History and scientific facts are under attack these days, in an age where time-honored truths can be overthrown by a single Tweet or Facebook post. What was considered concrete cold fact might well be relegated to a matter of mere opinion in one swift 280-character rant.
Global warming? Fake news! Do children really need to be vaccinated? Are Biggie and Tupac still alive? And is planet Earth actually flat? You just can’t be sure anymore.
The tight-knit world of skateboarding had its moment of revisionist history when men’s lifestyle magazine GQ published a story featuring the designer of the notorious OSIRIS D3 skateboard shoe. The backdrop for the story was, as sneaker heads already know, the release of the AWGE x Under Armour SRLo shoe created by rapper/fashion icon A$AP Rocky.
This latest installment in the ‘ugly shoe’ hype is one big, obvious riff on the D3’s original design in all its puffy-tongued 1990s glory. So it made sense to acknowledge the shoe’s skateboarding inspirations and bring the original designer into the GQ story and photo shoot.
Except for the fact that, appearing next to the rapper was not OSIRIS Shoes co-founder and senior footwear designer Brian Reid, who had designed the D3 according to established historic accounts, but former professional skateboarder Dave Mayhew, who had endorsed the shoe as his pro model at the time.
As the co-author of the first book on the history of skateboard footwear, Made For Skate this new take on the D3 story piqued my interest. Perhaps we had missed some facts at the time?
Setting the record straight
Literally hours after the GQ story went online, OSIRIS Footwear posted images of the A$AP Rocky-endorsed shoe next to the original D3 model, calling out ‘We all know who dropped it first’ on their Instagram.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the problem we had when the [A$AP Rocky] shoe first dropped was the brand OSIRIS wasn’t getting the credit for dropping that shoe 20 years ago. And clearly A$AP lifted the design,” said Nolan Woodrell, Marketing Manager at OSIRIS Shoes.
“Now the record is being set straight by even A$AP, so that is good. But in the future, if a brand or artist wants to collaborate with us all they have to do is email us or hit us on DM on Instagram @OSIRISshoes. And if it makes sense we are down to work with anybody that’s awesome like A$AP or any other pop culture figure,” said the team at OSIRIS.
We all know who dropped it first…
Speaking of setting the record straight: Over the past few weeks, seasoned footwear designer Brian Reid has embarked on an interview crusade in the skateboarding, streetwear, and fashion media. His side of the story has appeared in stories on Jenkem (‘THE OSIRIS D3 DESIGNER SPEAKS ON DAVE MAYHEW & UNDER ARMOUR’S RIPOFF’) and FootwearNews (‘Is A$AP Rocky Crediting the Wrong OSIRIS Designer For Inspiring His Under Armour Sneaker?’), while HypeBeast and Highsnobiety also jumped on the story. Before the scandal, the designer had already laid out the genesis of the D3 in a story on The Hundreds website in July.
Reid also went on a tongue-in-cheek Instagram rampage. Posts included an image of A$AP Rocky and Mayhew subtitled “Milli Vanilli” in reference to the best-selling 1990s recording artists who lip-synched all their songs while unknowns did the real singing.
By the time I had a chance to talk to Brian Reid, he had taken some time to vent his anger and gain a level-headed perspective on the situation. Here’s a snippet of our conversation.
ILLUMINATED PAPER: It seems like the whole thing between you and A$AP Rocky’s circle could have gone a different route with more upfront communication and research.
BRIAN REID: Basically, they could have properly approached me or OSIRIS (Note: Reid has parted ways with his company) and done this in a proper way. By bringing in the real people who created the look they are copying and making it an official collaboration. With enough thought put into it, they could have done this in a way that was valid and authentic.
I.P.: The bigger story is really an athletic company copying a shoe design from skateboarding but trying to act like they are paying tribute to skateboarding. Or they’re ‘elevating’ a skate brand, like we need them. How do you see it?
B.R.: I talked to someone at A$AP’s camp and he told me that they wanted to pay respect to Dave Mayhew because it’s his shoe and has his name on it. And I just told him, ‘Look, Dave is like George Foreman. George Foreman didn’t design the grill, he endorsed it.’
It’s similar with Michael Jordan, who at some point was probably very involved in his shoe’s design. But he mainly endorsed the shoe and that’s why the world knows who [Nike designer] Tinker Hatfield is. And Jordan is a big enough athlete and a man of class to give credit where credit is due and not try to pass himself off as a shoe designer.
I.P.: It’s interesting that nobody looked deeper into the D3’s history, because it’s actually the exception that a pro athlete fully designs a shoe.
B.R.: I don’t think they really did their due diligence. And I was getting pretty annoyed because at the time of my conversation, I was traveling in Asia on a consulting job and one of my clients saw the GQ story, wondering what the deal was and if I really designed the D3. So it was starting to hurt my business and what’s more, this is my legacy as a designer. People are trying to rewrite history.
I.P.: There’s no denying that the shoe looks very close to the D3 2001 with some minor tweaks.
B.R.: To a point where they didn’t even ‘rip it and flip it’, where you rip something but also flip it by putting your own spin on it. Which is something every shoe designer has pretty much done. They just ripped it. Look, I’m not really mad at Rocky, he’s a fan and he got played.
So it was starting to hurt my business and what’s more, this is my legacy as a designer. People are trying to rewrite history.
I.P.: There’s a proper way to pay tribute to a design and get involved with a skateboard brand on an even level. But it’s reflective of the same attitude when Jeremy Scott ripped off the Jim Phillips graphics for a runway show. The attitude that it’s okay to steal from us because it’s ‘just skateboarding’ or ‘We’re high fashion or a big money brand, so you should thanks us?!’
B.R.: Just keep in mind that the 1990s tech sneaker look they copied… we, the skateboarding scene, created it! It wasn’t there before. There was actually a lot of time and money and energy invested into creating that look in the first place. Lots of traveling and money invested in development and sleepless nights.
I look at it like this: It was like the birth of hip-hop. There were a few people around at the time that spawned a look, a feel, and an attitude of that era – and that reflects in its products. There are the people that were actually doing the pioneering and there are the people that say they were.
So why wouldn’t a company reach out to the original people and say, ‘Look, you guys have this great legacy. Let’s validate it and make it 100 percent legit.’ And do it with the original designer from that era and get the blessing of the company that is know for it.
But nobody is thinking about doing the right thing. They’re just thinking about how to make money. A collaboration between a skate shoe company and an athletic shoe company isn’t as crazy as a street wear brand collaboration with a hot sauce brand!
Well said Brian. Looking at the whole thing in a positive light, you and I are talking about shoe history again. So we can add some facts about the D3 for the new book, the ten-year anniversary edition of Made for Skate.
Just keep in mind that the 1990s tech sneaker look they copied… We, the skateboarding scene, created it! It wasn’t there before.
New Pieces to the Puzzle
Brian also said that he had gone through his archives in search of proof. Historic fact. Successfully. Looking through late-1990s CD-ROMs, he had been able to dig up some of the original sketches for the D3 from back in the day as Corel Draw files, confirming him as the shoe’s creator.
“I found these files from 1998 of my original designs. I had burned them on a disc at the time. And you know, computers don’t lie. I still have the time stamps on the files, I can even see the D2 model I designed as a pro model for Dave Mayhew and the follow-up, the D3,” said Brian Reid.
Further elaborating on the issue, Reid said: “Remember this is 1990-something. Computer skills were novice at best, a lot of us were self-trained. No YouTube tutorials, no Amazon books to read, just straight hustle. Most of the ‘real designing’ was done overseas by hopping on a plane and sitting down with the factory and explaining the vision and drawing on shell patterns. The Illustrator drawings were almost like a Jackson Pollock painting or Rorschach test. They were ideas that reflected what was going on in my head.”
With that said, here’s the updated history of the OSIRIS D3, as to be featured in the upcoming 10-year-anniversary edition of the Made For Skate book with new pieces of the puzzle from Brian Reid and the folks behind the OSIRIS brand.
Remember where you read first, everything else is #fakenews…
The True History of the OSIRIS D3
The history of skateboard footwear is full of blockbuster shoes that became instant hits. The technically groundbreaking Airwalk Prototype (1988), the éS Footwear Koston 1 (1997), and DC Shoes Lynx model (1998) literally flew off the shelves once they arrived in retail. Skate shops had trouble keeping enough in stock, brands struggled to meet demand as these kicks dominated shoe walls.
The OSIRIS D3 was no such instant smash hit.
Although it would advance to become what is still considered the highest-grossing skateboard shoe of all time, the D3 in all its glorious late 1990s teched-out swagger was more of an outlier when it launched in 1999 as the signature pro model for skateboarder Dave Mayhew. Incorporating high-tech features such as three air bubbles in the sole, extra puffy tongue, wavy lace loops, and plastic sidewalls, the shoe took the 1990s ‘skate tech’ formula created by éS Footwear to new extremes.
“The D3 is basically a spawn of the relationship between skateboarding, hip-hop and athletic footwear,” said the shoe’s designer Brian Reid.
The D3 is basically a spawn of the relationship between skateboarding, hip-hop and athletic footwear.
After two years of lackluster sales, OSIRIS almost discontinued the bulky kicks when suddenly, the D3 went viral. In a perfect pop cultural storm, the shoe’s 2001 iteration – the even bulkier D3 2001 – became the darling of nu-metal figureheads including Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and teen crooner Avril Lavigne of ‘Skater Boy’ fame, who rocked the shoes on an album cover. Sales skyrocketed as the D3 evolved into a full-blown cultural icon and recognizable calling card for OSIRIS.
And even after the big storm subsided, the shoe remained relevant in youth culture, even spawning a slew of ‘food stomping’ fetish videos, only to find itself copied by high fashion labels in 2018’s big Nineties Tech Skate Shoe Renaissance.
“The D3 is an iconic shoe not only for Osiris but in the skate shoe community and helped change the technical shoe game from its debut. The different D3 variations have all made their mark on the skate shoe market but the D3 2001 is by far the most recognized and was the best-selling of all time,” said Rob Dotson, Brand Manager at OSIRIS.
“The D3 and the D3 2001 are what put OSIRIS on the map. We have been pushing the limits on what skate shoes can be since the ‘90s,” said Nolan Woodrell, Marketing Manager at OSIRIS Shoes. “We also did it with shoes like the NYC83 and others, so hopefully people recognize that OSIRIS is always trying to push boundaries on shoe design and innovation.”
THE CULT OF OSIRIS
Before there was OSIRIS Shoes and the D3, there was Evol Casuals. Founded in 1995 by pro skateboarder Tony Magnusson with Niko Achtipes, Tony Chen and Dr. C.S. Chen in San Diego, the company was dedicated to technically advanced, highly functional shoes for skateboarding. Brian Reid came on board as a filmer initially, before learning the ropes of shoe design from the ground up in true DIY-style.
Evol Casuals enjoyed backing by an all-star skate team, with most riders recruited from Evol Skateboards, Magnusson’s board company (formerly known as H-Street Skateboards). A few riders on the shoe team skated for rival board sponsors. Ultimately, this potential for conflict with other board companies was the reason for owners CBSI and cohorts to pull the plug on Evol Casuals despite its success.
In December 1996, Brian Reid (creative director and designer) and Doug Weston (sales and operations) became partners and Evol footwear rose from the dead under a new name: OSIRIS Shoes, a name chosen by Reid.
The original OSIRIS team consisted of pro skaters Adam McNatt, Tyrone Olson, Gershon Mosley, and Dave Mayhew, all of whom were close friends of Brian Reid. The first shoe collection focused exclusively on signature pro models for these four pros.
Throughout the years, OSIRIS owners would make the interests of their team riders a priority. While other shoe companies paid their riders shoe sales royalties only once per year, OSIRIS would have the checks in the mail each month and involve skaters in the design of their shoes.
CREATING A CLASSIC
Designing shoes in close cooperation with the team would prove a highly successful strategy for OSIRIS and created a close bond with their riders.
“Some pros were more involved in the process than others,” said Brian Reid. “Someone like Tyrone Olson came in with a lot of ideas and really contributed to the design in a major way… stash pockets anyone?! Or team rider Adam McNatt brought in a shoe that he had chopped up using multiple panels from different products for a true Frankenstein of footwear. That’s really what I would qualify as shoe design. Other riders more or less gave feedback on what would become their shoe and others would just come in and pick one already designed.”
OSIRIS co-founder and head designer Brian Reid remembers the genesis of the D3, Dave Mayhew’s pro shoe and one of the most successful designs ever: “There were three people involved: myself as designer, Tony Magnusson as developer, and Dave Mayhew as the professional skateboarder.” Speaking on the shoe’s inspiration, Reid offered: “Dave and I were really into hip-hop, we had the oversized shirt and pants, the baggy skater look was in full effect.”
Dave and I were really into hip-hop, we had the oversized shirt and pants, the baggy skater look was in full effect.
Looking at what was out on the skate shoe market at the time, Reid and Mayhew decided that all shoes were too thin and looked too much alike. Mayhew liked an existing OSIRIS model called the Guru for its wavy lines and thicker, bulkier composition. In search of additional ideas and features for their new creation, the two hit the shopping mall.
“We went shoe shopping and picked up some shoes to draw certain elements from a hiking shoe and some athletic shoes to get that ‘air bag’ look. Then he went skateboarding, and I went shoe designing,” said Brian Reid, adding: “He would drop in at the office to see its progress.”
MAJOR FLOP OR AHEAD OF ITS TIME?
When the D3 released in 1999, the skate market was hot on tech-looking skate shoes and OSIRIS had cultivated a brand positioning on the hip-hop side of technical street skateboarding. So the D3 was a logical evolution: Large plastic lace loops, extra puffy tongue and brightly colored lining added to the sole and upper convened a heft previously unseen in the category. As a major eye catcher, the shoe also featured a wavy sidewall that added to the futuristic aesthetic, close to the giant mech robots from Japanese anime series.
Delving deeper into the design process, Brian Reid explained: “I had designed shoes called the Gorgon and the Guru that basically is the foundation of the D3.” The rest was improvisation, as Reid at the time was still learning the fundamentals of computer-assisted footwear design.
“My designs were so rudimentary and basic at the time, because I was still learning how to use computers. So they were mostly just sketches. Most of the actual design happened when you hopped on a plane and flew to Asia where I would try to help the people manufacturing the shoe make sense of my designs,” said Brian Reid.
“There are basically just scribbles with shapes and call-outs to what certain elements should be, like mesh or rubber. It’s almost like hieroglyphics.”
HITTING THE BIG TIME
The D3 remained part of the OSIRIS portfolio for the next two years, generating average sales without attracting major attention. That was about to change. In 2001, Brian Reid and Tony Magnusson were visiting their shoe manufacturer in Korea when they decided to double down on the D3’s overly technical premise. “We said, ’Lets’ make a crazy shoe with crazy athletic technology and pack everything new and technical into a shoe designed for skateboarding. What would that look like?’” said Reid.
What it ultimately looked like was the original version of the D3 on steroids. Added tech such as 3M reflective panels, a full airbag, TPVR (thermal plastic venal resist), ventilated mesh inserts, and generous foam padding created what would become a timeless classic.
“It’s funny that people talk about the D3’s success but it’s really the updated 2001 version that everyone loved and copied.”
For skateboarders, this new and even puffier version of the D3 may have crossed a line. Yes, everyone wanted puffy shoes at the time and all major brands were churning them out. But this? This was too much.
“We could not really get one of our pros to shoot photos in the D3 2001. I think we had an amateur rider in some shots, but we never even did an official pro-endorsed ad,” said Brian Reid.
Most of the actual design happened when you hopped on a plane and flew to Asia where I would try to help the people manufacturing the shoe make sense of my designs.
But the market ate up the D3 2001 and bulky tech shoe mania ensued. At the high water mark, the shoe was sported by skaters and club kids around the globe as well as musicians including Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst. The D3 became the best-selling shoe in company history and remains the number one best-selling pro model skate shoe of all time. It spawned updates such as 2003’s much slimmer D3 NXT, followed by the D3 4.0 and later even a D3 Snowboarding Boot, based on the ‘fat’ design of the D3 2001 model.
“The D3 2001 is ranked as one of the top selling skate shoes of all time amongst all brands and had held the top spot in the early years as the best-selling skate shoe of all time,” said Rob Dotson, Brand Manager at OSIRIS.
The D3 also inspired countless imitations, including a wave of European women’s shoes with a D3 upper and teched-out platform soles that never really went out of style in certain parts of the world. And yes, people still enjoy posting videos of stomping on foodstuffs and other innocuous objects in their D3s.
THE LEGACY CONTINUES
Fast-forward to 2018 and the D3 is still a part of the OSIRIS line-up. “The D3 2001 has always been in our line and the D3 has been a good-selling shoe since the release in 1999. Yes, over the last one to two years the D3 2001 has been gaining popularity again and as the tech/puffy trend becomes more popular they keep selling out in many colorways,” said the team at OSIRIS.
Brand manager Rob Dotson added:“We are currently introducing four THROWBACK colorways for Holiday ’18 in limited quantities and have partnered with key retailers around the globe for this introduction. The initial support for the project surpassed our expectations and we are looking to do more of these THROWBACK projects in the future as well.”
Asked about the shoe’s enduring appeal, industry insiders credit the D3’s forward-looking aesthetic and extreme proportions: “Trends always get maxed out. Someone is going to make the baggiest jeans ever, or the smallest wheel. In skateboard shoes, puffy style was in, so someone said: ‘I’m going to make the puffiest shoe ever!’ That’s where brands like OSIRIS with the D3 [2001 model] designed by Brian Reid took it to a whole different level,” said Don Brown at Sole Technology in his ILLUMINATED PAPER interview on the 1990s tech skate shoe trend.
The year 2018’s revival of 1990s ‘tech shoes’ and ‘ugly shoes’ also spawned a new wave of copycats lifting the D3’s bulky design and prominent features. The highly padded ‘bagel tongue’ and wavy side panels found their way into a controversial shoe created by rapper/fashion icon A$AP Rocky, called the AWGE x Under Armour SRLo model. High fashion label Louis Vuitton also released a shoe injected with obvious D3 design DNA as further proof of the original’s staying power.
For Brian Reid, who has since left OSIRIS to create his own brand FORWIN and collaborate with King London, the D3 reflects the spirit of a crucial moment in skateboard culture: “At the time, our riders really pushed the boundaries in skateboarding in terms of tricks. It’s just natural for skaters to go and push the boundaries. So that’s what we tried to do with shoe design, take something that had been widely unchanged for years and push the limits and see what happens.”