Growing up, I had what you could call "Nike envy." (Yeah, yeah, First World problems, I get it, but just go with my consumerism malady for the sake of story time.) The brand wasn't even remotely close to the sandlot of our family household budget, so whenever a new school year rolled around and it was time to upgrade my sneakers I knew it was just another bummer of a trip to the local shoe store. This was right around the time the first Air Jordans were released, too, which only further irked my inner green-eyed monster—or rather the red- black- and white-eyed monster, I guess—as I sulked out of Shippy Shoes with yet another damn pair of price-point New Balance* on my feet.
Life has a weird way of working out the childhood kinks, though, and my reversal of misfortune came in the way of Nick Halkias, who I'd met** through the small community of skateboard collectors, circa 2000. Nick has what you could diagnose as an unhealthy appreciation of skateboard art and the miscreants like me who make it, and once he became a rep for the Nike SB brand he'd periodically bless me with a promo pair of Dunks. I wasn't a "sneaker head" by any means. Years of working in the skateboard industry—especially during the whoring hey-days of Big Brother magazine—I'd grown accustomed to wearing whatever came my way for free, which typically meant promotional consideration from the likes of Duffs, Etnies, eS, and DC throughout the ’90s and into the ’00s until Nick became my benefactor. But the fact that there was a legitimate craze around the Dunks then was entirely lost on me. I skated the hell out of all the pairs I received, including the "Buck," "Pushead," "Gibson Guitar Case," and several others that my son Emerson likes to remind me of now via the values on StockX. No regrets here, though, because as far as I'm concerned I was making up for lost childhood time.
But in 2011, Nick approached me with the offer to actually design a pair of Nike SB Dunk Highs for what would eventually be the December 2012 holiday shoe. This was my first foray into the world of shoe design, but Nick held my hand throughout the whole process as we threw a wide range of materials together to flesh out the Krampus-oriented story. And it was rad! It felt like designing your very own stuffed animal. A couple years later Nick and I worked on another shoe***, a Dunk Low quickstrike in 2014 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art, and it was during the book re-release event held in San Francisco that the Hail Mary idea of starting our very own little skateboard brand first took root.
So if you're a first-timer here, wondering what in the hell a StrangeLove even is, I can tell you that it is, in short—or long, I should say, because brevity has never been the soul of my half-ass wit—a foster home we created for our artistic friends, where we could have fun, pushing and challenging the boundaries of what could and maybe sometimes should not be done on the bottom of a skateboard, drawing from our formative influences as children immersed in a pop-culture world through comics, toys, books, television, movies, and skateboarding. But it's not just an "art project" brand, because as lifelong skateboarders we know it is our sworn duty to produce the highest quality decks and do our part to keep the art of screenprinting**** alive. The last part of our creative puzzle came together this past year by assembling a small squad of team riders, because what's the point of making skateboards if you can't support those that love it as much as we have our entire lives?
Anyway, now we have a shoe! So I guess I should say a word, or two, or 243 about that, considering it has since put us smack dab on the radar.
When we were first approached with the idea of collaborating on a Valentine's release with Nike SB, well, it just made thematic sense, you know, what with the "love" in our name and all. Plus, not to get all sentimental and mushy, but skateboarding truly was my first real love and a strange one at that given its life-consuming nature. So with visions of cherubs dancing in my head, I made the plush call for velvet materials, the more crushed the better, all in pink and red, with a durable suede for the wear-and-tear of skating. That's basically the nutshell I pitched to the SB design team, who in turn proceeded to cobble it all together and pretty much nailed it on the first sample. We only made a minor tweak to the hearts on the bottom of the sole, bumping them up in size with the addition of blue ones to lace everything up with our traditional red-and-blue StrangeLove logo colors. But we weren't gonna stop there. No, half the fun of a shoe story is in the packaging itself, so harkening back to our days in grade school, making class Valentine's boxes out of old shoe boxes, we went rogue to produce a custom box replete with accompanying Valentine's Day cards, stickers, and a screened print unique to our release and a few key partners.
Perhaps the best thing to come from of all this, though, was the opportunity to get the guys on our squad together for the first time. They all hail from various states other than California (three of those already being mired in the seasonal throes of Midwestern winter), so we brought them out to the Mecca of the West, San Francisco, for five days of playing hit 'n' run throughout the city—the results of which are being edited now to drop with the shoe release. Speaking of… look forward to the date of February 1st, because that's when we will have a limited amount of pairs available here on the site. —Sean Cliver
* Year after year I was told by shoe salesmen that I had narrow feet and New Balance was the brand for me. Yay.
** Well, more like he stalked me through eBay, but it turned out we had a lot of similar interests and both shared a mean obsessive compulsion to collect things, which led to a long string of communication and occasional rivalry throughout the years. I should also note that a good chunk of Nick's board collection is featured in the first Disposable book as well.
*** We worked together on one other shoe project that released in 2016, the Dunk High "Gasparilla" shoe for the Skate Park of Tampa, but to mention it up top would've created a speed bump of sorts, so a footnote it is.
**** If you started skateboarding after the year of 2003, you may not even know that once upon a time all skateboards were screenprinted by hand here in the USA. This was prior to the Great Commodification when most all of the major companies outsourced or took their manufacturing overseas to China and switched to applying graphics via the more cost effective "heat transfer" method. I could go on and on and on about this, but the fact is that I already have and you can read it right here if you're so inclined. "But," you say, "not all your boards are screenprinted!" And that's true. Screenprinting carries a premium price tag that many are not accustomed to paying due to years of deflation and/or stagnation in the retail cost of a deck (a soap box for another day), so we do make a point of diversifying our line for all walks (skates?) of life.