When I was coming up as a skater companies like Nike, Reebok, New Balance, and others viewed skateboarding as a "passing trend" and not one worth investing in. Adidas seemed to be the only major company at the time that seemed to nod at least partially in the direction of the skate scene. But even that was more of a word of mouth campaign, rather than a true product line. There certainly weren't whole divisions of these companies dedicated to skateboarders.
This left skateboarders with very few options in the late 80's through early 90s. Airwalk and Vans were pretty much the options that we had to choose between if we wanted true skate-shoes. Until it seems Etnies came on the scene that is.
Once Etnies became a true competitor for the shoe market, a whole host of skater-owned small companies emerged from all corners of the planet. Each with their own unique branding, and style. Companies like Es, Emerica, Lakai, iPath, and Globe to name a few, stepped in and stepped up to fill this void.
What this allowed was for true market opinion to direct the style and direction of each company. There weren't millions of dollars to invest in pumping ad campaigns or elevating pros to Jordan-ian status.
Out of this time came some amazing developments in the way skate shoes are made, and manufactured. I mean, it wasn't all that long ago that skate shoes were relegated to 1970s technology with solid rubber soles and little to no additional padding or support. There certainly wasn't the level of engineering that we see in today's skate shoe. Which brings me to the advent of skateboarding as a market influence in the big leagues. DC shoes. I don't think that it takes more than simply that name drop for you to know what I'm getting at.
DC was one of the first (if not the first) multi-million dollar per year shoe company who's sole focus was on the skateboarding market. I believe that the success of DC is what grabbed Nike and Reebok's attention.
The most amusing thing to me about the marketing strategy of both Nike and Reebok is how similar it is to their basketball shoe campaign. Both of the companies are the first to offer riders multi-million dollar shoe deals. The amusing thing is the discrepancy between this marketing style and that of the skater-owned companies. Where skater-owned companies would throw product down to a wide variety of riders, and offer a few a small monthly stipend, Nike and Reebok both came in and picked a pro that they felt could become the "Jordan" of skateboarding (Paul Rodriguez and Stevie Williams respectively) and sunk a huge amount of marketing money into the soles of these two individual skaters.
And failed miserably.
That is at first. I don't believe either company understood the sheer amount of anti-corporate sentiment that they would encounter. It was like the guy who used to kick your ass in high school showing up drunk at your party years later and pretending that the two of you are old friends. Neither company was well received.
Nike however, appears to have some marketing sense about them and have been able to overcome this and are actually becoming a respected force in the skateboarding world. It helps that they quickly abandoned the mega-star approach and started dropping product on everyone from major pros or minors in the industry, to sponsoring up-and-comers. As a result I see 2 out of every 5 kids on the street wearing Nike's skateboarding brand "Nike SB" shoes.
Whereas Reebok, apparently is either slower in the uptake or literally sunk all of it's marketing budget into Stevie William's ride. To this day, I've never seen anyone, outside of Stevie in his print ads, wear a pair of Reeboks flagship in the sea of skateboarding, i.e. the "RBK" brand. I've never even seen them on the wall in a shop!
Don't misunderstand, this is in no way a knock against Paul or Stevie. They are two of my favorite skaters. Actually it was Stevie's crazy-smooth style that influenced my own skating for many years.
I guess the point of this post is this: Skateboarding is it's own entity, and remains true to it's rebellious origins. It never will fit into the conventional mold of society because skaters themselves are too creative, crazy, or just down right pissed off to subscribe to the image set forth by pop-culture.
Admittedly I do own a pair of NikeSB shoes now, though I kick Circa or Lakai whenever I'm actually skating. They just skate better.