Some might think that this article is the wrong way around: surely it’s about what skate-footwear designers borrowed from mainstream sneaker culture? But, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that it goes both ways. The history of skaters wearing Jordans, Bruins, Blazers, Nizzas, and Chuck Taylors has been well-documented in great depth many times before—when the skate industry stagnated, it was up to skaters to reappropriate what was readily available. Once the Embarcadero locals gave their stamp of approval to wearing Superstars, Campus, and States, it signaled a more open-minded approach to choosing the right footwear to skate in. Why pay $100 for Airwalk Prototypes when you could pick up three pairs of PUMA Baskets for the same budget? This new-found crossover appeal meant you no longer needed to pick up a separate pair of “chillers” for after-hours either.
The following wave of skater-owned shoe brands in the ’90s learned from the mistakes of their predecessors, resulting in some of the most innovative shoe designs in skate history. It’s true to say that not everything worked, but it heralded a brave new world where risk-taking was applauded.