We’re gearing up for some big changes at Last Place Footwear. First and foremost will be an eventual transition away from Tumblr for our primary site. I struggled with this decision because I really appreciate the community aspect of Tumblr, but our site content has never been a perfect fit for the format. Irregardless, this will free up our Tumblr space to be a little more informal and social.
Speaking of which… We’re changing the way we display our kicks! It’s been quite obvious that the current site layout doesn’t present our designs in the most effective manner, so we’re launching a new site in Summer 2012. It will have new FEATURES! If our years of working for sports marketing companies have taught us anything, it’s that stuff needs to have FEATURES.
Lastly, we just changed coasts. This month we packed up and moved our base of operations from Boston to the beautiful, rainy city of Portland, Oregon. Couldn’t ask for a better home base for bicycle and skate inspiration. While it’s nice to have a new bike map to explore, I miss hauling ass down Brattle Street on the approach to Charlie’s Kitchen.
<3 Cambridge, MA
It recently occurred to me that I’ve been somewhat neglectful to my downhill biker brethren. Most of the miles I log are in the city, so I must apologize for my inherent bias towards urban cycling. This weeks design is an attempt to remedy that with a beefy, straightforward downhill riding sneaker for those out there who would rather dodge trees than MBTA buses.
I started this design with a sectional sole, featuring a rubber cupsole forefoot for maximum durability and an inset compression molded EVA midsole in the back. The rubber outsole has directional teeth in the heel and toe area for traction and the flex area has deep multi-directional grooves molded into the sole.
The rear quarter of the upper features a high abrasion synthetic heel piece joined via closed seam with a textile collar and eyestay overlay. This would essentially make the rear quarter of the shoe one stable indestructible piece while preserving a soft comfortable collar.
The toecap is a stitch-and-turn construction using the same high abrasion synthetic as the heel. This would prevent the stitching from fraying over time while preserving the classic toe overlay shape. I wanted this design to look and feel tough, without adding a bunch of unnecessary layers. Many of the competitor downhill shoes that I have seen are constructed from multiple pieces of durable but highly insulating material. Aside from the medial quarter underlay for stability, there are very few extraneous material pieces on this design.
Bulletproof Skate Mid
With this latest design, I felt like I wanted to create something with a bit more flavor. I started doodling some mid-cut skate shoes that played with stitching the main heel piece to the midsole before attaching it to the upper. After seeing it colored up in black, it struck me that it looked kind of like armor.
That sparked the idea to design the business end of the sneaker to be made from an aramid fabric like Nomex or Kevlar. I layered the eyestay and underlay pieces so that a combination of 3M Scotch Weld adhesive bonding and posted eyelets would make the forefoot indestructible. Even when the eyestay seams shredded away from skating, that mother should stay together.
The Kevlar quarter underlay piece would be attached to the soft canvas heel underlay with a closed seam for increased durability. Aside from the black/grey staple, I tried to mix it up a bit in the color choices. I’m partial to red sneakers myself, although I know most people won’t rock ‘em.
Things might get weird.
Spring has finally arrived… Well OK, it’s probably global warming. But, while I was out enjoying the early stages of our planet’s demise, I noticed a marked rise in the number of Dutch style cruisers out and about on the city streets. While a cruiser isn’t my first choice for bombing around the Charles River, I appreciate seeing others enjoying the casual pace of a Dutch bike for running errands or riding a few blocks to a watering hole.
When I came back to my sketchbook, I was inspired to whip up a light, comfortable ladies sneaker for casual spring riding. This design is essentially a hybrid of a flat and a canvas deck shoe.
After some collaboration with the lovely Mandy McClausky, I decided to split the collar at the achilles tendon and have an thin underlay of foam backed lycra to maximize comfort and prevent gnarly blisters from constant abrasion. This also allowed me to add a little pop of color to the shoe.
The midsole is a slim plain vulcanized tape with a second layer of thicker tape at the toe. I designed the heel logo as a weld of 3M reflective to add a touch of night-time visibility using an element that would be on there anyway.
After spending some time in the performance bike and skate space, I felt the need to conjure up something a little more casual. It’s nice to have one pair of kicks that can be worn in an office or out to upscale bars on a Friday without getting stopped at the door.
The design is a very basic blucher/chukka construction with minimal pattern piecing. The black and brown colorways are intended to be slightly distressed full grain leather, while the grey version would be made from waxy suede. The key details are the decorative leather heel strap with a branded rivet on the lateral side and the leather pull on the rear collar.
The rubber outsole is intended to be cast from a harder durometer rubber with an eggshell finish. The sole tapers slightly inward in near the heel and transitions closer to 90 degrees as you move up to the forefoot. Overall I was pretty happy with the results. I can tell from previous shoes that people would be divided over adding contrast to the quarter branding stitches, with each side thinking the other is crazy. For this design I thought it was appropriate to keep the color pop to about ~10% of the base material color.
Minute Man Low
Well, that was a nice hiatus. This will be the first of many regularly updated designs in addition to some new supplemental content for your free viewing pleasure.
This most recent design is a named after the bad-ass 12 mile bike path that runs from Cambirdge out to the stix. I started this design a while ago and couldn’t figure out how to finish it. I wanted something that was technical looking without looking like something that came out of the Nike Innovative Kitchen. There is a tendency in the footwear industry to get bored with what is simple and beautiful. This usually leads to hideous, overbuilt toys for your feet.
I started with a clean slim suede forefoot for smooth pedal clip interaction. The bottom portion of the eyestay and mudguard wraps under the midsole, so long term wear on the stitching won’t completely ruin the front end of this sneaker over time. This would have the added bonus of making this concept durable for skateboarding. The rear quarter underlay is created from ballistic nylon or canvas with a folded edge. My intention here was to supply stability while maintaining a soft and comfortable collar.
The sole design came from some experimentation with adding contours and textural transitions in what is otherwise a simple straight forward cupsole. It would be nice to sample this sole in a foam/rubber hybrid compound to lessen the weight substantially, but I suspect that it would disintegrate when it hit some toothy pedals.
Stance: Jordan 4s
After I wrapped up my first Stance vinyl toy, I wanted more. This time I wanted to put some real time into one and break away from the 2D surface with some Super Sculpey polymer clay. I decided to try my hand at recreating the Nike Jordan 4. I chose this sneaker because it was A) one of the best looking Jordan models ever made, and B) proportionally close to the last shape of the Stance kicks.
I started by roughing in the pattern and midsole with blue pencil lines. Once I nailed down the proportions, I began building out the three dimensional layers by outlining each pattern piece in a thin strip of Sculpey. Next, I rolled out thin sheets of the clay to cut the forms for the plastic lacing and heel components. To get the correct collar height and shape, I had to cut away the stock collar to build up the achilles notch and lengthen the tongue.
The real challenge was to create the appearance of material layering without building the surface out too much. It took several rounds of priming and sanding to blend the clay with the underlying vinyl form without a notable textural difference. The laces were another tricky one. It took a while to get the laces rolled out to the exact same thickness and width to make them look natural.
Once the the sculpting part was clean enough for me to get over my OCD, I baked it in the oven at 275F for 15 minutes and let it cool overnight. I painted the base model with off-the-shelf flat black Krylon spray paint. I then painted the accent details in a combo of French Grey, Neon Yellow, and White artists grade acrylic paint. I was pretty happy with the end results and learned a whole lot about working with polymer clay.
Stance: Make Your Own Kicks
A gift from the sneaker gods. Designers Delroy Dennisur & Spencer Wyatt have marshaled the unstoppable armies of the internet to fund their piece of footwear genius; a sneaker vinyl toy that allows you to make your own kick(s). Complete with shoebox and wrapped in tissue, this simple sneaker primitive has great proportions and shape with a sleek toe and clean sole.
They were kind enough to hook me up with an early sample, so I geeked out on one for a few hours with some Prismacolor markers and colored pencil. I had so much fun working on it that I was kinda sad when it was finished. I’m gonna have to grab some acrylic paints and really put some love into a new one.
After a couple months of travel, deadlines and some good old fashioned relaxing, it’s time to get back to posting some fresh new sneaker concepts for the urban manchild. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of my free time moped tinkerin’ and building a portable hammock stand for Burning Man (“GET A JOB, HIPPIE!”), but I’ve definitely been slacking on the footwear front.
My cubicle Cape House wall lasted about three weeks before the professional ruiners of things decided to ruin things. I was forced to remove the project because it was made of wood and thus, a ‘fire hazard’. Rather than wasting ten thousand words pointing out just how stupid that is, I’m instead investing my energy in finding a new home for it.