Sal Barbier Interview

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“Everybody’s talking about the good old days”. We are all prone to reminisce about simpler times and for many of us that is the nineties. Since that period of time the footwear landscape has changed, it is dominated by sports brands with a wealth of technology at their fingerprints. Back then skate shoes were a big part of our language and you could spot a skateboarder in a crowd because of them. They were a much rarer commodity and with no world wide web, we were borderline obsessive about them. Skate shoe companies were all doing similar things at one point and then éS came along with a more technical approach to shoe design, focusing on the demands a shoe needed to fulfil. We were all guinea pigs for new innovations and some of their cushioning advancements have definitely bought some of us old boys some more time. At the forefront of the éS footwear program was their first rider, style master Sal Barbier. His design past has no embarrassing clangers, Sal’s hands are clean. His shoe the SLB, launched in 1996 and was like no other. The good people at éS are aware of the relevance of this release to many of us and have re-issued this shoe twenty years later. What is crazy is that it looks just as good now, unlike many other shoes which followed. Apologies for this lengthy introduction, it serves to emphasise how integral to our memories certain skate shoes are and the SLB was one of these shoes, a holy grail piece that you now have the chance to own again years down the line. We are beyond stoked that Hokus Pokus and Questionable hero Sal Barbier took some time out to answer these questions about his iconic shoe…

Do you clearly remember the very beginnings of éS? Were you hands on involved with how everything looked and came about?

Yes I remember the very beginnings, my 23 shoe was with Etnies and it was carried over to éS. I was not hands on with how everything looked, just my 3 signature models.

We read that the SLB mid was based on the Air Jordan IX which translates to the side panels is there truth to this?

Yes, I wore those Jordans when I wasn’t skating, I wanted to borrow a bit of the aesthetic and make a skate shoe. Have you ever tried to skate in a Jordan IX?

(many of us who had a dad with a Macro account skated in far more extreme basketball nightmares)


Where did the sock liner idea come from, was that something you liked in another existing shoe that you knew would translate?

I put the sock into the design for several reasons, the most important two are: So you could eliminate the double tongue or the puffy goofy boy tongue. It keeps the shoe on your foot but you don’t have to choke the laces really tight (the laces are only there for aesthetic value).

At that point in time were you ever skating in other shoes, if so which ones?


It’s mad just how ahead of it’s time this shoe was in retrospect, especially with the recent Koston 3 fully embracing a sock liner for stability. What feedback did you get at the time?

It was all good feedback, no one liked tying shoes really tight in the 90’s, I mean all shoes, Tims, Converse, Jordan’s, etc. The trend was not to tie them at all, and that didn’t work too well for skating. This addressed that issue really well and I felt it offered stability. You have to remember how wide skate shoes were in the 90’s, The inner lining created a very snug-fit.

Were you stoked on how it worked?

Yes I was.


Did you think at the time this design would stand up 20 years later?

That was the idea, I like basic yet functional design.

éS was at the forefront of technology when it came to skate shoes expanding what was possible. Which shoes on the timeline do you think nailed it? Which were your favourites?

I designed my own so those are the ones I wanted, The SLB23 , The Mid, The SLB97, and The Accel are the ones I personally like.

With all the technology to hand today what would you want to incorporate into a shoe now were you to design one?

I would slim them down considerably, and use more durable materials with interesting textures. The insoles would also improve and high tops for the ankles.

What is your daily routine like nowadays? Do you still find time to skate?

I pad up and skate bowls 2-3 times a week, my favorite is the combi. I hit the street and the parks and I really have been getting into flatland lately. It’s all fun and games until the camera comes out.

What do you remember of coming to London? One of the legends here remembers you double flipping the Liverpool Street 8 outside the station just after the comp on the metal ramps at Spitalfields and being well impressed. Do you remember that?

I remember that trip very well, I always wondered if anyone there remembered me cause I’ve only been there once. I remember the comp, running into the BMX guys during practice, Carl Shipman, the spine, the quarter pipes, Alvin, Duffy, Cornwall and I can still remember that kickflip. I remember every thing about that trip, I quite enjoyed myself.

Sal shifty ollies at Spitalfields in 1992. Photographer unknown

What has blown you away recently on the skateboarding information super highway?

Dylan Reider, Austin Gillette, CJ Collins, and Clay Kreiner.

Do you have continued plans to work with éS in the future?

YéS Sir!

We would like to thank Sal for answering these questions for us. We are stoked to see his shoe back on the shelves and look forward to seeing more from him in the future. Check out his shoe and more from éS HERE