New "Nike SB Nyjah Free" aka "Nike SB Nyjah Huston" aka "Nike Nyjah 1"
100 % synthetic (rubber) upper
It has happened. Nike has come out with a vegan skate shoe. And a seemingly amazing, and supposedly durable, and lightweight skate shoe - an actual skate skate shoe that has everything a skate shoe needs and could ever need. The first Nyjah Huston pro model on Nike. Yes, worth repeating:
good looking + lightweight + durable + breathable + vegan + grippy sole + grippy flick-enhancing upper + immediately broken in/ready to skate/flexible.
I have never owned or bought or worn a pair of Nike shoes in my life, ever. And I had no plans of ever buying a pair of Nike's. At a price of near 100 Euros, I still don't exactly have plans to ... but I'm swaying.
Many "older" skaters, like myself, don't wear Nike. It's just bad taste. Maybe more so than the common "Nike is not a skate company" comment the deeper reason for this might be that we remember a time when the "Nike jocks" (to generalize a little) - yes I might be talking about you - didn't consider us skateboarders very cool, to put it mildly. Another reason is that many skaters have a tendency to be *afflicted* by "small company syndrome". The more "established" a company gets, the less appealing it becomes to (many) skaters. Think of Element. When they were called "Underworld" they were the shit. Now they are obviously lame, right? I mean look at Element.
Remember how Etnies were available "at skate shops only"? It's not even controversial that Etnies are lame. Even Don Brown might agree: Etnies is Sole Tech's "jock brand", while Emerica is the "hardcore skate" brand, and éS is the fancy schmancy "tech" (and also hardcore skate) brand.
I'm not going to use the word ironic when it comes to the ex-vegan, ex-vegetarian Nyjah Huston now coming out with a vegan shoe that will likely become more popular than Jesus - or Ed Templeton in Germany in the late 1990s as Transworld might have put it ... while the young dietary vegan rasta Nyjah of a few years ago likely ALWAYS skated in real leather shoes.
We - *everyone with any sense of morality* - should be grateful to Nyjah, and (swallow) Nike, for coming out with this entirely synthetic, leather-free, super innovative, tech skate shoe. I can't wait to skate it - maybe one day I will.
Says the Nike website:
"SHAKE UP THE SESSION [!]
I contacted Nike.com (Germany) and they assured me that the upper was 100% synthetic, AND that they use only the best materials, that their technology is very advanced and that they are focused on making their shoes lightweight so that the athletes who use this shoe "can run even faster [!]". ... Apparently, the German speaking Nike customer service isn't exactly involved with skateboarding (or thinking that skateboarding is a thing).
The online commerical videos with Nyjah talking about his new shoe - that it was designed by himself (without hinting at anything at all that he did design specifically), and that it was designed for everybody, to look good on everybody, to be especially also made to look good on girls, to be suitable for running (yeah right), chilling (high tech chilling), and for any demographic imaginable ... are obviously as fake as the claims by Koston and Paul Rodriguez that they've ALWAYS LOVED NIKE. If Nike gave me a million dollars, surely I would also have ALWAYS LOVED NIKE.
However, on the Nyjah episode of "The Nine Club with Chris Roberts" Nyjah gives us some useful details.
"This new material they use is crazy [...] some high-tech rubber, and it's really thin [...] very grippy [...] it actually lasts a long time. It's really thin, and it's, like, really flexible, but it lasts a long time."
"2018 is supposed to be, like, the year of 'Nike Free' which is supposed to be that really flexible, thin, light [...] look." [Let's hope there are more vegan shoes on their way.]
"I was just obviously expecting a suede shoe. That's all I've ever skated before. It's what most shoes are."
For the original of Nyjah's explanations regarding this shoe see here (The Nine Club).
I found these shoes "by accident" - vegan skate shoe spotting - in a local skate shop yesterday. They ARE beautiful, no doubt. (More colours will probably come out in the near future.)
Imagine the number of cows (and pigs) that could be spared a life of terrible suffering if all skate shoes switched to this or similar animal-free materials.
Some more trivia from jock mag GQ:
"He's [Nyjah Huston] also apparently earned more prize money than any skater...ever."
"Getting a signature Nike shoe is a huge deal for any professional athlete, skaters included. (Only three other pros have ever had that honor: Eric Koston, Paul Rodriguez, and Stefan Janoski.)" [I don't think this is true. Richard Mulder has a pro shoe on Nike, so does Gino Iannucci. So does Brian Anderson. Or are they not proper pro models?]
"As Huston says: “No one wants a stiff, bulky, thick, puffy [skate] shoe anymore.” The all-white upper features a Swoosh, with cutouts on the sides for breathability. And the shoe's segmented rubber sole is built to break in after a day or two (whereas other shoes might take weeks)."
"One of the best things about the shoe is it actually lasts a long time, because we use this new rubber material that no one has ever used on a skate shoe before. That’s one of the things I tell kids about it. I made this shoe for [them] to be able to enjoy and actually keep and skate in instead of it blowing out in a week." [skate shoe equivalent of a health claim]
"That’s what makes skateboarding so awesome, because everyone is so different and so individual." [Exactly.]
Thank you, Nyjah!
UPDATE 16 June 2018:
Today at the skate park a BMXer let me try out his Nike Nyjah free. I usually wear a US 10 in Emerica/éS/Vans and a 42 in the Servant Dagon. This pair of Nike Nyjahs was a US 10, too, and they fit just the same. In some youtube videos I have heard the upper of the Nyjah shoe described as having a kickflip flick that needs getting used to. I cannot confirm this at all. The flick was just normal to me. The soles are super grippy, amazing, and very flexible. I found the toe area quite "roomy", not tight at all, but the shoe might mould to your feet more over time, and I was just wearing the shoes for 5 minutes or so. The back of the foot, between arch and heel, I found quite narrow, but again I assume that this will mould to your feet's shape more over time. I didn't really notice this too much, but the BMXer told me that the heel impact protection of the shoe was quite good (heel area sole padding). I found the heel relatively high, but it didn't really bother me. Of course, from 5 minutes of skating I can't say anything about durability but from the wear tests I've seen on youtube both the sole and the upper seem to be quite durable, possibly justifying the price. The dilemma of whether to buy Nike shoes remains. But this dilemma seems to mostly be based on aesthetics, and I think a reasonable dilemma should be based on ethics. I don't really see a difference in buying vegan skate shoes from Lakai, Emerica, Etnies, éS or from Vans, Nike or New Balance when it comes to working conditions in the factories or environmental pollution which will indirectly affect humans and nonhuman animals. Choosing canvas or other textiles (hemp would probably be better - Ipath used to use hemp) is probably preferable to microfibre or other synthetic materials environmentally speaking, but not necessarily so if you end up using more pairs of canvas shoes. Minimizing the pairs of shoes you need will minimize the environmental impact but the more you skate the more pairs of shoes you will go through - and skating less is not an option. Also, environmental impact - I think - is only relevant in so far as it will cause suffering to anyone, and whereas the link between leather and suffering is very clear and direct (animals in farms and slaughterhouses but also tannery workers' much higher disease risk and reduced life expectancy, and environmental pollution from tanneries), the link between synthetic materials from shoes - which ideally should be recycled - and suffering is less clear.