"ERAone Footwear was founded in 2016 with a singular purpose: to bring back the puff. After a long period of lowest common denominator, identikit, thin, vulcanised footwear, over the past few years there has been a concerted effort from some skate shoe companies to try to go back to their roots. Unfortunately it has been largely an unsuccessful endeavour, with skaters who know and love these older designs being continually let down, with each new "re-issue" leading only to further disappointment."
I stumbled across ERAone footwear a few weeks back, after having a look through their Instagram and a read of their website, quoted above, I wanted to find out more. Is this just a project by some older guys nostalgic for the era they grew up skating in? Or is there space in skateboarding for these kind of endeavors, given the broad church that skateboarding has become? After speaking to Ben Brooks I think it's probably a mixture of the two, read on and make your own mind up.
Can you explain the idea behind ERAone footwear?
The idea came from being an O.G skate shoe collector. I only collect skate shoes from the mid 90’s to the mid 00’s, the 'golden era' of skateboarding. There is a solid group of collectors on Instagram and Facebook who, like me, love the styling of shoes from this era. Companies don’t make shoes like this anymore so the initial idea stemmed from a gap in the market and a general want and need amongst collectors. The overall idea is to bring some styling back into skate shoes.
What inspired the decision to start the company? Is it something you’ve had in mind for a while?
I really only started down this road maybe six months ago. I guess the main decision to start in the first place was my overall disappointment with what modern skate shoes have become, everything is so slim these days! Some companies have started reissuing models from the past but they are slimming them down as well, this ruins the overall look of what they once were in my opinion. As a collector its great to get a deadstock pair in your hands, but most of the time you can’t wear them, the foams have deteriorated over time so they might look good but as soon as you take 10 steps they start cracking and blow out. Collectors and old school skaters are hanging out for a shift in the skate shoe industry, but it's just not moving right now.
"We need more startup companies and we need skaters to support these smaller companies, and give the finger to the big corporate leeches sucking the life out of what we all love."
Has the (seeming) success of smaller brands like State encouraged you to give it a shot?
I never really look at whats going on with other companies. I just decided to have a crack. State are doing their thing, and it’s cool that they’re independently owned. This is what's needed back in skateboarding more than ever right now. Fuck the big corporates! We need more startup companies and we need skaters to support these smaller companies and give the finger to the big corporate leeches sucking the life out of what we all love. ERAone are looking to change the game! Everything goes in cycles and its only a matter of time till 90’s styling makes it’s way back.
What’s the response been like so far? You guys get a lot of comments on your Instagram.
I can honestly say the feedback has been amazing! I think we have had maybe two negative comments, everyone else has either been supportive or offered constructive criticism. It’s great getting everyone involved in the process, I think people appreciate coming along for the ride. We’ve been open and honest about the whole journey, we try to answer everyone's questions and take on their suggestions at the same time. I like the idea that these are a shoe designed by the skateboarding family, most of the changes that have happened are from suggestions we’ve received.
What shoes had you been skating before you started making your own? Was it a pain getting hold of ’90’s’ style shoes?
I’ve tried to skate some of the new slim shoes but they’re not for me. I’m currently skating a pair of Emerica Tilts from 2004, I also have a pair of Lakai Puig's and even some éS EK01’s that I skate. When I first started collecting it was hard finding O.G pairs, once you get into Instagram pages like @chomponkicks or @ogskateshoecollecting you can make friends with the right people pretty quickly. There are still a heap of pairs of cool shoes out there that have stood the test of time. If you want something in particular, chances are someone has them.
"Skateboarding had soul and style. Now it’s drab and lacks individualism, if something is working for one company, the next company follows and puts their spin on it."
What was so special about the 90’s?
The 90’s was the beginning of the height of skateboarding brands. There were so many options back then, whether it was skateboards, hardware, clothing or shoes. Skateboarding hadn’t been discovered as a viable market for the big corporations back then, so the little companies flourished. You only have to look at a CCS catalogue from that era to see how great it was. Skateboarding had soul and style. Now it’s drab and lacks individualism, if something is working for one company, the next company follows and puts their spin on it. Sad times…
What were your favorite shoes that came from that era?
Look at the shoe companies that were around then and the great stuff they were churning out. éS, DC, Axion, Circa, Duffs, Etnies, Globe, Emerica, 88, the list goes on. For me éS were the greatest, my favourite shoe is the Koston 1 but Chad Muska, Geoff Rowley, Rodney Mullen and Kareem Campbell, to name a few, all these guys had their finger on the pulse and made quality shoes.
Are there any modern shoe designs you’re into?
Not really, I have tried a few different pairs but I can’t get past that extended toe box and the overall slim design, call me a dinosaur!
What other shoes have influenced the ERAone designs?
The original double cup outsole on our first and second samples was influenced by the Koston 1, but it's also been used on many other designs. As far as the upper goes I guess I took cues from a whole lot of designs. If you look at our shoes you can pick bits and pieces and say that looks like so and so shoe, you can do that with every shoe though, nothing is original anymore.
How does the whole process work, without giving too much away, who designs the shoes? Where are they made? How many different models can we expect?
Ive done all of the design myself so far, I have no design expertise whatsoever, but I know what makes a good skate shoe. We are manufacturing in China currently and it's going well. As far as models go, we're just going with one for now, there is another model in the works but its only in the early sample stage. We need to sell some pairs of the first model before we start looking at doing a second.
Do you have a plan for working more directly with shops as that seems to be a bugbear from the retailers' point of view regarding large shoe brands?
For starters we will sell direct to the consumer. Its hard being based in Australia with shipping costs, but I think with our hardcore fan base this won’t be an issue with the first run. The next step will be to source distributors in the U.S and Europe. It's too hard to sell direct to stores all around the world without distributors.
"I really feel for the younger generation... all they know is thin, vulc shit!"
Have you managed to convert many younger skaters?
I really feel for the younger generation, they’ve never had the chance to walk into a skate shop and experience what us older guys were lucky enough to see. All they know is thin, vulc shit! In saying that, I’ve had kids from all around the world send messages excited to get their hands on a pair of ERAones. Its pretty cool to think that we could change kids visions of what a skate shoe looks like. Even if its a small section of the community, I'd be happy with that.
People like John Shanahan getting a lot of exposure right now must help?
I love that guys style. He’s young but he’s taking it back to the old school. He will have a lot of influence on the younger guys too which definitely helps us out.
Any plan to get a team together?
Not at this stage. We haven’t sold one shoe yet! It is for sure something we would love to do down the track, if things go well, but we'll just have to see how things pan out. We would probably be more likely to head to parks and give out kicks to kids who need them.
When can we expect the first run of shoes to drop?
People keep asking this question and we really can’t give an answer. These shoes won’t drop till everything is right. We can’t risk releasing a shoe that comes apart after a few skates. Being our first release this could make or break us, I hope everyone can stay patient and stick with us through the testing stage.
Thanks Ben, and all the best with ERAone.