Cab talks 20 years of the Vans Half Cab
Steve Caballero is one of the most respected, dedicated, renown, and talented professional skateboarders of all time. He began his relationship with skateboarding back in the late '70s in San Jose, California. I know, because I was there, and have been privileged to witness and experience many of the landmark events in his early career, and consider him a close and dear friend. I know for a fact that Caballero is one of the most multi-talented human beings ever to walk, or roll, on this floating hunk of dirt we call Earth. Caballero is possibly best known for his signature shoe for Vans, the Half Cab. By no means is this a recent development. The Half Cab has been around for a long, long time. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the legendary, famous and popular shoe. I sat down with Steve the day after his return from Paris and we mused over some of the events surrounding the shoe these past 20 years.
ESPN.com: What design elements did you contribute to the original Vans Caballero high top?
Caballero: When Vans first approached me to do a shoe, I was flattered. Yet, I was cautious at the same time, concerned over what it was going to look like. At the time I was wearing Air Jordan's, and Converse, and the style 138 Vans high top. Taking some elements from those shoes, I made a drawing and presented it to Vans. They came back to me and said, "here's a shoe that we're actually working on right now". It kind of looked similar to what I wanted, so we went with that. That shoe lasted for about three years.
There were a lot of street skaters who were wearing that shoe during those three years, and I noticed that they were cutting them in half. I even started doing it myself. After cutting three or four pairs and duct-taping them down, I thought to myself, "what am I doing here"? "Why don't we just make them like this"? So I call up Vans and say, "I'm kind of getting tired of cutting these shoes in half. I see where the trend is going with skating, and the shoes. I think it would be a good idea to make this shoe and call it the Half Cab?" Now, 20 years later it's still one of the strongest selling shoes on the market today, and one of the most influential shoes in history. It's amazing how it has withstood the test of time.
Other shoe companies have mimicked it and replicated the Half Cab shoe which has made it all the more popular. I really have to hand it to those skaters for wearing my shoe, supporting it, and making it so popular that the other shoe companies were influenced by it. I find that flattering. If I were someone who was too shy to follow my dreams, we wouldn't be sitting here 20 years later and talking about a shoe. And it goes back even further than 1992 when the Half Cab came out. It goes back to me picking up a skateboard in 1976, and to meeting you [MoFo] in 1977 at Campbell skatepark. One of your photos of me became the iconic Half Cab logo.
One might say that our destinies are intertwined.
Yeah. You picked up a skateboard, probably before I did. That led to you shooting photos of skateboarding and working at Thrasher magazine, eventually going to that contest and capturing that image of me. What if you never would have shot that photo? What would we be using on the shoe?
Then tell me, how did you come about the logo for the Half Cab?
The logo for the first signature shoe, the Caballero, had a dragon on it. In the '80s my board graphic was a dragon. Vans came up with a dragon with a tail shaped like a "C" to spell out my name. When we had the idea for the Half Cab, we were wondering what we could do for the logo? We decided to call the shoe the Half Cab, because we were gonna cut the shoe in half. I looked for an image of me doing a Half Cab, and I had that photo you took at the Sacramento contest of me in the Half Cab position. I thought it would be cool to have an image of me actually doing a Half Cab. Vans came up with a silhouette of it. It was the only photo that I had of me doing the trick, and you shot it.
What sort of special things did you conceive of to commemorate this 20 year anniversary?
Vans wanted to do a re-release of the shoe in a manner that shows how the shoe began. The first release of the shoe in January, it was cut-down and duct-taped like it was originally, and released in a limited run of 20. The following months the shoe was released in the different color-ways that were used in the first few years. I wanted to do some artist collaborations, so we decided to go with four, myself being one. I wanted to do one, and maybe come up with something with the logo. And of course there's yourself. I wanted you as one of the artists to tie in the history of the logo with that image you shot. I picked Dirty Donny from San Francisco, and I went with this Japanese artist, Taka. For my art I did a dragon, and Taka did a skeleton. So we have that Powell Peralta vibe.
It was decided we would go with some band. At the time Metallica was considering a collaboration shoe with Vans. When I heard that, I said, "can you ask them if they'd do a Half Cab with me?" They agreed. That shoe comes out after the artists' collaboration.
After that will be two new shoes in November and December. It's a new design and updated version of the Half Cab. Vans came up with a shoe that mimics the Half Cab, like other companies do. We're calling it the Cab Light. It'll be the highlight in the evolution of the shoe. People will look at the shoe and know it's influence, yet still be a whole new shoe. I think it's a street skaters dream. It'll be another hit for Vans, for sure.
Vans Australia wanted to do something special and threw a big party on top of a hotel down at the Bondi Beach contest. That celebration overflowed into the next couple of days. That was the first party to kick things off.
The second was a photography show that Lance Dawes put together, called Twenty, at a gallery in L.A. He gathered a group of photographers who'd shot pictures of skaters in the Half Cab shoe from the early '90s to the present.
Then there's the grand finale in June, which is a big art show at the House of Vans in New York City. Not only do I want to do an art show, I want to help raise money for this charity called A.skate Foundation—Autism for skateboarding. So we came up with some white-canvas Half Cabs, picked 30 artists and sent all the shoes out to them, see what they can do with it, then auction off the results.
I created a list of 30 artists, people that I've known since I got into skateboarding, and artists that I've met since I got into art myself in 2005. Some of these people are just my friends, and not huge artists. I gave them a chance to express themselves and be a part of this celebration. They were excited, and honored and flattered that they got picked to be one of those artists. Vans let me pick whomever I wanted. I thought about it. Do I pick, these big artists that I don't know, or do I pick these people who I have a relationship with? I went with people who've helped me out, or who haven't done anything for me, other than become my friend.