CCS just put out an interview with HUF-owner Keith Hufnagel discussing the evolution of the HUF brand, insight into the shoe design process, and what it takes to run the brand while still maintaining a pro skate career. Check it out below!
Keith Hufnagel is as legendary as they get. From New York to San Francisco, he’s helped pioneer the art of real deal city street skateboarding. With long, speedy lines through traffic, picture perfect shifty’s and in my opinion, one of the most cinematic pushes in skateboarding…Huf’s all-around style has always captured the essence of what it means to ride a skateboard.
HUF, Keith’s Clothing and Footwear brand is basically a direct extention of mans innovative and legendary style. CCS caught up with Keith to talk a bit about the HUF Footwear line, the importance of insoles, juggling a pro career, his newest pro model shoe and more.
With HUF beginning as strictly a clothing brand, what made you want to venture into the realm of skate shoes?The idea to create HUF Footwear was basically a long-term goal since day one; we just lacked the necessary resources in the beginning. We started as a very small brand, so it took a lot of work to build ourselves to a position of actually being able to afford to launch the footwear line. We started by making t-shirts, and after seven years of growing the HUF apparel line, we finally got the opportunity to jump into footwear design. Once we got that chance, we went full force into creating HUF Footwear. When it comes down to it, the shoes you skate are a huge factor in how you feel on your board. I’ve been skateboarding for the majority of my life, so I felt like I could offer a lot when it came to designing footwear that would feel good to skateboard in.
What do you think sets HUF Footwear apart from some of the other shoe brands out there? Well the first thing is that we are skateboarder-owned and run. All of us down here at HUF pretty much live and breathe skateboarding. With skateboarding as our top priority, we take that into account when it comes to design, quality, and functionality. All of us who are working as a team to make these shoes, are ultimately going to be skating them ourselves, which is why we are going to do our absolute best to create the best skate shoe for skateboarding in.
Another thing is that we are still a mom and pop style business. We’re still small enough to maintain that human side to business. Taking care of our employees is our first priority, so we do the best we can possibly do for them. There are some limitations to not being a huge corporation, I guess, like not having enough money to do whatever we want [laughs]. But in the end I feel like being a mom and pop kind of business makes up for that by allowing everyone who works here to have a close, family-like relationship. When all of our employees are stoked to be here, working on projects together, I feel like that positivity shows in the product.
I’ve noticed that most of the HUF shoes have properly padded, extra insoles. Why are padded insoles so important? Why do you think so many brands lack a thick insole? That’s a hard one because there is a really fine line when it comes to the overall thickness of an insole. You know, you take a Vans Authentic which barely has any insole or padding’ you get amazing board feel with a thin shoe like that, but when it comes to jumping down something, you’re literally just wrecking your feet. On the other hand, you have an insole that’s too thick and you can’t even feel your board at all. With HUF shoes we really work on finding that perfect level between too much and too little padding…Like I said, we all skateboard here, so we want these shoes to feel good to skate in ourselves, something we can still have board control in, but not be limping around with heel bruises all the time. We definitely do change the thickness throughout each model, though, so that if you like minimal padding there’s a shoe you can skate, or if you like that extra padding you have a shoe as well.
How involved are you in shoe designs? What has inspired the shoe line thus far? When it comes to shoe design I’m actually involved in most of the process. We have a whole team that works together on the shoe design and colorways, and ultimately, I do approve the final product. It’s pretty democratic down here, so each shoe is produced out of multiple inputs. With HUF Footwear, we wanted to produce simple shoes with a classic look that could hold strong for decades, but also be identifiable as HUF shoes. We try to take those timeless designs in footwear, and adapt them to serve for functionality in skateboarding. Basically, we just want to make a shoe that is going to feel great to skateboard in, but that you will also be stoked to wear when not skateboarding.
How do you handle the challenge of running a brand and maintaining a pro skate career? I sit at a desk five days a week and then skate all weekend, so you can understand why it’s not easy for me to progress and get into Street League [laughs]! We do have little things to skate in our warehouse, so I do skate during the week, but it’s basically to get from one office to the other. I may throw in a little railslide here and there, but that’s about it! I’ll usually go out on night sessions and then skate all weekend.
How did you go about picking the HUF team? Who’s on right now? Any tour, full-length video plans for the team? When it comes to picking the HUF team, a lot of it is about the person fitting the overall HUF aesthetic. Right now we have Nate Broussard, Dan Plunkett, Brad Cromer, and myself. We do have a bunch of other guys we flow who are all really amazing skateboarders as well, so I feel the team will be growing really fast. We are planning some tours right now actually, but we definitely won’t have a full-length video any time soon. Keep an eye out, though, because we’re always working on special video projects.
Where did the inspirations for the design of the Hufnagel Pro come from? What are some key components you wanted to include in the shoe? With the Hufnagel Pro, I really just wanted to design a slimmer cup sole. You know, something with the padding of a cup sole, but with the board feel of a vulcanized shoe. I took a classic Americana style and adapted it to be skatable, so that I could be stoked on the way it looked but also know that it will be comfortable skating for a long time.
Read the interview over at the CCS Blog.