Culture

What’s a skateshop doing tweeting pictures of the new US World Cup jersey?

Photo: Courtesy of Exit Skateshop

If you’re like me, you haven’t just been waiting for the new Union home jersey to be unveiled.

US national team fans have been teased for months by a various leaked images on Twitter that are purported to be the new World Cup kit. Recently, more new images emerged of a white polo shirt-like design. Among those tweeting images of the shirt was Exit Skateshop, a skateboard shop, art gallery, and alternative venue in Philadelphia.

I, for one, was surprised to see the tweet. After all, what’s a skateboard shop doing tweeting images of a soccer jersey? Wouldn’t Angelo’s Soccer Corner and Soccer.com, not to mention US Soccer and Nike, be tweeting pictures like mad of the new US kit?

Luckily for me, Exit Skateshop is right around the corner from where I live in Northern Liberties. Luckier still, the owner of Exit Skateshop, Jeremy Wieland, happens to DJ at The 700, the bar I work at on weekends.

So, I spoke with Wieland about the connection between soccer apparel and skateboarding, connections that are deeper than one might first think.

Cross pollination

When you walk into Exit Skateshop, you first see a wall of skate shoes, quite a few of which look like indoor soccer shoes. But on closer inspection the Gazelles turn out to be “Skate Campus Shoes,” and the Sambas are from the line named after German professional skateboarder Dennis Busenitz.

Just past the shoes are a flight of steps that empty onto the main showroom floor of the shop. And there they are, white Nike US Men’s National Team polos with the new royal blue US Soccer crest. And there’s no question the shirts are authentic Nike apparel — they’ve got all of the official Nike and US Soccer tags on them and Wieland assured me they came directly from Nike with no indication of a moratorium on selling them to the public. Whether the shirt is a game jersey or simply some kind of presentation shirt remains to be seen. Behind the US Soccer polos are Nike Brazilian national team jerseys. Wieland also has new World Cup-inspired skate shoes and soccer jersey’s from adidas but can’t sell them until they are officially released next week.

So, what’s the connection between soccer and skateboarding?

Some of it surely comes down to demographics. Sports apparel giants like adidas and Nike are aware as you are of the growing popularity of soccer in the US, particularly in the 12 to 24 age demographic, which is itself a very popular — and profitable — age demographic for skateboarding. The English skateboard company Palace collaborated with Umbro in 2012 on a line of shirts inspired by England’s 1990 World Cup campaign, a collaboration that also resulted in this cool retro video. In a World Cup year, it simply makes sense to cross promote soccer and skateboarding shoes and apparel.

Nike Lunar Gatos in Brazil and France colors.

Nike Lunar Gatos in Brazil and France colors.

Such companies also sponsor international rosters of professional skateboarders from around the world. “A lot of the skateboarders look up to the European guys — how good they are and their culture and lifestyle,” said Wieland. “Among the professional skateboarders, a lot of the European skateboarders are football enthusiasts.” Which means that soccer may be gaining new fans in the US among skateboarders interested in emulating their heroes.

The affinity between soccer and skateboarding also comes down to something fundamental: both are sports that are played with the feet.

“As a skateboarder, I kind of relate to what [soccer players] do with their feet rather than, you know, smashing each other with helmets on,” Wieland said. “It’s just a little more relatable to everyone. You don’t necessarily have to be some kind of giant mutant to play the sport,” Wieland laughed. “You gotta be tough but you don’t have to be built like a refrigerator.”

Skateboarders like indoor soccer shoes because they don’t have toe caps, or as Wieland explained, “nothing that will rip apart” while skateboarding. “So us, as skateboarders, might think they’ll last a little longer.”

Wieland says that the slimmer, narrower design of soccer shoes helps to give a better feel for the board, which also appeals to skateboarders. “Soccer shoes aren’t as clunky as, say, basketball shoes,” Wieland explained.

Adapting soccer shoe design for skateboarding comes down to adding reinforcement to the shoe and padding to the insole so that the shoes can better withstand the rigors of skateboarding.

Wieland explained that the cross pollination goes both ways, with soccer players coming into his shop to buy skate shoes to use for playing indoor soccer. The Nike Lunar Gato, for example, uses running shoe technology, which makes for much more comfortable footwear when playing indoor soccer on hard surfaces like basketball courts. As an added bonus, you can buy Lunar Gatos in the colors of the Brazilian, French, and Dutch national teams.

That crossover appeal extends to professional soccer players, which is easy enough to see in the popularity among Philadelphia Union players of the personalized skate decks designed by Sons of Ben member Bill Gusler.

The bottom line

In a sport such as skateboarding in which style is everything in separating the best skateboarders from the rest, perhaps the easiest explanation for the soccer-skateboarding connection is also the simplest.

Speaking of the US Soccer polo, Weiland explained, “I just wanted to carry it because it’s so cool. ‘Why do you have that in a skateshop?’ Because it’s cool.”

Whether that US polo is what the team will wear when they take the field in Brazil will be known soon enough. According to an email I got this week from the American Outlaws, the new primary and secondary US World Cup jerseys will be unveiled on March 3.

Exit Skateshop (215-425-2450) is located in Philadelphia at 825 North 2nd Street and is open 12-8 pm, seven days a week.. 

10 Comments

  1. So this is a paid advertisement right? It has gotta be with a headline this misleading just looking for people to click. Well written at least.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Yeah could be. It looks like a collared shirt and nothing like a jersey. Interesting stuff nonetheless.

  3. Wish they would keep the Centennial crest.

  4. Great article – I never thought about the connection between the shoes – guess I can widen my search for indoor shoes for my kids…don’t have to always go to a soccer store!

  5. haven’t they taken some serious action?

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