We have been proud stockists of HUF for nearly ten years now. We were the first account in the UK to carry the brand when it was steadily evolving. We are beyond stoked on the collaboration we just released which helps celebrate our 30th anniversary. We have been big fans of Keith Hufnagel for years, the Slam Penal Code VHS tape had to be surgically removed after giving up the ghost. We wanted to further mark this moment in our shared histories by catching up with Keith in this exclusive interview.
Interview by Jacob Sawyer
You were born and raised in NY, how does it feel to have just opened a store there after all of these years?
For me personally it’s a huge accomplishment to have opened a shop in NYC. I grew up skateboarding all over the city and would stop in to all the original skate shops out there like Skate NYC and Supreme to meet up with friends and go skate. So I’m really psyched that HUF is now part of that community and can serve as a home to the new generation of skaters out there. Beyond that, NYC is obviously one of the fashion capitals of the world, so it’s just one of those places you need to have a shop at in order to be a major brand these days.
Are you happy with how it has turned out?
Absolutely. I am very involved when it comes to the design process at our retail shops, so it’s always exciting seeing the buildout come to life. We also worked with Haroshi again to have him build a custom Apple sculpture for the shop, which came out amazing— so stoked.
Having opened and closed stores in different places can you say you have had a favourite store or location?
Well I will always have a soft spot for the original HUF store in San Francisco on Sutter Street. It was the simplest shop we’ve made, and it’s the spot that put the HUF brand on the map in the first place. We still have employees here at HUF that were working there out of the SF shop since day one, so there will always be good memories out of that spot. But, things change, and now the NYC store will be my favorite!
I remember visiting your original SF store and seeing Spike Lee in there trying on some Nike’s. What other rulers have walked through those doors?
We used to have all types of people come through. I would say Robin Williams was the best— he would just chill out and talk shit for hours. What a rad dude. RIP!
Do you feel a point will ever come when shopping online completely takes out physical shops or do you foresee them being instrumental still?
Online shopping is definitely affecting shops, but online can never take away that special experience of actually walking into a store. With that, I think shops will always be around—it’s just part of a vibe and experience that can never be recreated online. Shops are part of a community and culture, it’s where you go meet up with a friend, where you can actually feel and hold product, where you go to interact with the people working there. Online shopping definitely makes it hard out there for brick and mortar retail, but the shops just need to work harder to compete.
You are a busy man with a lot to manage with HUF as a brand, stores, design and much more. What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
My favorite part is to see people’s designs come to life. We have so many people helping with the overall process of bringing product to life—from design, to production, to sales, etc— so when a designer sees his or her product become a reality, it really stokes people out.
What time in skateboarding do you think of most fondly?
For me it’s the early 90s. Skateboarding was dead back then. No one cared about it and we all just continued to skate because we loved it. It’s in a different place now, but there are still people who do it just because they love it.
Do you have any old memories of visiting Slam City Skates in the past?
Yeah, for sure. We used to come out to London all the time on tours and stop by the shop in that little alleyway out in Covent Garden. It was in the prime spot to meet up and chill, and then we would cruise around London just like we did in the old NYC days. London is one of my favorite cities to skate.
What do you like most about London as a city? If you were to live in one European city where would it be?
London is really just like NYC to me. Very similar terrain for skating, great public transport, and people speak English! If I were in Europe I would probably live in London, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen.
Do you have a good story from the DC Euro tour you can share with us?
Oh man. DC tours were so much fun. Those tours were actually the best tours I ever went on. People were so excited to see skateboarding in those days, and would cheer for you if you ollied a pyramid. There was crazy shit that went down in every location. I mean, we would roll up to a city, they would show us the park that we were going to do a demo at, and then they’d let us try it out. We would basically skate the park and figure out a bunch of tricks then leave and go street skating. We would then show back up for the demo and everyone would kill it. Then, of course, we’d go get fucked up at some crazy party and then move on to the next city, ha. I remember everyone getting wasted with that dude Goldie in the UK. And I remember one time when Rick Howard pushed a boat into the moat in Amsterdam. That was fucked up Rick!
What’s the best thing you saw Carl Shipman do?
Probably ordering a pizza with just bacon. Nothing else. No cheese, no sauce. Just bacon. Skating-wise though, his front blunt on Hubba. That one was really ahead of his time.
Gonz Gap Big Brother Cover 1997 via The Chromeball Incident
You 360 flipped the Gonz gap backside on that tour. Recently Mark Suciu did the same trick, what do you think about things like that happening? With so much footage out there in the ether now compared to then do you think there are blurred lines with stuff like ABD’s or even songs being used again?
Man, I can’t believe it took that long— it’s been almost 20 years! I would have figured that had been done by at least 20 people by now. Good job Mark! To me, it doesn’t really matter whether a trick has been done before. If the trick looks good, the trick looks good. That’s what skateboarding is all about. Good tricks and good style. No matter if it’s been done before or not. People will always pay respect to those that came before them. It’s the same with any art.
If you could only skate one spot for the rest of time where would it be? It can be one which is long gone…
Brooklyn Banks. No idea if it’s fully gone or not at this point, but that’s my all time favorite. So many good memories from that spot.
We were stoked back in 2007 to be the first UK account to begin stocking HUF and it has become one of our best selling brands. We jumped at the chance to work with you guys on the little collection we put together. What do you think of it?
It’s amazing. Working with you guys at Slam is an honor, partnering up with such an iconic staple of the London skate scene.
I have been in the skateboarding industry since 1992. I was told it was a fad and I couldn’t make money doing it, yet I am still here, involved and always trying to push the limits in it. So fucking stoked to have been apart of skateboarding this long. To be able to build a brand and collaborate with friends, shops, brands, artists, and all the people I’ve met along the way in skateboarding is very special for me. There’s been so many people that have helped me out through the years, and I’m now able to give back to support skateboarding and skateboarders.
What are your five favourite stores in the world and why?
Ha, there’s so many good shops out there, I won’t be able to cover them all, but in skateboarding I’d say: Supreme, HUF, Slam, Alive & Well, and BenG. In Streetwear: Neighborhood, United Arrows, DSM, Noah, Union. These shops all do a really good job at telling stories, from the interior buildouts, to merchandising, and in all aspects.
What are your favourite video parts of all time?
Mark Gonzales, Blind Video Days.
What is your favourite skate shoe of all time?
Rick Howard’s Howard 1 on DC.
What shoe are you most stoked on in the HUF range?
Well I have always liked the Classic—it’s just clean and simple, and the toe cap makes it last super long for skating. Same with Brad’s shoe, the Cromer. I have been wearing the Soto a lot as well, as it’s a cupsole and gives a bit more support for skating. Otherwise, we’re working on a new shoe called the Hupper 2 that will be releasing early next year for spring, which I’m really psyched on.
You have a trademark ollie, what ollie photo of yourself is your favourite and why?
Ha. Trademark ollie…so does everyone need to pay me when they ollie now?! Haha.
Probably my first Real Skateboards ad. It was bombing down a hill in SF. Bay Street, I think. It just looks retarded, plus I have like 40mm wheels on.
Whose ollie power have you been blown away by when you witnessed it in the flesh?
Austyn Gillette, Brandon Westgate, Chris Pfanner, and Sean Sheffey. Power and style.
Tell us a bit more about the reimagined Metropolitan. When will we be seeing more?
I am bringing back Metropolitan to preserve an amazing brand in skateboarding history. This will be small and limited, but one of those things that if you can find it, you will be stoked!
Can we expect another HUF tour to pass through Slam City Skates any time soon and will you be travelling with it?
Well we just came through London in August as our first stop on the Thrasher Tour de Stoops. No new plans since then, but we are definitely looking to send more people out, and we have Rory Milanes on the team out there. I would like to come out soon, but sadly I will avoid the winter, ha. Hopefully early 2017.
Thanks to Keith Hufnagel and Out Of Step