Dunk-mania has catapulted the appeal of “limited edition” shoes to skateboard-shoe companies.
Now the concept is bombarding the skateboard industry.Limited runs of styles and colorways for skateboard shoes is hardly a new concept, and while Dunks are selling for ridiculously high prices on eBay, most skate-shoe companies are doing limited shoes in their lines, too. As to whether it’s safe to say interest in skateboard footwear is at an all-time high-it’s all relative, isn’t it?
While Nike may be discreet on the numbers or any other details concerning their limited runs of their shoes, the company does admit to only manufacturing one run of each colorway of their SB Dunks, URLs, E-CUE, Angus, and FC shoes. The idea is that once these shoes are gone, they’re gone forever. Some of these runs are only a few-hundred pairs, some a few-thousand, but no colorway ever makes it to more than 10,000 pairs.
Nike isn’t the first company to offer limited-edition shoes, according to the DC Shoe Co.’s Footwear Design Supervisor Joseph Ntomp. Asked if the limited trend in skate footwear is an attempt by companies to keep up with Nike and their Dunks, Ntomp disagrees: “Nike didn’t invent it. The Dunk phenomenon emerged around the same time as DC was producing the (Shepard Fairey) Obey shoe.
“The Dunk is a part of a groundswell that has contributed to people’s appetite for collectible shoes and is part of almost every shoe aficionado’s repertoire, but shoe collectors don’t stop there,” he adds.
DC’s first limited shoe was done with New York City’s Supreme for the Japanese market in 1998. Shortly after 2000, DC began the Artist Project series by releasing shoes in conjunction with musician Goldie and artists like Shepard Fairy and Kaws. This line continues today with shoes from blink-182’s Travis Parker, Linkin Park, Phil Frost, Andy Howell, Ryan McGuiness, and more.
Zoo York isn’t ashamed to be following in the footsteps of Nike with its new footwear line. Zoo only produces 1,000 pairs of each colorway it comes up with. “It seemed like a good business decision-a no-brainer when you consider the success of what Nike is doing with the Dunks and the whole eBay shoe-collector thing that’s going on. Plus there was great success with Danny Supa’s Nike shoe. It’s also just a way to create a buzz and generate hype,” says Roy Cox, sales manager at Zoo York.
But Zoo isn’t the only brand that’s new to the limited-shoe game. Podium Distribution has entered the race with the release of cross-branded shoes with the Lakai/Girl Rick Howard and Mike Carroll model shoes and the DVS/Habitat Kerry Getz pro model. Future cross-branded shoes from Podium will include Keith Hufnagel, Marc Johnson, and Scott Johnston pro models.
Lakai Team and Marketing Manager Kelly Bird says Nike might have something to do with the booming limited-edition shoe trend. “It’s probably born out of the whole Dunk craze to an extent,” he says. “I mean, when you’re making 200 or 300 pairs of a certain shoe, I would say that’s a direct result of what Nike has created. If it’s a good thing or not, I couldn’t say. But it is what it is.”
Bird explains the reason Lakai got in on the limited-shoe game in the first place inadvertently had something to do with Nike, but in a different sense: “These guys (Girl/Chocolate family) did a Chocolate Dunk with Nike. Rick (Howard) gave them the logo-the whole deal-and then he never even got a pair of the shoes. After that, Rick was basically saying, ‘I did this thing with these guys and didn’t even get a pair of shoes out of it, so why wouldn’t I do it with my own company?’
“It is also this ‘exclusive limited’ culture we’re in,” says Bird. “No one wants to buy anything unless it’s got a number on it. People want to feel like they have something that’s made in small quantities-something they don’t see 900 other people wearing.”
According to Sole Technology’s Public Relations Representative Timothy Nickloff, Sole Tech has been doing limited-edition shoes since its beginning. Some releases from Emerica include a run of gold Ed Templeton 2 shoes hand-painted by Templeton himself and the red/bling Andrew Reynolds shoe. Etnies produced its MC Rap in various NBA colorways and continues the sports-team mania with an upcoming line of football-league colorways. A limited-edition “Mexican Flag” colorway for the éS Contract shoe is also in the works.
“We love to do limited and hard-to-find sneakers,” says Nickloff. “There’s a type of authenticity to it, and it means a lot. Skateboarders are nerds-we love this stuff-that hard-to-find one-of-a-kind shoe. It’s a reflection of our culture and what it’s all about-remembering the past.”
IPath frequently dabbles in limited-edition colorways and materials with its Grasshopper shoe, and Savier produced Japan-only colorways for the Tim O’Connor pro model. Savier was going to release a Tim O’Connor shoe with Habitat, but O’Connor quit before that happened. The shoe didn’t have his name on it, but it had his board graphic on the insole, the colors that were on his board, and the Habitat logo. “It was basically a copy of the Nike Dunk,” says O’Connor. Furthermore, it seems that the popularity and abundance of the limited-edition skateboard shoe is only going to keep growing instead of existing as another one of skateboarding’s short-lived trends.
“I think with skate shoes, it’ll stick,” says Nickloff. “Maybe the depth of how limited shoes are will change. But there’s always a demand there. We’ve been doing it since the beginning, and we’ll continue to always make shoes that are super hard to find and give our consumers something that will be special to them.”
DC’s Ntomp knows that skateboarders have always found a way to personalize and customize their shoes, so exclusive shoes are intrinsic to the industry, and he also feels limited shoes are here to stay. “Skateboarders are unique and want shoes that not everybody has, so limited-edition is very appealing,” he says. “It’s like art.”
With numerous companies putting so much time and so many resources into fun, interesting, and limited-edition shoes, one would assume it’s a foolproof concept. But there are a few downsides-especially the fact that small production runs are costly from a manufacturing standpoint.
Bird’s concern lies in the thought of shops getting too dependent on limited shoes. “If it keeps going the way it is, no shop is going to want to order more than ten or twenty pairs of a colorway because their whole store is stocked with shoes that are limited and that’s all they can sell.”
On a grander scale Bird knows this might also be highly unlikely because retailers like PacSun really aren’t particularly interested in the limited-edition shoes. However, a catch-22 arises:
“It’s more for the ‘image’ boutique stores and to raise brand awareness for people who aren’t your average consumer. In that respect, it’s good,” says Bird. “But if it trickles over into the mainstream, there’s no way it’ll be limited anymore because everyone wants it. And then what-you’re not going to cater to that demand? Then nothing’s really limited at all.”