This Is What Skate Shoes Looked Like Ten Years Ago

(Click to enlarge. Thanks to Alex Dymond for the mags from which the scans come from.)

The gratuitous air bubble is an oft-overlooked entry on the “Worst Trends in Skateboarding” list.

It’s easy to get nostalgic for classic shoes from the past. We have fond recollections of the éS Koston 1s (one of the few times the air bubble “worked”) and the Lakai Staple (even if our memories tend to slim their bulky construction down a bit), but forget that they had to co-exist with some of the ugliest shoes known to man. More often than not, the prototypical late-90s / early-2000s moon boot began with an air bubble. The Osiris D3 was the most notorious of the bunch, but there are other equally hideous offenders that we tend to forget about.

This infographic is from a 2001 issue of Stance, which was Transworld’s short-lived shot at a “lifestyle” magazine a la Complex. It accompanies an article that breaks down Jordan Brand’s use of air bubbles in basketball shoes, and is meant to illustrate how “air technology” made its way into skateboarding.

Today, it provides an overview of just how insane the average skate shoe looked back then, not to mention clues as to why half of these companies aren’t around anymore. It worked for the Koston 1 and Reynolds 1, but it didn’t work for a whole lot of others. People don’t come to terms with the absurdity of most trends until long after they pass, so there’s nothing wrong with us admitting we were psyched on a few of these back when they came out.

Thank God there are kids comfortable with jumping down 15 sets in Old Skools and Janoskis nowadays, right? Without them, people would still think that air bubble has a reason to exist. Shout out to the Dunk / Jordan 1, the Half-Cab, and the Chuck Taylor.

A Cab 7? Didn’t they figure Cabs out in like 1991?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s this:

More notes on shoes from 10 years ago:

Below is what Gravis was doing prior to Dylan coming through and merging the scene with the board. Paulgar is eternally grateful for their shift in direction. It’d be hard to imagine him pulling these off…

Could you imagine if Jay-Z and G-Unit’s peak popularity came at a time that coincided with today’s high level of rapper interest in skateboarding? A skate version of a S Dot or G-Unit sneaker? Imagine if this post just jinxed everything, and Lil’ Wayne’s creative direction in footwear extended beyond an inevitable colorway on Supra or something? If there’s one skater (We decided that Wayne’s a skater, remember?) that could make the moon boot thing explode again, it’s certainly him.

There are a lot of ugly sneakers in the history of sneakers, but Master P’s is the only one to be so ugly that it became a recognizable point of comparison for other rappers (even if they themselves endorsed ugly sneakers.)

Whoever bought these in 1998 deserved a $100 refund from by No Limit Records.


  1. I bought the Master P’s in green from an outlet mall in 99 for like 30. there were boxes and boxes of every color available

  2. DC is responsible for ushering in the cyborg shoe era. Pre DC = people still skating in basic shit like half cabs or new raps or just whatever non skate-shoes. Post DC = every shoe company with a lineup of faux-tech air-bubble creatures.

  3. I’m in total agreement with you R.

    Pre DC, skaters around my way were only messing with Vans and Airwalks, but then 1997 happened and all of a sudden skate shop shoe walls had more air bubbles than Foot Locker.

    The D3 in 2001 had to have been when things came to the absolute worst. Full length fake air bubbles and loaf of bread padding. I don’t know how anyone could walk in those things, let alone skate.

    It’s so nice things are getting back to normal.

  4. Koston 1’s were my first and I stuck with nothing but ‘es for 7 years before ever trying a different shoe. Thank god my mom refused to pay for D3’S.

  5. the first series of lakais were puffy as fuck. In 9 years it’ll be hip to rock pull cord athletic pants and no socks with puffy shoes and a yellow t shirt. (see chad fernadez’s first few world industries ads)

  6. Niggas forgot about the first Reynolds on emerica with the air bubble. The Marc Johnson’s were for real niggas too.

  7. if you’re gonna say niggas at least make sure you read the article that mentions Reynolds 1s. stoops

  8. Lets not forget some of the best shoes ever>old school, adidas campus, etnies rap/ellese, es accell, nike canvas gts, Dc Lynx, Airwalk jim,

    worst shoes not from a bullshit company like simple or 2fish> salman agah, vans bluechers, Zerotwo

    Also shoes that were probably terrible and you really wanted them like airwalk mid top thermo or this

    Puma nubuck indoor soccer shoes were awesome and the shoes richard mulder had on the cover of new world order

  9. Egad! Is that a FUBU x Smolik collaboration up there or what?! Which one came first? Who’s biting whom on that?

  10. I actually don’t mind techy skate shoes with air bubbles, as long as its done tastefully – or even concealed inside the sole, without a clear window to make it visible. The Koston 1’s are a good example of keeping things tasteful.

    I’ll agree that things got mighty clunky in the early 2000’s… but now I think its gone a bit too far the other way, actually. Shoes seem a little TOO thin and low profile now. I dont mind the simplicity, but It’d be nice to strike a balance between old school functionailty and newer technology that makes the shoes more cushioned and supportive. I never had a problem “feeling” my board through some hi-tech air bubble DC’s. On the other hand, Half Cabs (and all Vans) have grip and ‘feel’ – but I feel like I’ll get a heel bruise from stepping off a curb. I love me some white half cabs, but I need to throw an extra insole in there for padding.

  11. the irony here is you cared enough to read the whole paragraph and respond. I feel you tho… you got to the end of my tale and felt just a bit empty and lost. It happens. Try lying down for a while. Breathing into a bag also helps. Best of luck!

  12. Clayton, i have a question, are you basing your analysis off of which one of these shoes fits snuggest in your asshole? I tend to agree with you, a balance is good. D3’s used to leave me shitting blood for days, but eras just werent satisfying my needs. Do you feel the same way? Also, since I invented the modern day skate shoe and modern day skateboarding, I have to say it’s great to have someone else who shares my fixation with stuffing size 8’s into my rectum. I totally know what you mean about “board feel”

  13. Damn Snack, looks like you struck a nerve; be careful though, you’re going to need a lawyer and an agent soon if you don’t already have them.

    And if you can, get those dudes you run an ad for to stock up on their 139s.

    That said, the Half Cab Society already put a face on this topic in like 2003 or 2004, when only a hand full of dudes were into Vans. Now look at it; and it’s no surprise that Converse, Nike, and Adidas finally got it, like Vans did right around the Dog Town and Z boys premiere; remember man, the Vans craze that started then.

    Vans was trying for a while to be Etnies or latter day Airwalks (Velocity Zooms and Enigmas were the shit though); then they realized, keep it simple, authentic, now we got Vans on “Tyler the Creator ass niggas”, as one of your readers put it. Every one is vulcanized now when people used to bitch about how much they’re feet hurt in Vans.

    Functional elegance, authenticity, simplicity; Vans has even gone so far as putting out a snapback that says “AUTHENTIC”; it’s a paradigm shift the companies all get now (remember choads, and when bam margera skated for nike; dgk/reebok; but they had to go through some growing pains) and the lesson they learned is there for all of us, don’t try to be something you’re not, be what you were in the first place, cause that’s your most effective stance; just be yourself.

  14. Find it interesting that I said “used to bitch” when the clayton dude was bitching presently.

    I’ll just refer him to Paulgar, who skates in the fucking Authentics–no padding at all; I’ve got my money on him against the dude who puts padding in his Half Cabs.

  15. speaking of money, you still owe us for the damage that night Paulgar. you gonna come by and settle your tab?

  16. Cute little indie-rock slippers are garbage to skate in … unless you’re like mark gonzales or some shit doing cartwheels into traffic. Then they’re really great.

    Those gay high-top velcro looking shits … that’s what kids should be wearing strictly. With shorts.

  17. To be fair, the whole slip on, boat shoe, granola eating, hippie vans thing is pretty wack. Really well designed tech shoes can look great. Koston 2’s and 3’s are amazing.

  18. to not be fair, i don’t think anyone on the vans team could considered a granola eating hippy

  19. The best skate shoes im skating right now is the dc montys because you get great board feel in the forefront and there is a good heel protection and its puffy enough for your 569s lol.

  20. Since I graduated HS I haven’t followed none of that trend. I didn’t know adio ceased to exist until recently and I haven’t seen a pair of etnies in like forever. I had a pair of brown lakais with the bubble, does anybody know what I’m talking about?

  21. there was a time when i wished to have P Master star sneakers but couldn’t, still i want to have one but unfortunately i couldn’t find it in market

  22. Say what you will… I really liked my Circa Muska’s and my Circa CX201’s… I wish I could still get the CX201’s. I am just not a fan of the boat shoes nowadays… And Supra blows.

  23. do people really find skateboarding in authentics that insane? like is there a necessary amount of padding you need underneath your feet in order to be considered “normal” in the 2k14 skateboarding scene?

  24. Why did all skate shoe companies resort to boat shoes or Keds style shoes… I miss the old Vans, Airwalk, Hawk, DC, DVS, World Industries, eS, Etnies, etc. Keds suck & the majority of the shoes by these companies are now KEDS…

    Please bring back my style of shoe. I don’t even skate anymore, it’s just what I wear. They are comfortable. E.g. DC Court Graff if they held up better. Soles that are stitched on, not flat soles with a glued on edging. Leather or suede, not cloth. C’mon guys!

  25. Sadly i grew into the Puff-Shoe style… and to be honest i can not wear the old schools… no way. Also i disagree what has been written about the extra foam in a puffy shoe tounge because back in the 90’s i rested my board on top of my right foot a whole darn lot or on top of the tip of the shoe. I really value the firmness of the puff shoes… but i agree on the overall board-feeling… however we were just as much able to skate and do tricks with it than with the old skools. Cheers!

  26. my emerica heretic 1 was my first and te best skate i ever had, durability, confort and early 00´s big style.

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