Vans Syndicate continues the roll out of their reissues with the very popular Mountain Edition 4Q 'S' that Max Schaaf designed from the ground up. Originally released in red/white and black/white, the Mountain Edition 4Q is updated this time with an entirely black upper and midsole. Vans interviewed Max and he opened up about how much he actually put into the shoe's design and what each detail meant. Check it out below:
Interviewed by Patrick O’Dell
Sorry I missed your call, I was just on my motorcycle.
Where were you riding to?
I had to go into the city to grab some motorcycle hardware, and I heard a John Prine song today and I had to have it, so stopped by this little record shop in Oakland on the way home. Its hard to find his records on vinyl, the guy told me ‘i don’t have the record here, but I have two at home and I’ll hook you up with it if you come in tomorrow’
You didn’t try to find it online?
No, I’m just trying to avoid that shit right now. I’m trying to do a little bit more ‘made in America’ even though its impossible, and a little less E-Bay or Amazon. The extra 10 bucks you spend just seems so worth it.
Well, I’m calling to ask about the new edition of your Vans Syndicate shoe, but let me first ask you if you remember your first skate shoes ever? How you first got skate shoes as opposed to random other shoes?
Yeah, its weird, cause I don’t ever remember a time without Vans… as perfect as that is for me to say to you right now… I’ve seen photos of myself in the navy-blue boat shoes (Authentics) before I skated. We wore hand-me-downs, and shoes were a pretty big deal, and that being said, I really cared what shoes I had. Early on when I started skating, I saw a dude skating in Hawaiian print Vans slip-ons, and I had to have ‘em. My dad found where they sold them, it was a few towns away. At the time I wore a 5.5 and all they had was 7.5.
I convinced him that they fit, I remember showing up at a kid party and instantly everyone noticed that my shoes were too big for my feet. But… they were the really sick Hawaiian print Vans from way back, that must have been 1983.
Since the beginning it was Vans, then the red checkerboard high-tops. I did the custom order that they used to have in the back of magazines. It said 8-12 weeks, and it took months and months and months… waiting for the UPS dude to come. I did a pretty wild pair, checkerboard on the outside, Hawaiian on the inside, red tongue on one, blue tongue on the other, they were nuts but they were so cool.
All the stuff you are mentioning is all stuff that Vans has brought back, that skaters wear now… the Hawaiian print and custom orders. But for a long time those shoes were hard to get. Did you ever have the lace-savers?
That’s embarrassing dude, not only the lace-saver that came with the shoes but i’d lace in an extra one to the front of the checkerboard Vans.
Its funny we are talking about it, because I just went to NY for that bike show there, and was having a full shoe crisis, cause I wanted to skate a bit, but I wanted my shoes to look right. And none of the shoes I had were right so went to the local college kid store and bought some navy Vans boat shoes (Authentics)… the navy blue and white ones, cause those always look so good. I shoe-goo’d the ollie area, cause I knew I was going to skate in Brooklyn…. and still I look down and remember the smell of the first box.
Any other weird shoe trends?
Cutting down full-cabs to half-cabs was pretty big in my day. Rick Howard was the first one I saw do that, and I was like ‘that dude is a fucking genius, that looks sick.’ I always thought the Half-cab could have been Rick Howard’s pro-shoe as well.
You ended up skating for Vans?
I did, off and on. Being a vert skater, you are already back against the wall, we travel with knee pads, and if you have some lame ass shoe on, its even worse, pointing out the herpes sore. In that first Real video I even said “I’m working on being marketable,” cause they had told me “we want you to ride for Real, and we want you to go far, but the reason James Kelch’s board sells is cause he looks cool and he’s a figure at EMB, and on top of everything he’s marketable” And I remember leaving the office and thinking ‘that fucking sucked, that conversation was fucked up,’ and basically they were saying, ‘don’t be a vert goon.’
Were there things you needed different for your shoes as a vert skater than a street skater?
You know what, I didn’t think so, I remember thinking whatever shoes my peers were wearing, like Mike Carroll’s Chukka Boots look sick. I think its all the same, I still skate in Era’s or Classics. I still wear low tops on vert. But because I was around Jake Phelps, who was wearing bigger shoes, I thought you needed hi-tops on vert, but then I realized, it didn’t matter, you were going to get fucked up either way. And I just want to feel my board most of all. I have been skating in Vans Era’s, I had 40 pairs that Vans sent me… but I ran out the other day and was skating some poka-dot Dollins. They were a pro series with a removable insole, which I hadn’t had in awhile, and I skated in them and it was one of the best sessions of my life. I’m sure it didn’t have just to do with the shoes, but I could still feel the board. So, I might be skating those for awhile.
What about the shoe for Syndicate? Did you have a lot of things you wanted to incorporate?
Yeah, without a doubt. I was working with that dude Jon, who is a designer. I don’t know if he’s still there, he writes for Hypebeast as well. And he came to the house with a sketchbook, and we sat there and sketched this shoe out… I’m sure you don’t know this, but I’ve been skating everyday lately, and I’ve been filming… but 10 years ago, I was so wrapped up in the motorcycle thing, and it was at the beginning of it becoming fashionable, and I remember asking “is this for skating or bike stuff?” and they said “it doesn’t have to be skating, if you want to make it functional for your motorcycle then do that.” So that is where I went with that. At the time I hadn’t seen the Mountain design in forever, and I said ‘that Mountain shoe is rad for your bike, cause right where your shifter goes, there’s that little lace saver.’ And I wanted the inside tire, its like an asymmetrical shoe, the inside is a higher high-top then the outside, I was like ‘the motor gets hot and it will protect your ankles.’ We tried to get that silver flame proof material, but it was too expensive. It has that little brass bolt on it, cause all my 4Q bikes have that brass hardware. There was a shit load of input actually on the high top of that shoe.
And this year we are doing an all black version, which is something I wanted originally, but it didn’t make sense at the time because it didn’t work with the red and white ones as a set. Its kind of cool that its going to be all black, because I still have an all black sample at the time Jon was like “this all black one is so rad, but then it would mean the red one would have to be all red and that would be too loud.” I wanted the red and white one because of Oakland and the H.A. and I thought it would be cool.
And you changed the logo from the mountain to the bridge?
Well, a lot of people think its the bridge, but its actually the crane, one of those Oakland ship yard cranes.
And the insole is a gas tank?
That’s right, it has fish scale on the inside? I was way into painting those at the time.
And the box looked like a box for motorcycle parts?
Yeah, I actually gave them a box for an old Harley part that had mildew on it. It actually had a spark plug in it from the 60’s… and I remember getting the sample with the box and just thought it was out of sight, I remember being so stoked on just the box. Some people even thought there was really mildew on the box. I have twenty here and when they are stacked it looks sick. Part of the deal was when we did the shoe, I got quite a bit of them to give to my friends and skate them over time, and they look pretty neat stacked up.
Its cool you got to have that much input in the shoe. Sometimes its just a color-way and thats it.
Well, as I was saying, I’m kind of a vert skater, and not marketable, so when they came to me it was shocking that I spent so many nights thinking about it, and when they finally came to me, I had all these ideas. And I think that surprised them. I was getting some recognition in Japanese bike magazines, and I think they just were like “let’s pour everything into this one and let this geek go off with it.” It had a killer box, and cool bag, and motorcycle grips. It was high-top, low-top and two colors. And at the time they told me it sold better than any other Syndicate shoe, and I think so much of it had to do with that they put the extra buck into it. They did say they weren’t going to make a dollar on it, but it was a cool project. I was really shocked how much they agreed to do.
The Max Schaaf x Vans Syndicate Mountain Edition 4Q 'S' releases worldwide on October 17th at Vans Syndicate accounts. We don't have any details on whether or not any extras will be included with these like the original release, but if we get word, we will let you know.