t really talk about it and technically Dave can’t talk about it either because it’ll break the contract. I wish I could tell you more.
How do you think this whole fiasco could have been avoided?
Some people won’t reach out or respond, but I eventually got to talk to some people at Rocky’s camp. I even think that they don’t know what’s up. When you say “skate rave shoe,” I don’t think anyone would ever say that. You could tell that there’s a culture gap there. They just thought this guy [Dave Mayhew] was the guy. I just don’t think they did their due diligence.
Quite frankly I’m surprised by Under Armour, being the size they are and with a legal team. They either have some slam dunk reference of something or they were just bowing down like, “This is what this dude wants. Give it to him.” The best thing for Osiris would be if Under Armour admitted that they were infringing on the mark, that way that sets precedence, then they could just pay a small royalty. Then when the next person comes along [stealing a design] they can say, “Hey, even Under Armour says that’s ours.”
There’s also a rumor that Dave only got the D3 because he was late to a meeting and every other shoe was already picked out by other riders to endorse. Is that true?
That happened to him with the original D3, so yeah, that’s factual. We had sales meetings, and I would design just to design and people could come into those meetings and be like, “That’s dope, I like it, I want that.” Then we’d go “OK cool, we’ll market it, it’s yours.” But Dave missed a line planning meeting, where we are supposed to pick what’s in the line for a season. A couple days later he rolled into the offices and we were like, “Well this is what’s left…”
The shoe kind of outgrew Dave. He was more about his skating than his look and I think the shoe eventually overshadowed him. It wasn’t really his image, he wasn’t that fresh but he was a really good skateboarder. Pretty classic dude. He was somewhat embarrassed by that shoe, but because it was an iteration of the D3, his reasoning was, “Well if that one did pretty well, this one will too, so I’ll take the check.”
“The shoe kind of outgrew Dave. He was more about his skating than his look and I think the shoe eventually overshadowed him.”
I know at one point you guys were about to discontinue the D3, but then it surged in popularity. Do you know what set that off?
I read this book called The Purple Cow. It’s about how to differentiate yourself in the market with products. The author was driving down the street and in Switzerland there’s a bunch of cows on the side of the road. At first, they’re like, “Whoa, cows! This is amazing.” 75 miles down, they were like, “There’s fucking cows everywhere, I’m so over cows.” Then he said if there was a purple cow, that would make you stop the car. First, they look, then they laugh, then they copy.
The D3 was the purple cow, something different. People didn’t know if it was going to sell or not sell. Back in the day, shops would be like, “What are your five best shoes? Give me your hats, your shirts, and I want some of those lanyards too.” They would buy the brand and whatever the package was. The shoe that’s selling and then three new ones. So the D3 got in there no matter what. It was just sitting out there and sort of eking along. Then the numbers started doing pretty good.
What are the differences between the D3 and the D3 2001? Why did you do the second shoe?
We were out in Korea looking at all this new tech and we were looking at what was trending. Like thermoplastic vinyl resins and airbags and shit like that. Before, you couldn’t do an airbag because they would just pop. The tech wasn’t at the point where it could be used and abused at the level skating was at. As tech moved forward, it allowed us to take a full airbag and bring it in.
So it was based on access to new tech and improving a bestseller?
Here’s the thing. No matter what you believe, Nike is the shit. They were the leaders, they had the tech, and we were looking at everything being like, “Why can’t we do this?” We had to push the factories and go, “Look, they’re doing it, why can’t we? They already figured out all these compounds and resins that are widely used by everyone now, we want to do it too.” We wanted to break out of the realm of the black suede shoe.
Also, at the time there was something in the air as far as brands wanting to outdo each other. As soon as something hit and there was a trend, it became who’s gonna do it best and who is going to get it to market quicker. It was a frenzy.
Dan Connelly, who was an am for us at the time, was dating a girl who was working at DC and he would go to the factory and be like, “I just saw these insoles with gel in them, they’re crazy! We gotta do something like that!” It was almost like insider trading. Nowadays nobody is pushing the boundaries of where footwear is going anyway.
Yeah, I feel like the Janoski was maybe the last iteration of that frenzy in skating.
Yeah, but you can see that frenzy mentality in any industry. Take phones. When the iPhone came out, it was like dude, the fucking iPhone! Then Google has one, LG has one, then everyone had a rendering on it and it became who’s gonna make it thinner, faster. Then someone goes, I’m gonna make it bigger, faster and thinner! And then everyone goes well then I am too!
The healthier the company is, the more money you have. The more money you have, the more creative you can be. With money comes the willingness to take a risk. Footwear’s not cheap. You’re talking about the price of a car or more to get a shoe design to the sample stage. If you’re an endemic skate brand, nobody has that money to play with.
What do you think about skate brands capitalizing on nostalgia right now and bringing back puffier shoes?
You get a lot of trendsters or scenesters that are following the “puffy shoes are cool again, let’s go get them” mentality. Then you have real people that are out in the streets skating. I don’t think they’re affected by whatever trend there is. Quite honestly, I can’t see anyone skateboarding giving a shit. No one is going to be like, “Dude I’m gonna go get some D3s right now.” It’s more of a mainstream/pop culture thing like, “I got it, look at me.”
It’s like the Balenciaga shoes. It’s not about a ripoff Balenciaga, it’s about getting the actual Balenciaga. I don’t think anyone is going to be like, “éS has this new puffy shoe and I think I’m down for it.” I’m not sure if it works that way. I wish it did because I love the dudes down there. Although I think high fashion has a little bit more power than retro skate brands do. If companies like Balenciaga and Nike continue going big, I think there will be some trickle down.
You mentioned you designed a lot of shoes, are there any other ones people would recognize?
One was the NYC 1983. A little history, that was actually supposed to be Jerry Hsu’s shoe. His shoe was vulcanized and thin—I guess now it’s not that thinned out—but classic skate shoe vulcanized. We did a mid and I was like, “This is going to be the high top.” It was a little bit thicker and I was gonna throw some loops on it and make a little more ’80s steeze.
At the time Jerry had departed from the brand. That would’ve been the lottery ticket because we sold millions of those things. I was actually bummed because I love Jerry and I would’ve been stoked if he was a part of that. Then again, he probably would’ve hated it because we did every crazy colorway, and girls’ colors, animal on animal crime… that thing just went outrageous, way past skateboarding. He would’ve rolled over in his grave. I mean he’s not dead yet, but it would’ve killed him and made him roll over [laughs].
How do you feel when people hate on the D3 and call it the ugliest shoe ever?
I love it! Fuck yeah, thank you! Love it or hate it, it became one of the biggest shoes of its time. It’s part of history. I’m proud that it was a cultural icon and an image of a period of time. It influenced many shoes at that time and it’s influencing shoes almost 20 years later.
“I guess if you’re a shoe fetishist, the D3 2001 is like a fine wine.”
The D3 also hit even weirder subcultures than skating, like food stomping fetishes. How did that even happen?
I’ve seen even weirder shit than that! I’ve seen people stepping in literal shit and letting it smear up the sidewall all slow and stuff like that. I don’t understand it, but hey, nobody is getting hurt. Go step on things. Whatever you wanna do with your free time, go for it.
What about shoe sniffers who love the D3?
So there’s shoe sniffers? Well, there are a lot of materials and layers in there for sweat and scents to get absorbed into and really ferment. It probably takes the sweaty stink and creates a really pungent smell for an enthusiast like that. I guess if you’re a shoe fetishist, the D3 2001 is like a fine wine.
October 15, 2018 7:07 pm
I remember being on vacation in Norway in 2003 or so, and walking down the sidewalk just window shopping. I take a passing glance in the window of a women’s clothing boutique and lo and behold, some D3s were on a display.
Also, I have to give this guy some credit in regards to new material(s), because there was a time when Osiris really started to make shoes – and maybe even an entire line – that were fully synthetic. I appreciated that, as those shoes would tend to last longer than suede or leather. I think the pair I had were called the Gorgon(?), or something like that.
October 16, 2018 11:09 am
That was a good interview. Thanks for taking the time to transcribe it. I wish my Vans didn’t fall apart so quickly.
October 16, 2018 12:07 pm
I met Dave at his shop in WI about 7 years ago. Mad nice dude. It was surreal. I had a pair like every other book c.2001. Good times.
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October 16, 2018 7:32 pm
What the fuck are you on, man?
October 16, 2018 5:46 pm
I remember getting the orange/blue colorways.
Anyone else remember how the box had perforations around the osirus logo so it could be turned into a stencil?
We all thought that was super badass at the time.