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Jamie Thomas interview from the Sidewalk Skateboard Buyers Guide 2013.

10:00 23rd January 2014 by Ryan Gray
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Over the years you’ve had multiple pro shoes on various different brands, are you at a point now where you can combine all of this experience into a shoe design that covers every eventuality?
Yeah, I’d like to think that experience definitely gives you insight into what works and doesn’t work, but because skate shoes are constantly changing and evolving to suit the present state of skateboarding, there’s always a new challenge.

How hands-on are you when it comes to your own pro model’s design stages?
I usually design every aspect of my pro model shoes: from the silhouette, to the outsole thickness, to every stitch and detail.
I make time to focus on my shoes because as I well know it’s one of the most critical elements to actual skateboarding.

How does the process of designing a skate shoe work, for the uninitiated amongst us?
You have to start with a basic silhouette or a basis of shoe that you know you like. From there the goal is to make changes in order to improve or customize the design to suit your personal performance and aesthetic goals. I use illustrator to make the design and spec out the details for the factory. They then make engineered drawings of the design and send them back to us for approval. From there we pick colours and materials. It’s a really fun process.

From the early 90’s era of cut-down shoes onwards, (with some notable exceptions) the low-top seems to be in the ascendant as far as ‘skateboard-specific’ shoe design has gone – do you think there’s a performance reason for this?
There’s a fine line between support and restriction. Skateboarding has progressed and gotten a lot more technical since the 80’s, so agility, flexibility, and board feel are really important.
To reinforce my point, you can do an early grab or a 360 boneless in combat boots; it doesn’t really matter what shoes you wear. Things have changed a lot.

Your current pro shoe – the Victory – can you talk us through some of the features and performance aspects of it please?
My goal when designing a shoe is create a simple design with a clean aesthetic that is thin enough to feel your board, but durable enough to hold up. I also focus on making sure that my shoes are skateable straight out of the box, so you can enjoy the shoe from the moment you put it on your foot to the moment they’re dead. The Victory has a one-piece toe and there are no seams in harm’s way. Most of the colourways are suede as well so they’re durable yet break in fast. The Victory is a vulcanized shoe and is relatively lightweight, so there’s no feeling of excess. I think it’s one of the best performing shoes I’ve had in a long time.

You’ve had various shoes before with a cupsole so what prompted the decision to opt for a vulc sole this time around?
For the past 6 or 7 years, I’ve just preferred the way a vulc sole feels and the board control you get.

Obviously your responsibilities at Fallen extend much further than just worrying about your own pro models – how do you work with the other riders to come up with designs and performance aspects that work for the range of skate styles represented by the Fallen team?
We start by determining what’s missing from the line and identifying what the team rider wants in a shoe. When those things line up, we start the process. Some team riders really want to be involved in the process and some are fine with being shown ideas they can pick from. Both ways have their benefits and we’re fine with either system.

The Fallen ‘Road Less Travelled’ video has just come out, along with Cold War from Zero close to deadline – how do you find the time to be so involved in every aspect of Black Box?
(Laughing), I don’t do it that well. I just work as many hours as I can every day and try to prioritize my time wisely. I need to quit a few of my jobs though, that has to be a future goal.

Do you have an overall favourite skate shoe from your many years of skating? Like a kind of pinnacle moment of functional design say?
There are shoes from every era that I’ve loved, but I’m not sure if it’s actually the shoes or the good times I had in the shoes, because I’m not trying to go back and wear them again.

What’s been your favourite Fallen shoe from over the years and why?
My favourite shoe is always my new shoe because it represents where I’m at and what I’m doing today. Right now, I’m skating the Victory but I have some Chief XI samples that are pretty damn sweet too.

So from your informed perspective – what should skaters be looking out for and be conscious of when they buy their next pair of skate shoes?
What the shoe looks like, how does it fit your foot, is the sole style right for you, will the materials last, what does that brand represent and would you spend your money to support that brand over another brand. That pretty much covers it…

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