I remember the day the Stevie Williams Reebok shoe showed up in my local shop.
It’s funny to look back now as to why it was a big deal, considering it probably wouldn’t get an eye bat anymore, at least for the reasons it did then. There were a variety of issues that came with any combination of the words “Stevie Williams”, “DGK” and/or “shoes” in those days. DGK was relatively new and cresting on a wave of pseudo-controversy at this point for actually having interesting graphics and ads in an otherwise fairly safe industry in recovery. Regardless of any intent to purchase, there was nothing else discussed for a good 3 days, and not much else for a month. This came shortly after Nike had started making a concentrated push to legitimize the SB program, and Reebok came with some extra (but understandable) reservation in this area for most. I’m going to put a pin in that for a moment.
At this point, 2005 if memory serves correct, there was little to no concern of outside companies playing any type of big role in skateboarding. Typically, there were a handful of Nike models, right alongside 88 Footwear, Fallen, Lakai, DVS, Vans, Osiris, Sole Tech companies, etc. Most were just happy guys like Todd Jordan, Daniel Shimizu, Lewis Marnell, Ol’ Dirty Crooks and Dan Murphy had a shoe sponsor paying them. No one was worried about a huge industry shift then. There was some conversation surrounding Nike’s legitimacy, but no one was really too worried until another company came along, looking to make similar moves. That’s when the controversy surrounding outside companies really began and sides started getting picked. Remove pin.
Despite valid points on both ends of the “another outside company?” argument at the time, there was no denying that the DGK (technically titled The Workout Lo DGK, but we’ll call it the “DGK” for the purpose of brevity) was as close to perfect as any shoe we’d seen in recent years. This was prior to the vulc explosion that would soon takeover. No one quite knew what to think of the DGK’s. I recall a lot of folks being damn near angry that the shoe had been re-worked so masterfully. Being the only shop in an entire metro area to take a chance with ordering it, skateboarders from near and far came in droves (literally, carloads at a time) to see it firsthand.
Not one to talk shit without experience and a case to back it up, I skeptically snagged a pair of the black suede/gum colorway (despite being the most heavily modified version of the shoe, I believe they ran at a surprisingly low MSRP, like $60 or $65), and they were no joke. Say what you will about what you will – skateable is skateable.
The slight re-workings in the DGK Workout Lo seemed to find the perfect balance in every aspect of a shoe meant to skate. It wasn’t bulky, but it wasn’t too low-profile – the view from above gave something of an Emerica Chris Senn feel, minus the excess bulk the very-late ’90s was so fond of, although one could make a case for the toecap being a little baggy in the black/gum. The sole was thick enough to maintain some extra protection while staying thin enough to feel your board (think the Lakai Staple vulc reissue), with a slightly ground down outsole from the original. The ankle/heel cushioning kept your foot snug and comfy, while the toe area gave just enough maneuverability to adjust your foot as needed – not too wide, not too narrow. Everything in the upper, including the stitched toecap and dual-side lace straps, was beautifully understated. It was simple yet complex, so clean and skated like a dream come true. Props are equally due to elements of damn near every demographic appeal being perfectly organized into a single shoe – a skate debut from an outside brand, no less.
The day I got a pair, I went to a local elementary school to skate some benches and work them in by myself. I had no idea how they’d skate out of the box, having never put a Reebok sole to grip prior, and had no intention of embarrassing myself if they were horrible. Of course, some out-of-towners showed up with the same spot in mind, only to beg to spend 20 minutes in my shoes, literally. It was the only time before or since where I took off my shoes, handed them to someone else and let them try them out. After four people gave them a shot (what are the chances they all wore size 9.5 or close to it?), all amazed, I continued to skate while they took off to my local shop to snag pairs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-limited shoe sell out so fast.
Stevie and crew showcased the DGK in The Kayo Corp.’s It’s Official, leaving it as the only strong video evidence of the shoe ever having a presence in skateboarding. Also, pretty obvious which colorway worked best.
If you really want to know what happened to that program, I’m sure you can find out pretty easily; I recall an interview or two with Stevie over the years, shedding light on his Reebok days. I’ll leave that one up to you. Feelings on Reebok and other outside companies aside, the Reebok DGK shoe still stands as one of my all-time most skateable purchases, and, aesthetically, as one of a kind. You can still find them randomly available for purchase online, from equally random reissues over the last 10 years.
Major props to whoever designed this impressive, yet ill-fated juxtaposition.
Stevie Williams was rumored to have been approached by Reebok to spearhead a long-running skate program, to the tune of seven figures. Despite whatever reasoning went into the cancellation of that endeavor, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been if the program had continued. Would things look different now, and how would it have affected the larger whole of skateboarding? Would Reebok be as or more ingrained into the overall psyche as Nike SB or Adidas Skateboarding? Could they have been the ones to create a more stalwart shoe than the Janoski? Who would they have brought over to their team? Would they have made a skate version of other models?
With all of the discussion as of late regarding certain high-end professionals leaving longtime skater-owned sponsors for what are certainly more lucrative corporate pastures, it’s proper to ensure the history of such tricky power moves enters the conversation at some point. This was one of those moments, and skateboarding indeed continued to be something super fun to do long after.