Starting with the absolute basics for survival in our infancy and intensifying into a deep need for personal satisfaction in our older years, Maslow’s theory not only catalogs the things by which a human needs to survive, but also the factors by which a person’s motivations and identity are formulated over the course of their life. We know that the average lifespan for humans nowadays is up into the high 70s, but what does the lifespan of a skateboarder look like? If we were to base it off the point where we start skating until our bodies can no longer sustain that activity to any notably progressive degree, we’re looking at… maybe 30 years? Regardless, we found that there are similarities between the core needs of a person throughout an actual lifespan and that of a skateboarder’s active lifespan.
The question we wanted to answer was this: how would Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, when applied to the active lifespan of a skateboarder, predict the motivation behind what kinds of skate shoes we purchase over the course of our lives?
This article is going to address that question and develop the framework for an entirely new psychological theory: Grimble’s Hierarchy of Footwear Needs.
Life Stage: Infancy
Core Need: Physiological
The first stage of our hierarchy is not only the most basic in terms of the complexity of needs, but it is also the most crucial. If the core needs in this section were not provided for, the continuation of the person’s lifespan would cease in a very short amount of time. During this stage, the needs that are most important are those essential for survival and basic development. For an actual baby, these are things like food, water, shelter, protection, etc. For a skate infant, they are literally any item that allows them to continue skating. To be clear, the usage of the word “infant” is relative in our theory and relates more to the level of competency and skill on a skateboard rather than age. That is, of course, with exception to the proto-fetuses that are bomb dropping out of their mothers’ wombs straight into a vert ramp (otherwise known as Z-Boys – the Z is for zygote).
As mentioned above, the core needs of the infancy stage are crucial for survival because they provide all of the necessary requirements for us to develop into a stage of self-reliance down the road. Much like an actual baby, we all start out with limited motor skills and a complete ineptitude to accomplish even the most simple of actions. And similar to an actual infant, the essentials for survival for most of us were provided almost entirely by older people with money. Since presumably ol’ mom and dad are fronting the bill, this stage is where most of us found ourselves wearing shoes from Payless, Walmart, or wherever else shitty footwear is sold. Fortunately, it’s not really that big of a deal to have to wear something from the Shaun White collection when our skill level is infantile and the extent of the terrain we’ve skated has yet to expand beyond our driveway.
Life Stage: Post-infancy
Core Need: Safety
After our physiological needs have been satisfied within the infancy stage, we have been nurtured enough to begin developing a basic competency in self-reliance. By this point, we’ve become aware of skateboard “culture”, and we begin to recognize that our Payless shoes are not only lame, but are also no longer functional for the level of skating that we are now able to perform. Since the post-infancy stage is still early enough along that overall proficiency is an ongoing concern, our core needs shift from a basic physiological need to something that provides safety and protection from the outside world. As we all know, greater proficiency on a skateboard means ripping through shoes at an accelerated rate, and since we’re still dependent on mom and dad for providing on the financial end, they’re going to be reserved about how they just bought you new shoes, which will ultimately lead them to buy the most ironclad shoe on the market to mitigate another purchase in the near future. For many of us, this was a pair of D3’s, Chet IV’s or Chany 1s, but some stingier parents might have handed us a glue gun and told us to figure it out on our own.
Life Stage: Adolescence
Core Need: Belonging
At this point, we’ve been skating for a few years and have developed a fair amount of individual competency on the board. We’ve also begun to get plugged into a community of other skaters, whether it’s a small group of friends from the local park or a larger scene within our area. We’re still dependent on others to bankroll our shoe purchases, but at this point they are more than happy to hand over a wad of cash as long as it gets the putrid gang of dirtbags that we’re rolling with out of the house for a few hours a day. Since much of the new territory in life is that of a social nature, our core needs begin to include a higher level of self-awareness and a need for acceptance and belonging. As such, it’s no longer enough to just wear a shoe because it is inexpensive or durable; now we have to wear something that is currently trendy in the skate scene so as to not compromise the level of acceptance we’ve worked so hard to gain up to this point. In the past it’s been shoes like Accels, Mantecas and Reynolds 3s, and right now it’s all about Chuck Taylors. The ugly truth about this stage is that when we walk into the skateshop, we’re not buying a shoe for ourselves, but for everyone else.
Life Stage: Post-adolescence
Core Need: Esteem
For many of us, we enter this stage in our 20’s. We’re probably not living at home anymore, and we’re now forced to get a job in order to supply our skateboarding addiction. We are now miles beyond the barrier of healthy obsession when it comes to skateboarding, and we are consumed by the politics of the skate industry and culture. It’s at this point where we develop a “conviction” about the shoes we wear and the brands we support in order to satisfy our core need for personal esteem. In all honesty, we can be a bit of an insufferable jackass when we reach this stage. We have developed an opinion on every topic imaginable, and we can talk all day long about how major corporations are ruining skateboarding while we simultaneously justify wearing Vans even though they’re owned by Vanity Fair. With conviction comes the potential for hypocrisy, and while we learn this lesson sooner or later, we pretty much alienate those around us in the process. This is also the stage where our newfound independence and financial viability allows us to start stockpiling shoes. First it starts with a Dylan shoe, then it turns into buying an extra pair of shoes for chilling, and before you know it, we’ve got more shoes in our closet that aren’t for skating that we do for skating. Try as we might to convince ourselves that we’ll get around to skating them down the road, the influx of shoes greatly outweighs their disposal.
Life Stage: Skate Relic
Core Need: Self-actualization
The final stage in Grimble’s Heirarchy is where all of the lessons we’ve learned, experiences we’ve had, and perspectives we’ve held come together to formulate a mature and honest self-image. We know who we are as a skater and we’ve realized the futility in trying to impress a bunch of pre-teen kids who focus on the trends. At this point, we’ve also seamlessly transitioned into the old crusty dude at the skatepark who calls people out for spitting on the ground and stalling their sweepers too long. Aside from a propensity towards codgerdom, the liberation that comes from self-actualization makes skateboarding a whole lot easier, in a way. We’re wise enough, at this point, to recognize that all of the trends and pseudo-convictions out there are all bullshit and that skateboarding is built around the core tenet of doing whatever the hell you want. As such, we are free to wear whatever shoes we want because we are adults and we don’t have to answer to anybody. Spotted some G-Code’s at Ross? Sweet, shred ‘em! Find some Koston 1’s on eBay? Hell yeah! Feel like sporting some PF Flyers? Cool man, more power to ya! The beauty of this stage is the satisfaction that comes from accepting who we are liberates us to become whoever we want to be.
It’s funny, in an almost poetic fashion, our footwear needs at the top of the hierarchy mirror our needs at the bottom: whatever keeps us rolling. Interestingly enough, Abraham Maslow passed away at the age of 62, which leads many to wonder if he would have had added any additional stages to his hierarchy as he continued to get older. Now that human life expectancy has reached an all-time high, it’s hard not to wonder what humanity might be missing out on during it’s final years because it wasn’t realized in Maslow’s lifetime. This is where I believe that Grimble’s Hierarchy has a leg up on ol’ Maslow. Many of the first people to ever set foot on a skateboard are still alive today, and we can look at their lives and contributions to skateboarding in their latter years to try and piece together an additional level to our pyramid. While we may learn about the core motivations and needs of our elder statesmen, we may not be able to clearly determine how those needs affect their decisions in selecting a skate shoe. I think most of us would just assume that they’re all wearing orthopedic mall criddlers by now.
Life Stage: Geriatric/Sage/RL Contributor
Core Need: Legacy
If we can infer one thing from the current endeavors of skateboarding’s forefathers, it’s that there seems to be an exceptional drive to pass down the legacy and history of skateboarding to the younger generations. Whether it’s a documentary about skateboarding’s roots, the inclusion of a Legends division to a major contest, or even just the passing on of the mores and philosophies of skateboarding, the men and women who made skateboarding what it is today have put in a lot of effort to preserve the rich and storied history of our beloved pastime. In an age where the half life for a video part’s relevancy is almost immediate, it has become increasingly more important to not only document all of the incredible moments and personalities within skateboarding, but to also take the time to sit back and appreciate it all for what it’s worth. With that said, we mentioned earlier that we probably couldn’t infer how the legacy stage might influence someone to buy a certain shoe, but maybe a byproduct of the preservation of legacies is to enshrine some of the timeless shoes of skateboarding’s history like the Half Cab, Sal 23s, Accels, Eras (and of course, Emerica MJs) for future generations to come.