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The History of the Nike SB Janoski

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger [and] more complex,” said the German-British statistician E.F. Schumacher. “It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction.” Genius is an apt term to describe Stefan Janoski, the man responsible for conceptualizing one of skateboarding’s most iconic silhouettes. His shoe, originally released in 2009 as Nike SB’s second signature model, has returned to shelves this year as the Zoom Stefan Janoski OG+.

In order to understand why the original Nike SB Zoom Stefan Janoski made such an impact, it is necessary to explore its entrance into the skateboarding community. When Janoski joined the brand in 2006, bulky, technical shoes dominated Nike SB’s line. At the time, the Blazer and the Harbor were the slimmest, low-profile silhouettes that piqued Janoski’s tastes. So when the conversation arose about a signature model, Janoski dove right in, drawing up ideas in a sketchbook that he shared with head SB designer James Arizumi.

Nike SB Janoski OG+ Shoes in Alabaster and Chile Red

It was the first time that Nike had designed a skate shoe from scratch, instead of taking an existing silhouette, such as a Dunk, and adapting it for the skateboarding community. Janoski and Arizumi started with a blank page, and went out to draw an effective skate shoe that was unlike anything that they had done in the past. Key features included a long flat toe, no stuffy padding in the tongue, as minimal stitching as possible, and a cork insole to pay homage to his family’s winery.

At first, the higher ups at Nike were not pleased with the original samples. In Nike SB’s For Daily Use, Janoski explains, “My shoe, my way. I don’t care. I don’t have a shoe now, and if you don’t do it the way I want it, then I still won’t have a shoe. It doesn’t matter to me.” It would take two years of refinement; Janoski was adamant in his demands of having a shoe that performed and looked how he wanted it to. He was determined because he believed that Nike was capable of delivering the exact product that he envisioned. In the same video, Arizumi explains how he knew that he was successful in delivering a product that Stefan was happy with: “I think it was when Stefan didn’t give our shoe back. We had to have the factory remake another sample whilst Stefan was skating it.”

Nike SB Janoski OG+ Shoes in Alabaster and Chile Red

When the shoe was initially released in 2009, it was uncertain how it would perform and be received by the skate community. The average skate shoe was still big and bulky, so the slimmed-down, sleek Janoski certainly stood out on the shelf. As per Janoski’s insistence, Nike had infused the DNA of old-school boat shoes with tried-and-true vulcanized construction to deliver a classic California-style skate shoe that provided a nod to his Vacaville roots. The shoe marked a paradigm shift to a more basic construction of skate shoes–simpler uppers, soles, and limited padding. This minimalist approach provided not only a visually-attractive aesthetic, but also had functionality in mind as the thinner shoes provided better board feel for the skateboarder.

During that era, more and more skaters were becoming intrigued with the idea of wearing Nike SB. The skate program was becoming more developed, especially after the release of their first full-length video, Nothing But the Truth, in 2007. The Janoski provided an option for those individuals who wanted to wear the Swoosh without committing to other more sophisticated silhouettes. Its half tennis shoe, half loafer aesthetic seemed to blend with what was trending in style during that period. Sporting the Janoski would allow people who wanted to wear Nike to do so without committing to the athletic image that Nike is so known for.

By 2013, sales of the Janoski skyrocketed, earning it a place as one of the brand’s best selling models to date. It is adored the world over by skaters and non-skaters alike. Leading up to the release of the Zoom Stefan Janoski OG+, the original rendition of the shoe has had 1,530+ different versions, a number that could never have been imagined when those initial shoe design meetings took place. The shoe is now more famous than Stefan himself. Much like Michael Jordan, he universally transcended his own name by leaving his mark on the shoe game.

Nike SB Janoski OG+ Shoes in Albaster and Chile Red

“I think it's just because it looks good on everyone,” Janoski shared on a segment from the French podcast Big Spin. “On children and adults, girls and boys, adults and grandparents. The style, the design, it's not like a trend. It’s a timeless design that you could insert into any year and it won’t look out of place,” he said.

The Zoom Stefan Janoski OG+ will have several subtle design differences, including black leather piping and laces, ventilation holes along the toe box stitching, interchangeable standard and cork insoles, and white sole units with wavy textured bottoms. Based on the success of the initial Janoski release, the OG+ version is sure to be a hit worldwide.

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