For the first time in its 166-year history, Louis Vuitton has produced a shoe made specifically for skateboarding. Designed by and for pro skater Lucien Clarke, the still-unnamed shoe breaks the last barrier in skate and fashion’s weird love affair.
At first, a Louis Vuitton shoe that is actually made to be skated in — not just made to look like a skate shoe for aesthetic purposes — seems wrong. After all, what does a luxury French fashion house know about a sport that is defiantly anti-fashion? In fact, the appropriation of skate culture by luxury brands is nothing new, and neither is skating in (and, as a result, destroying) absurdly expensive sneakers.
It’s all part of an on-again, off-again relationship between the sport and a fashion world that, for decades, excluded skaters such as Clarke, but is now clamoring to have them sitting front row in Paris. Clarke and Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton skate shoe is the marriage proposal we’ve all known to be coming for quite some time.
On one side of the aisle, you’ve got brands such as Lanvin and Louis Vuitton putting ’00s skate shoe-inspired sneakers on their runways at Paris Fashion Week. On the other side, you’ve got skaters posting videos of themselves on Instagram skating in expensive Off-White™ x Nike or luxury Louis Vuitton sneakers. A lot of these videos are being reposted by Virgil Abloh, who, having skated himself, acts as a bridge between the two worlds.
Add the fact that one of the most popular skate silhouettes, the Nike SB Dunk, is back in the mainstream limelight and is now seemingly more popular with non-skaters than those the shoe was actually designed for, and it’s easy to see why skaters are attracted by shoes not made for them.
Skateboarding culture is deeply rooted in anti-establishment and anti-fashion — which is not to be confused with not caring about fashion or looking cool, but rather not buying into the hype and values the fashion world peddles to consumers too willing to part with their hard-earned cash.
Instead, skaters are taking $1,000 shoes to the skate park and shredding them to pieces. What’s more anti-fashion than destroying an expensive sneaker? Ironically, fashion — led by Abloh’s Louis Vuitton — has fully embraced skate culture by designing an expensive shoe that was made to be destroyed. It’s here that the Venn diagram of skaters and luxury brands officially overlaps.
Fashion has courted skaters for years, trying to get a slice of their effortless cool, while skaters such as Blondey McCoy and Lucien Clarke have always had an interest in fashion — first as outsiders peering in, and now as certified insiders. After eying each other across the dance floor over the past few years, both cultures have finally grown the balls to ask each other to dance.