Josh Kalis hit the mid-’90s at the ideal time. The right skateboarder at the perfect moment. “He is the quintessential ’90s street skater,” legendary skate filmer R.B Umali says above in episode one of Evolution of Kalis, a three-part Complex series documenting Josh’s history with DC Shoes. Kalis was a key innovator who helped shape street skateboarding during that decade, honing his craft daily in Philadelphia’s Love Park and spending weekends pushing up in New York.
But Kalis’s influence also extended beyond skateboarding to sneakers. By the late-’90s, ripped, worn, torn, and taped shoes would no longer do. Skaters like Kalis needed something that looked and performed better, something to match a crisp white tee, a new fitted, and gold Uzi earrings. And Kalis got what he wanted. Working with sponsor DC Shoes, he dropped his first pro sneaker in 1999, a model now known as the Kalis OG. “Really it was built for skating at Love Park,” Kalis explains in the overhead clip. But with an oversized silhouette, athletic styling, and technical details, that shoe’s impact stretched far further than Philadelphia.
According to Umali, Kalis’s DCs drew attention on New York City subways, sending non-skaters to skate shops in search of the uncommon sneakers. “That’s when you started seeing a lot of sneakerheads going to skate stores,” Umali says, hinting at how Kalis helped kick off a novel cultural phenomenon. With his skating and his signature shoe, Kalis offered something new. “I could definitely feel the shift and I was aware that something was happening,” Supreme filmer William Strobeck recalls above. And soon the world would be aware too.
Check out the clip up top and stay tuned for part two of Evolution of Kalis.