Ever wondered what started out the tie-in between Nike SB and Stefan Janoski? Before the endless rainbow of models and colorways that the brand has been releasing in recent years there was the start of the story.
We are going to share with you every detail of it.
More like a permanent path, most of Nike’s connection with skateboarding stands on more than just athletic achievement. There’s a clear link that the brand gives off, one of values and tastes that go beyond a sponsored profession.
About Stefan Janoski and Nike SB
Now, this goes without knocking the stellar records of the riders on the Swoosh roster. The Nike Stefan Janoski story is one of the better synthesis of that special bond. In particular, Janoski is widely recognized for skating at an elite level while lacking an expected athletic intensity.
His kick-flips and similar antics were awe-inspiring, but perhaps even more impressive was his relative nonchalance in making it all happen. As a result of a cultural relevance and adoration within the skateboarding community, Janoski quickly becomes a hot commodity.
The Swoosh’s relationship with a lot of sports starts more or less the same way. The first step is, of course, the actual relevance of the sport. From the football and soccer field to the basketball and tennis courts, Nike does not make a habit of sponsoring just anyone.
Almost every sporting league has an elite level, a place where the truly special shine. That is where Nike sets their sights. Usually, those sights are attracted by some sort of near-inhuman ability, capabilities beyond normal comprehension. But, with the Nike Stefan Janoski story, it’s just a tad bit different.
Creating team Nike SB
Not until 2002 is the famous Cali skateboarder officially on Nike’s roster of sponsors. For most of us, that year is the very beginning of the Swoosh-skateboarding love affair. After all, that’s when Team SB is officially put together.
But, short of the Nike Stefan Janoski story, the brand has a long history with the sport of subculture that reaches much further back. To get the most out of the Nike Stefan Janoski story, that past is worth understanding.
Janoski isn’t a teenager yet when Nike starts to become a fixture in the skateboarding community. In its earliest origins, the sport is a rebellious response to the conventional sports and what they represent.
The most popular sports in the world – soccer, basketball, baseball – base themselves largely on team play. To skateboarders, this was slightly underhanded. If you ask a skateboarder growing up in the 70s, organized athletics were about something else entirely. Teamwork was a word used to disguise uniformity.
The whole concept of a team was a veiled attempt at stifling individuality, or so goes the critique at the time. As a result, skateboarding took off not just as a pass time, but as an anti-culture movement.
The seemingly overnight boom of the sport causes some stir among footwear providers. In fact, there were business opportunities all over. Skateboard companies were popping up left and right, each with a rider – or team of riders – to sponsor for a competition.
The growing popularity of the sport, which looked to be incapable of slowing down, was a cash cow of epic proportions. Everyone from clothing brands to food and beverage companies wants in on the action at this point. But, there’s a catch. Skateboarding in the 70s isn’t the easiest sport to put marketing dollars behind.
Riders in those years are embracing a status of subculture and rebellion. In fact, it’s part of what lures kids like a young Stefan Janoski.
The promise of creativity without restriction and an emphasis on freedom become something wholly unique to skateboarding. As a result, nearly every facet of pop culture becomes an enemy.
Skateboarders were seen as troublemakers by a large part of society, representing lawlessness. On top of that, the sport is used as part of the manufactured stereotype of an unambitious person who has no direction in life.
In short, advertising dollars were going to be difficult to dedicate to this craft. While most companies and providers stay away from early skateboarding culture, something else happens with Nike.
Normally, the Swoosh discovers you and promises you all the sneakers and fame you want for a sponsorship offer. This is different, as before there even was a Nike Janoski story to be told, skateboarders choose Nike first.
When the Air Jordan 1 releases for the first time, it is a fixture of controversy. One of the very first colorways develops a reputation that bases itself on the NBA banning it. But, off the court, it is the first choice of a different sport altogether.
Rare Air and Ramps
Skateboarders take to the OG Jordan model quickly, and a love affair begins. Nike sneakers, usually basketball models, find themselves in skateboarding documentaries and music videos. The Nike Blazer (check out this ‘upgraded’ version signed by Virgil Abloh), a staple in basketball history, is another huge seller for riders. Janoski is one of them.
As he grows and makes the competition rounds, the California native opts for Swoosh models as much as possible. Per Janoski himself, and many other skaters, Nike sneakers were the preference of any skateboarder that wasn’t sponsored. Essentially, if you aren’t required to throw a sponsoring brand’s logo on your feet, you’re better off in some Nikes.
1990s to 2000s: From Slip-up to Slip-on
The connection with basketball sneakers would become tumultuous, though. As sneaker design evolves, so does the technology. One of the unfortunate side effects of this is a thickening of midsoles.
In particular, the 1990s saw most basketball sneakers get remarkably chunky. This was a very specific problem for skateboarders due to a premium placed on board feel.
The start of the Nike Stefan Janoski story and the SB team come after dealing with this issue. Another issue is the Nike brand’s exaggerated efforts to monetize their popularity, including a national ad campaign.
In the 2000s, this changes with names like Stefan Janoski. 2002 saw the brand build up a roster of famous skateboarders who also had respectable competition records.
Importantly, the minds of Janoski and the like come in to bring context to a brand with little in the way of experience.
Until then, Nike’s designs had no cultural backing and were functionally lacking. Thanks to these new sponsorships, one of the first things the brand did was to bring back the Dunk line of basketball sneakers. The Dunks were a hit among boarders thanks to a minimal midsole that resembles that of the beloved Air Jordan 1.
The Janoski Arrives
Then came something more special, a sneaker that looks a lot like a slip-on model, the apex of the story. Thanks to a no-frills upper and low ride build throughout, it meets almost no critical response. Nike, at long last, perfects the skateboarding shoe.
The shoe is a monumental achievement for the sport’s community. Sure, the sport getting any specific attention from a giant in the sportswear industry is always great. But, releasing a Stefan Janoski Nike model is significant for other reasons.
The Janoskis are unique in what they represent. It is not another release that comes straight from a design team who doesn’t relate to the sport. When Nike did this in their earlier attempts, it left a bad taste in the mouths of a potential cash cow.
Janoski is the second skateboarder to get a signature shoe, solidifying the brand’s commitment to the sport. In the years to follow its initial release, the Janoski releases in several colorways and technical changes. Iterations such as the “Cork” colorway represent some of the best Janoskis of all time.
More importantly, Nike happens to report a 9% increase in profits the following year.
Changing it Up
The idea of sponsoring a skateboarder was no longer some risky venture. Nike’s focus on the SB branch sends out a signal to other brands in the industry.
To this day, major names such as adidas can’t boast as strong a presence within the skateboarding community. And to think all it took to put together a competent shoe for skateboarders was to work with an actual skateboarder.
But, to be sure, this isn’t just any athlete we’re talking about here. Janoski may only represent a significance to particular fans. But, Nike’s success in this sector is thanks largely to the unique Cali-native.
At the earliest onset of the Nike Stefan Janoski story, things were simpler. Janoski is and has always been, more than a skateboarder. In fact, the whole global-skateboarding-icon thing was more or less Plan B. Always a creative mind, his childhood sees him obsess over the simple act of creating something.
Putting something together in his mind and then making is the closest thing to a calling he feels. Janoski grows to have a specific passion for art. But, as is usually the case, there are complications.
While going to school to hone his craft, the skater discovers that art involves the study of things like computer imaging along with other technical details. Frankly, he just wanted to draw and create, without being bothered by the machine-like process.
Image Credit: Füel
After losing interest in that schooling, Janoski moves into skateboarding, leaving his artistic fancies as hobbies. Nike’s offer to give him his own sneaker is an irresistible opportunity for both parties.
For Janoski, ever the fan of drawing and sculpting, this is a chance to revisit his original passion. For Nike, the advantages are numerous. His talent and creativity come together with his experience as a skateboarder.
The result is a shoe that ticks visual boxes with the needs of the skateboarder driving the entire design.
“It’s a Lifestyle”
Nike’s focus on skateboarder is a good sign of what’s to come from the sport. Before this, skateboarding was a means to a certain fame. It was not, however, a way to get into the upper echelons of society.
Names such as Eric Koston, Omar Salazar and Stefan go far in the way of global recognition.
Associating with Nike and releasing signature products goes a mighty long way in that effort. Sure, the brands that have a more significant history of skateboarding culture are still here.
They continue to be a primary option for many upcoming skaters, and that doesn’t look to be changing. But, Nike’s position is no longer precarious.
The Nike SB Stefan Janoski story being an instant classic is a big part of that. But, perhaps an even bigger element is holistically the sport is approached. In fact, Janoski himself admits to wanting “to do everything.”
His passions may start with art and creating, but they don’t end there. The veteran athlete sees his career choice as one that goes beyond being a job.
Even when things were tough and the paychecks weren’t coming in with enough frequency, this was always about a lifestyle.
Resisting the temptation of school and a more traditional 9-to-5, Janoski took a bet on himself and now creates every day. That culture, the approach to skateboarding as a lifestyle, needs no minimal marketing.
Just expose people to the art form, to the sneakers, and let voices like Janoski’s lead the way.
“Being a Skateboarder makes you aware…”
It’s remarkable to think that what keeps Nike from being the skateboarding power that it is back in the 90s is bulk. Back then, the low-riding basketball sneakers took a sharp turn that made the Air Jordan 1 and Blazer seem downright pedestrian for a while.
Air Force 1’s, Air More Uptempos, even the names are cumbersome. The last thing a skateboarder needs, in any decade, is a pair of shoes that make them heavier on their feet.
In the end, Janoski’s life as a skateboarder made him more aware of everything. His surroundings, emotions, problems, it was all clear. Even clearer to him is what Nike does wrong in its early skateboarding efforts.
Combining that awareness with an obsession with making abstract and creative ideas really can only ever produce something wonderful.
The Nike Skateboarding team’s relevance only makes them a more enticing team for future stars. As the years go by, the share the Swoosh maintains of this market section will only continue to grow.
One has to wonder if another Janoski is budding right now, waiting for a problem to solve and an idea to make real. Hopefully, the Nike Janoski story doesn’t end here.
If you’re now a real fan of the Nike Janoski, make sure to check out our Top 8 Best Nike Janoski for fall.
Images and video courtesy of Nike SB