Supra is Latin for “above and beyond,” and when the brand launched the Skytop it achieved the mantra it was so appropriately named after. The super-hightop was originally released in 2007, but the shoe was top-five in 2008 after a co-sign from Jay Z. The sneaker took things back to a true hightop cut, and the vulcanized sole appealed to skaters. Chad Muska’s name didn’t hurt either. If you were deep into kicks in ’08 you grabbed these in at least a few colorways. The snakeskin joints with Tiffany/old-school Airwalk cues were extra dope.
The skateboarding line has been a staple in the sneaker community ever since, even though everyone thought the design team was crazy when they first started showing off their vision. Whether you were kicking and pushing down the block on your skateboard or wanted a new sneaker to step up your style game, Supra was everything. The signature line has come a long way in its fairly short existence—the Skytop has made a bigger impact than most shoes that have been selling for decades. We sat down with Supra founder Angel Cabada and Muska to discuss what the signature series has meant and how it came to fruition.
“I never have any expectation on things I create because that will take away from the creative process,” says Muska, first pro rider and co-designer of the Skytop. “I just put everything I have inside of me to come up with an object that I am proud of and believe in.”
Muska, Cabada, and designer Josh Brubaker never envisioned the Skytop to takeover sneaker culture the way it did in 2008, which made the rollout that much sweeter. It was before blogs created mass hysteria around releases and Instagram dictated what was cool; things took a little longer to resonate, but if and when they did it was for all the right reasons. Maybe it’s the fact that three laidback guys who just loved skate culture wanted to do something unique and have fun in the process.
The inspiration was simple, as the trio was focused on creating something “by them, for them” so they had the dopest shoes to skate in—making money was just an added bonus.
To us, it’s skate function with a fashion twist more than anything,and a collaboration effort between Josh, Chad and myself.
“To us, it’s skate function with a fashion twist more than anything, and a collaboration effort between Josh, Chad and myself,” says Cabada. “Comfort and style, we all want to look fresh on a board or on the red carpet. It starts with your imagination, then you sketch, go back and forth with likeminded people that you value opinions from, and then you execute.”
The shoe resembled the retro basketball shoes from the early ’90s, but Muska said it was simply performance related for his sport.
“Although basketball shoes have influenced my designs over the years,” he says, “I think that I would say that I was creating a skateboarding ‘performance’ shoe that channeled high fashion. Skateboarding and basketball have similar use and needs from a shoe, but the upper is completely inspired by skateboarding and how it would react while riding a board.”
When the shoe released in 2007 it was well-received by skate enthusiasts, and in 2008 it started gaining major notoriety from sneaker and men’s style publications—even considered one of the best shoes of the year by many. The guys at Supra never pushed their product onto anyone, and in 2009 the model organically started showing up on everyone’s feet from Lil Wayne at the BET Awards to Kanye West and Jay Z. Having the kicks pop up so often made it one of the most searched brands and replicated looks.
“We never went after anybody in the beginning to wear our product,” says Muska, “so we could not help who was buying and wearing our product. I remember when somebody called me and was like, ‘Kanye just bought a pair of Skytops from Supreme in L.A.’ and I couldn’t believe it. This was a few months before they actually started to really gain momentum and it sort of snowballed after that. Then Jay Z ended up in a few things rocking them and the rest is history.”
The rest was history—the Supra team definitely had made it, becoming a brand that produced one of the most sought-after shoes in the game. Collaborations like the zebra print infused Brooklyn Projects pair are still considered classics by most, and the whole steez of the Skytop was often bit by other designers.“Everyone started knocking it off or straight up copying it,” says Cabada. “I knew there was nothing out there like it at the time, so it was easy to point them out. It bummed me out, but at the same time thinking back now, it was flattering.”
In 2009 the exaggerated hightop style was consistently being featured by athletic and high-end fashion brands; the new wave was in and Supra was largely responsible for the trend. General releases were selling out with quickness—retailers had long queues and international calls to lock down the shoe—which is usually only a problem with Nikes.
“I don’t like to take credit for anything, but let’s just say a lot of them popped up after us and continue to do so,” says Muska.
Every great artist has his whole life to produce his first masterpiece, but the follow-up to a classic can be one of the toughest experiences. The success of the first Skytop couldn’t have been predicted, and the streets were talking about how the brand would reprise such a cult classic.
“It was pretty much the same team again and same thought process,” says Cabada. “We were just having fun and breaking rules and traditions in our field. Josh [Brubaker] is the man, hats off.”
We were just having fun and breaking rules and traditions in our field. Josh is the man, hats off.
“The II was more like we wanted the 001 to originally be, but we had to hold back because we felt people were not ready for it,” adds Muska.
The Skytop II didn’t disappoint, picking up right where the original left off. Limited and general releases didn’t sit on shelves very long, and a few pairs even sold out in less than 30 minutes. The II was built more fashion-forward than its predecessor, and even though the model didn’t need any help in terms of sales, when Justin Bieber started landing on Upscale Hype rocking the IIs week-after-week, Supra cemented its spot as an essential in pop culture style. Muska and company were really genius for capturing lanes that included hipsters, skaters, rappers, and everything else. By the time the II had hit the masses, your sneaker game was suspect if you didn’t have a pair in your rotation. This helped open the door for other models in the brand’s arsenal to push units off the strength of the Skytop’s reputation.
The sequel also spawned one of the designers’ favorite colorways and craziest releases from Supra, a humbling experience for three guys who consider themselves just like us.
The “Gradient” II was one of the craziest sneaker releases of its time, selling out everywhere before lunch. Most of the hype was simply word-of-mouth from the fans who were willing to do just about anything to grab the one of only 600 pairs. Brilliantly color blocked, each shoe was individually numbered for the collection. Good luck trying to hunt a pair down on eBay and other marketplaces; some things are not for sale in a market that has become oversaturated with greedy resellers—further proof of the brand’s loyalty from its following.
In 2011 the sneaker game was changing drastically; which kicks you rocked was the centerpiece of the millennial male’s style, and the females were starting to get more into the cause. The Skytop III was a completely different beast from the first two models, a new look in a market that was retro basketball heavy. There was major anticipation that Supra might take it to another level with its iconic hightop, but Muska and the team hit them with a curve.
I wanted to do something completely different than what people expected us to do.
“I wanted to do something completely different than what people expected us to do,” says Muska. “They all thought the III would come up to your knee, and we made it lower. We also wanted to do something for the skaters who didn’t like hightops. It was received very well by consumers who were looking for a nice midtop, but could have thrown off our consumers that wanted us to continue our progression of height that they’d come to expect from us.”
The III was much more skate functional than its predecessors. Engineered to the specifications of the greatest skaters, it killed every wear test and kept flying off the shelves even without the heavy style play. Supra had cemented itself as one of the most consistent brands that knew how to cater to its fan base with a string of three signature shoes that never left the gospel disappointed. Find another line that has done the same outside of His Airness’s throne.
With its latest creation, the Skytop IV has been the most polarizing model yet by a brand that has always been about pushing boundaries and setting trends instead of following the pack. A progression of the first three models, highlighting some of the favorite functional and design pieces—along with a removable collar—gave the IV instant credibility.
“It has a lot of detail,” says Cabada. “It’s forward, it’s light, it looks hot on your foot or on the shelf, and it’s a piece of artwork. The IV is magical and futuristic.”
“We wanted to give the people something special that bought into the first colors as the shoe does not have the collar on the rest of shoes coming out after,” adds Muska. “Also, I liked the idea of being able to transform into something new—from skating the streets without the collar to hitting the club up with it.”
Some of the responses to the IV have been that the execution of the design and functionality is flawless, their favorite to skate in and stylish enough to rock at the nicest places. Supra avoided an issue almost every other design team has had with a legacy line, they kept it fresh and relevant without ever missing. The fourth installment is only a few months old but it’s already earned numerous high accolades from the streets, once again proving the credibility of Muska, Cabada, and Brubaker as they get more creative and innovative with the line.
With high demand for the IV since its 2013 release, it’s obvious that Muska, Cabada, and Brubaker are doing something right. Supra still leads the wave of skate sneakers in terms of sales and popularity, and it’s high-risk, high-reward fashion sense has made the Skytop one of the most recognizable models of the past 10 years. And there’s no plan for the team to slow down anytime soon.
Says Muska: “As long as the people still want it, we will create it.”