An interview with Ben Brooks and his new shoe brand dedicated to bringing the past to the future: ERAone Footwear
As Sean Cliver notes in The Disposable Skateboard Bible, collecting hard goods and soft goods was a pretty fringe activity until the mid 1990’s when eBay opened up the flood gates for mass consumption. Fast forward to present day, this community of collectors and skate nerds is flourishing more than ever on Instagram, particularly under the hashtags #sk8shoewars and #chomponkicks. With the swath of instantly accessible deadstock vintage footwear at your fingertips, it’s hard to not feel nostalgic for the days when puffy tech cupsoles ruled the earth. And people are nostalgic. It’s near impossible to look at the comments on any shoe company’s social media posts without seeing people begging them to reissue decades old models or take future inspiration from designs of the past. This interest in making the old new again often appears to fall on deaf ears on part of the industry. However, Ben Brooks has decided to take matters into his own hands.
Who are you, where are you from, and how did the idea for ERAone come about?
My name is Ben Brooks. I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been a skate shoe collector for about 3 years now. I missed the puffiness of skate shoes, everything is a repeat of the last thing released and although there may be a lot of thought put into the technology of skate shoes, I feel like the design element has fallen by the wayside. Shoes used to be individual to each pro when they released a model, Nowadays companies will just change a colour on a standard model and call it a pro model. It’s sad to see the way things have gone. So a couple of years ago I finally got on Instagram, the only reason being that I discovered ChompOnKicks through Facebook. It blew my mind how many people were collecting old skate shoes! #ChompOnKicks and #sk8shoewars were going long before I knew anything about it. But the same complaints kept coming up. It was cool to have a favourite pair of shoes from back in the day, but you can’t wear them! Most of these shoes had sculpted foam soles, which naturally deteriorate over time, along with the glue. Through a Facebook group (forum) dedicated to skate shoe collecting, discussions would constantly come up in regard to these issues, and I thought, companies aren’t listening to us, why couldn’t I just do a small run of shoes for the hardcore fans who want this? I started sketching up designs and made contact with some manufacturers. I settled on one and as you know we now have samples. And the response has been overwhelming.
Where did the name come from?
For me the name was a no brainer. Era relates to the “Golden Era” of skateboarding. The és Koston one is my favourite skate shoe of all time. It’s a classic, and for me the perfect shoe. Everyone is going to have their favourite depending on their age and what they have their greatest memories of. So for me the double cup sole represents that shoe, although it has been widely used by many companies. So the “one” relates to the Koston One.
How long has this project been in the works?
This whole idea only came about 3 or 4 months ago, so things have moved very quickly. We’re still in the design, sample stage right now. We need to iron out any bugs in the shoes before they go into production, so they will be getting put through their paces before going on the market.
Are you doing both the designing and the business end for the company?
I have done all the designing of the shoes so far, and I’m not a big company, I’m a self-employed tradesman from Australia haha. So yeah I am the business end for now. As far as logo goes, the initial logo you see now is something I did on Microsoft word… I have a guy taking care of that now and it will be reworked prior to production. The logo has been the main complaint so far.. And fair enough. It sucks! Haha.
Have you worked in the industry before?
No, I have never worked in the industry. I am a Glazier by trade and I’ve done that for 20 years of my life, and am still doing that today! This is a small thing for now but with the amount of support that’s coming in, who knows where this could end up!?
How many models are in the works so far? I’m digging the two samples and all the color ways you’ve teased on Instagram so far. So far we just have the two models of which we have had samples made. As I said, were not a large company and we can’t afford to be producing large amounts and multiple styles. This is completely self funded so we need to go slow and only produce to demand, So it might mean one model will be produced at a time for now.
What are some of your personal favorite skate shoes from over the years? What models were influential on your designs for ERAone?
As I said the és Koston one is by far my favourite. The stuff that és were releasing back then was amazing and everyone else was playing catch up in my opinion. The és Muska was another memorable one and the és SLB97 was also great. It’s hard not to draw inspiration from some of the great designs, but I pretty much just sat down and started sketching. You know from wearing these shoes what works and what doesn’t. Its funny how so many people compare our samples with other shoes, from DC to és to 88’s to Axion, everyone sees something different which is cool.
I definitely see some Adio in there as well. Is there a team coming?
The thought of a team is a long way away yet. First we need to sell some shoes. Haha.
Your designs feature things I know I really miss in skate shoes. Stitched toe caps and a focus on cupsoles. In the future will we see any funky features popularized in the 90’s and 2000’s that have since fallen by the wayside? Things like straps, stash pockets, or an exposed air bag heel?
I can’t speak for the other companies, but that’s what ERAone is all about. Those things have been sorely missed in skate shoes and need to make a comeback. It seems like the tide is slowly shifting back that way, so we will just have to wait and see.
What’s the process like starting a shoe company? I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
So, first you need to have your idea all sketched out with detailed measurements and sectional pictures of the shoe. You will more than likely be having them made in an Asian country and the language barrier is hard. You need to be as clear and concise as possible. Photos are the best way to convey your message. I’ve been lucky enough to find a manufacturer who pretty much nailed my design first go. The things that will be changed on the current sample are my mistakes. But that’s fine, its all part of the learning curve.
When are you expecting the first run to drop?
I know people are really eager to get their hands on a pair, but we can’t rush into it. Everything has to be just right. I can’t really give a release date just yet but if you follow us on instagram we will be keeping everyone in the loop throughout the whole process.
Wanna give any last second shout outs?
There are so many people who have been amazing in supporting me and this whole idea. Everyone in the #ogssc (OG Skate Shoe Collecting) crew, #sk8shoewars and #ChompOnKicks. And to everyone who follows and commented on Instagram. I really want this to be a “People’s” shoe, so that’s why it’s so important that everyone comments and gives feedback. We can’t put everyone’s idea into one shoe but if there is an overwhelming demand for something that will most likely be implemented for sure. There are already changes to the original sample that will happen as a result of the feedback we have received.
Thank you Ben for taking the time to chat!
Oh gosh……. it’s been a while.
You dear reader, should look at this .jpg poster to see if the Lookback Library is coming to your town!
Lookback Library is a San Diego based non-profit organization dedicated to “…preserve printed skateboard materials, promote literacy, & build publicly accessible skateboard magazine libraries.”
Not only do they have a bunch of magazines already, but they are also always looking for donations for more magazines, books, and zines! They are currently traveling with an exhibit of classic issues of Big Brother, Skateboarder, PowerEdge, and Slap, therefore the exhibition was aptly titled: “BrotherBoarderPowerSlap” (though when I went to it, there were also copies of TransWorld, Thrasher, Lowcard, Focus, Skate Jawn and more.)
Want to ask about starting a library at your local shop? Have your zine distributed to a wider audience than your immediate friends, shop family, and Kinko’s employees? Just shoot the breeze with a bunch of skate nerds like yourself?
You can contact the Lookback Library in the following ways:
Kevin Marks 619-702-3523
or @lookbacklibrary on instagramaphone
This is one of the best things to happen to skateboarding in a long while. If this is coming to your area it’s a must see. If it isn’t, get in touch with them and try to make something happen.
There’s thousands of skate companies out there in the world, and all of them need graphics for their decks, ads, and clothes. Most companies make graphics that simply look cool, or at very least will sell. However, sometimes skaters, artists, or whole companies want graphics that have much deeper meaning than simply appropriating pop culture or bloodstained swords and skulls. Here is a list of some of the best and most intense political board graphics.
1. Jim Thiebaud “Hanging Klansmen” Series by Real Skateboards
Few skateboard graphics in history have been as intense or iconic as the Hanging Klansmen series. Starting Real Skateboards gave Thiebaud more creative control over his graphics than he had been afforded at Powell. This graphic is so powerful and biting in it’s criticism. Though the KKK may seem irrelevant in modern America, they have gone through various resurgence periods in this country and remain a real threat today. Thiebaud makes huge statements with these boards, going places in terms of ideology that no one else has touched since with board graphics. The graphic in the center depicts our government being allies with the most despicable organization in America, and calls for people to throw a wrench in the gears of the system. The Hanging Klansmen series forces us to think about racism and urges to fight and destroy it.
2. Pigs Series by Enjoi
While most big skate companies tend to release more “safe” graphics that don’t offend to widen their audience and therefore their profit margins, this is not enjoi’s prerogative. Despite being a company managed by business-minded, non-skateboarder “Dark Men” enjoi isn’t afraid to make socio-political graphics. They use their classic brand of humor to critique big business, communist dictators, America and it’s two-party system; nothing is safe from their art direction. Using the pig imagery as a common theme, enjoi associates each of these topics with the same negative connotation.
3. Alien Workshop’s Art Direction
From day one, Alien Workshop (RIP) made iconic socio-political graphics criticizing government and media/ big business. Using science fiction imagery, Workshop made clever, poignant, and often funny graphics to make points about, or draw attention to political corruption, apathy, misinformation, the power of media, and society’s lust for entertainment rather than information. Later on, after Alien’s fall from grace they did a collaboration board with Alex Jones’ asinine conspiracy theory perpetuating libertarian website InfoWars. *shudder* How the mighty have fallen.
4. Jason Lee “American Icons” Board by Blind
The only company that rivaled World Industries’ social and political commentary graphics in the 1990’s was Blind (both of which were part of Steve Rocco’s World Industries Distribution). This deck is without a doubt their most iconic socio-political graphic with Keenan Milton’s “Kid in Dump” being a contentious honorable mention. Between the name of the graphic and the accompanying imagery, this one is pretty self-explanatory.
5. Mike Vallely “Barnyard” Board by World Industries
Another World board. This graphic critiques animal cruelty, slaughterhouses, and the immense pollution they produce. This board, with it’s pro vegan message calls for animal liberation. Mike was Vegetarian when this board was released (is he still? We’re not sure!) But he’s the new singer for “Black Flag” so anything is possible. As animal rights lovers here at CTS, we recommend you click the image of the board below this text to check out The Vegan Skate Blog. The perfect combination of skateboarding and plant based goodness!
6. “Bury the Hatchet” board by Toy Machine
A little more “socio-” and not as “political” but, Ed Templeton is a visionary and this graphic belongs on this list. This graphic satirizes people that take religion so seriously, by suggesting the notion that the Devil and Jesus: the pinnacle of mortal enemies in all of existence, put aside their differences to become friends. If Jesus can befriend Satan, maybe those that fear him can too.
7. “Liberty and Justice for Some” board by Powell Peralta
This graphic was originally designed as a pro model for Ray Barbee, but was ultimately scrapped to a team model because Ray didn’t want his name on anything controversial. Powell Peralta generally shied away from tendentious imagery, making this board rather unique. The graphic gives voice to how institutional racism in America perpetuates judicial (and by extention financial) inequality among it’s citizens.
8. Chico Brenes “Run for the Border” Board by World Industries
Always willing to push the limit or do something totally different, 90’s era World Industries really needs no introduction. Chico originally immigrated to the U.S. illegally in 1985 with his family from Nicaragua, to escape the violence occurring between the Contras and the country’s government. This board came out exactly ten years later in 1995. This graphic shows how terrifying and dangerous illegal immigration is. The board is scary to even look at. Depicting the teddy bear twice on the board visually portrays that people have to sacrifice things that are beloved, treasured, or meaningful to find a better life or even just to stay alive. In 1999 World did another illegal immigration themed pro board for Mike Crum, paying tribute to this graphic by reusing some of the same imagery. But this one will always be the classic.
A few weeks ago I wrote about eleven female skaters who the world needs a full video part from. Today some of our wishes have come true!
Lacey Baker’s Bombshell first part was released today on Thrasher Magazine’s website. Needless to say, it is absolutely awesome. Seriously awesome. Check it out for yourself:
Hell yeah Lacey! Congratulations!
Transworld Skateboarding Magazine’s 24th video ‘Perpetual Motion’ is finally out on DVD and Blu Ray.
TWS has a long history of making some of the best videos in skateboarding. Videos like ‘Modus Operandi’, and ‘Sight Unseen’ are revered as some of the best skate videos ever. Get on over to your local shop and buy one, or get it from TWS online. Please don’t download it on iTunes or buy it from CCS.
Boston’s Fancy Lad Skateboards, who have been featured on the site before, have released their new video: ‘New Hell‘ which is available on DVD in their online web store, and is well worth your $8. It can also be seen at Jenkem Magazine for a try-before-you-buy type thing.
So the next time rain ruins your session, make sure you have these on hand! While you’re at it, pick up a copy of the new Creature video CSFU in the newest issue of Thrasher Magazine.
All things come to pass. Some sooner than others. In skateboarding, things are no different. Great companies come and go before they have the opportunity to flourish, or some times even get off the ground. We are paying tribute to the following companies were unreasonably short lived.
Aesthetics was started by Sal Barbier and Palmer Brown. They had a great (though a bit small) team, and awesome graphics that were ahead of its time. They unfortunately petered out due to disagreements between Barbier and Brown.
Color was created by Kris Markovich, Mark Oblow, and supported by Chris Metiver. They released an amazing video in 1993. The company died when a majority of the team switched to Prime Skateboards.
3. Rasa Libre
Arguably the most infamous company on this list, Rasa Libre is regarded as being one of the best companies in skateboarding that never took off the ground. A stacked team, fantastic artwork, sick ads, and great boards, this company, had everything going for it. However, the boards somehow didn’t sell like they should have and the company disappeared from Deluxe Distribution. Although the company is “back” with a new team, and is still owned by Matt Field, it really isn’t the same as it was, other than the name.
4. Metropolitan Wheels
Metropolitan was a wheel company during the 1990’s owned by Deluxe Distribution. They were mainly an East Coast brand because the team was mostly from the east and their beautiful ads feature the breathtaking photography of Ari Marcopoulos in New York City.
60/40 Skateboards was started by Gonz with some help from Ron Chatman during the 90’s. It had a really creative art direction (of course, its Gonz after all,) and a killer team with guys like Steven Cales, Lee Smith, Ron, Gonz, Gino Perez, and way more.
Bueno Skateboards was a short lived company created by Michael Sieben and Stacy Lowery. It was run under Giant Distribution. The company had very strange and utterly amazing artwork. Sponsoring dudes with bad luck like Nate Broussard and Mark Gutterman was a pretty good metaphor for the company itself: awesome with a lot of talent and potential, but for one reason or another it doesn’t work out. They released one video in 2006. Thankfully Lowery and Sieben now own Roger Skateboards together, so they can keep creating the awesome, weird, original skateboarding product that they do.
Supernaut Skateboards was started in 1996 by Paul Sharpe, Ted Newsome, and Mike Ballard. They had an amazing team, and they helped put Cairo Foster on the radar. Supernaut went through some changes that ultimately led to it shutting down after sales dropped.
8. eS Footwear
Okay. I know. eS was huge, and was one of the most influential footwear companies in skateboarding, creating arguably the best shoe of all time: the Accel. That being said, their hiatus is lamentable and they are still sorely missed. Their only competition in creating the most beloved, popular, and recognizable shoes is Vans; a company that has been in the market for almost 30 years longer. They shook the entire skate footwear industry with the Accel, Accel Plus, every Koston pro model, the Muska pro model, Arto pro model, and so many more.
Female pros don’t get the respect they deserve. It makes we want to pull my hair and teeth out then run them over in a big rig. Not one female skater gets even a tenth of the recognition they should get. Industry bigwigs, kids on the internet, and people that run contests, all overlook the great women skaters. They have to try much harder to get any attention from the industry at all, and being a woman in professional skateboarding isn’t a lucrative opportunity. Female skaters have to continually enter contests just to make a living because the winnings are the majority of their income. Sponsors don’t pay very much to people who don’t get much coverage and people who don’t get much coverage don’t get pro models. It seems like the only time you hear female skater’s names is when you’re people are talking about the contest circuit. Kids on the internet judge contest skaters for not allowing themselves to get creative in the streets where skating belongs. So why are women pigeonholed exclusively to that aspect of skating? How do you film a video part if you’re always travelling just to compete? Its impossible. All of these women are amazing skateboarders. As always, in no particular order, (because hierarchy (AND PATRIARCHY) is for chumps!) here are some ladies that kill it, that need to put together a full length part.
1. Leticia Bufoni
Leticia is a certified badass. Voted Brazil’s 2012 Female Skater of the Year, she kills it. She is insanely talented and utterly fearless. At only 19 years old, she has a great barrier breaking career ahead of her. Her last part was Osiris Footwear’s 2008 youth video Children of the Revolution. While this part is sick, (the ollie at Hollywood is awesome,) she has definitely come a long way and needs something more contemporary to display her immense skill.
2. Marisa Dal Santo
Marisa goes hard and she skates fast. She charges big stairs and rails with huge tricks at 1,000 miles an hour. Marisa is truly a force of nature. A tornado of raw power, commitment, love, and talent. Bikini Kill sounds an awful lot like the way she shreds. She won the gold medal in the 2011 X-Games Women’s Street contest. Her most recent part was Zero’s 2010 video “Strange World.” For not even being two minutes long, its one of the best parts in the video.
3. Alexis Sablone
Alexis made a name for herself in the classic (and a personal favorite) video Coliseum Skate Shop’s “PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life.” She won the gold medal in the 2012 X-Games Women’s Street contest. With a mastery over both gnar and tech tricks, Alexis skates with a steezy and precise style that is all her own. The last time she had a video part all her own was PJLWHL in 2002. She also had a shared part in The Firm’s 2003 video “Can’t Stop.”
4. Hillary Thompson
Skateboarding’s first transgender skateboarder. Jenkem Magazine just released a really incredible article on Hillary that I will get more into in another post. Suffice it to say that if you don’t click on that link and read it, you are really and truly missing out and I am judging you for it. She skates so well and with such awesome drive, she is unstoppable. No rail or waist high ledge is safe. Hillary releases occasional videos on her YouTube channel, but a full part is a necessary when you see how she destroys every spot she goes to in increments generally under a minute. Her skating is fast and intense, and I wake up every day hoping she’ll have a full length part in a local North Carolina video.
5. Amelia Brodka
Amelia skates vert and transition like a champ! She skates bowls with three feet of vert like its a tech deck in a sink. She also releases short videos on Youtube on her own channel. Every photo or clip of her that surfaces is so rad. Her style is so smooth and steezy. Amelia has a lot of talent and deserves infinitely more attention. She has also just finished directing a film about female skaters and the industry that surrounds them, titled: “Underexposed: A Women’s Skateboarding Documentary.” The documentary also showcases skating by women, so I feel it may be safe to assume some of her footage as well as some belonging to women in this post, is destined for the documentary. Expect it in the near future and be on the lookout for more from Amelia.
6. Lacey Baker
Lacey skates with awesome technical precision. She has so much control, and is an all terrain machine. She rips both street and park, and yet a YouTube search of her name brings up a lot contest videos. Thanks to Girls Skate Network’s YouTube Channel leaving a comment on a video of Lacey, we know she is currently in the process of filming a full street part for Pawnshop Skate Co. Which is the best damn news.
7. Vanessa Torres
Vanessa has a very original approach with her tricks and the spots she shreds. Her style is so smooth and laid back, its like if peanut butter could do killer front boards. Vanessa’s skating is both subtle and in your face. Her most recent part was in Element’s 2007 video “This Is My Element.” It has been far too long since she released a proper street part.
8. Mimi Knoop
Mimi Knoop shreds. She skates fast and with a lot of aggression. She certainly ups the game in vert skating. While she kills it in contests all over the world, she deserves a full video part. Mimi skates so well, and is practically off the radar. Its a crime against humanity.
9. Alana Smith
Alana Smith recently became a household name for being the second girl in history to do a McTwist, and at only 12 years old. Alana kills it, even at such a young age. Shredding both vert and street she has unlimited potential. Her unfathomable skill and powerful style is addictive to watch. She has yet to release a full part, but with any luck, it will happen soon. Because damn.
10. Lizzie Armanto
Lizzie absolutely rips. She has been getting more attention recently, like in this years King Of The Road contest. She also won the Vans Combi Classic in 2010. She skates fast and with a lot of tricks up her sleeve. Her skating is so stylish and refined. There isn’t a lot she can’t do. Just watching her carve around a bowl you know she is destined for greatness. I would watch a full length part of her if it was recorded on a cell phone made in 2004, she kills it.
11. Elissa Steamer
Elissa is amazing. Everything about her is classic: she’s a legend. The fact that she is in sponsorship limbo is insane and unreal. At 37 years old, she still rips. If certain MTV show star/ skate entrepreneurs can put their name on boards and shoes well after they haven’t produced anything worthwhile on a skateboard in years, then Elissa Steamer should get pro model boards, shoes, and anything else she wants for life. If for no other reason than this.
There are so many other unreal female skaters we didn’t get to mention. For more shredding check out: