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!