Some people need no introduction and Stefan is one of those people! But we were lucky and got to sit down with him and his wife Jessica, coincidentally their relationship started when his shoe first dropped so you get both takes on the process today.
Happy 10 years Stefan, we hope for at least 10 more!
First of all, thank you for sitting down with us and doing the interview.
No problem, my pleasure.
So a little context first. Why are we here?
We are here to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of my Nike SB shoe
Do you remember when you first saw the shoe?
Yeah, I even remember when I first saw the drawing of the shoe. I also remember when I got the first samples.
The first time I saw a drawing was at my wife Jessica’s house, it was when we first started dating and that is also probably why I remember it so well. It was fresh love at the same time as a fresh design. I remember it very specifically.
A fun fact is the first samples were, in fact, the way the shoe is now. I got in (the office) and saw the shoe and was like “Oh my god this is great” and I skated it and actually someone reminded me recently and said that I never even gave the samples back or even told them that I liked it.
I skated those first samples for about a year and never gave them back which actually let them know I liked them
Jessica, since you were there when he saw the drawing, what did you think of the shoe?
I liked it, the shoe was like a streamlined, classy, nice… clean, timeless type of shoe and I remember he was excited when he saw the drawings.
Timeless might be the best way to describe the shoe. Do you remember the first time you saw other people wearing it?
At first, it was my friends, they started calling me “I keep seeing your shoe everywhere!” it builds up fast and then I started seeing people with my shoe everywhere.
At the time I was living in New York so you are out in the streets a lot. Around the same time, I was out in Barcelona and every single person had them on… it started really snowballing. Every single day when I go out now I see somebody wearing my shoe.
That must be a special feeling.
I love it. We always see people on the street and say that guy is wearing my shoes and then Jessica will tell him “Hey you got some nice shoes on”. So many times it has happened when someone would come up to me and say “Yo man, nice Janoski’s!” and I would be like “Yeah, you to man!” (laughs).
Back in the day, people would come into my local shop and ask for some Janoski’s and not even know it was a person’s shoe. They just thought Janoski was the name of the model shoe.
I like the way you pronounced my name, the Polish way, proper Polish with a soft J.
Funny segue, I was meaning to ask about your Polish heritage, I remember a 411 around the world where American skaters with Polish heritage toured the country.
Yup! That was in 2001 I think. We went to Poland with Joe Brook & Anthony Claraval, Ed Selego, Kristian Svitak, Mike Ruczyk, Justin Strubing was there but he isn’t Polish he just came with us. Anthony Claraval also isn’t Polish (laughs).
That was one of my first trips to somewhere “different”, it was so long ago that I had a paper plane ticket that I lost and it was actually a really big deal!
I actually met a kid there on the streets who skated and his name was Stefan Janoski and he said to me “You are Stefan Janoski! – I am Stefan Janoski!” and I was like “What, nice to meet you!” (laughs).
411vm – Around The World 2
You being Polish is a big deal in Poland, they really keep track of which pro’s have Polish heritage.
That’s cool! I would actually like to go back to Poland, it was fun, it was such an experience for me because I was still so young.
How old were you at the time?
22 or 21. We actually went to multiple places, cities like Warsaw and Krakow. To be honest, it was such an experience, the whole thing was very different for me but a lot of fun! Yeah, 411 Around the world 2.
Michal Juras actually gave me that information, as I said the Polish know about heritage.
I actually brought like 10 boards on that trip because I just got sponsored and was like “Whooo, new boards every day!” But I only brought 1 pair of trucks and back then the axles on Indy’s and Ventures would bend.
My axles got bent the first day and there was no way of getting new trucks in Poland. So I rode bent axles the whole time in the end if you would kick my board it would almost boomerang. But I was so young and excited to be there that I didn’t really care, I would still skate those double sets.
Back to the shoe. Over the years there have been many versions of your model. Could you name them all?
Lunarlon, Hyperfeel, Mid-top, Slip-on, Air Max, High Tape, Velcro, Air Max 2, Remastered, Wallabee, crafted, Camo turtle neck thing and Woven. And every time I am amazed that they managed to make a new shoe out of my original Janoski design.
How involved are you in those adaptations?
Well, they have to show me everything and I have to approve it and lately, there are some really awesome designers working on my shoe. Every time they show me something I am just blown away and I love their ideas.
Every shoe they have been showing me lately has been a return to a classy and serious look for the shoe. I like that because when the shoe got really popular there were a lot of “Mall Colors” so to say. Janoski’s with polka dots and tillies for people who don’t have taste (laughs).
I like the honesty.
But now it is back to the type that you can save and wear ’em a year and still be stoked on the way the shoes look.
It feels like it has been tailored to your own style again.
That is exactly how I feel. It kinda became its own monster in a way, it went away and did this huge successful thing.
It kind off rebelled.
It did. The shoe kind of rebelled against me. Sometimes your kids do that, too. But, you have to support them anyway and be like “Okay, if you want to go to (X) go ahead but…”
(Laughs) You do you!
Which version besides the classic is your favorite at the moment?
I really love the Velcro… Alternative closure I mean, you know Velcro was the name of a company that developed the stuff.
I also love the Slip Ons lately, for skating they are just so good but I do keep going back to the classic ones. Actually, these new ones called the “Wovens” are some of my favorites that they came out with, in a long time. They are just beautiful.
Were you testing those out during this years CPH Open in Berlin?
The all black leather ones? Yeah, those are the coolest. Actually, I wore those so much that I had to leave them outside because they smelt so bad.
He actually tried to bring those smelly things back home after the trip and they were disgusting.
Yeah, the thing is those stayed good for such a long time, I didn’t want to let them go but I had to. Because they are all leather they didn’t break they just broke in and became better and better.
It is also the type of shoe that you can wear on multiple occasions.
Oh yeah, you could go to a funeral in those or a wedding. Man, people are getting married in my shoes all the time. Someone just told me the other day at Republique “Man, me and my friends all got married in your shoe!” and a couple of my other friends wore them at wedding parties.
#janoskiwedding must be a thing.
Yeah, it is! It is cool because the people still looked dressed up when they are wearing the shoe.
To be honest, that was also one of the main objectives when we made the shoe, we wanted to cancel out the “chill shoe”.
Everyone wore their skate shoes for skating and afterward they would be like “Let’s get these things off!” and they would put on some “chill shoes”. And I was like why does your skate shoe have to be so bad that you have to go to the hotel and change before going out to dinner? That sucks!
You actually follow that concept yourself as well, I can’t really remember you in any other shoes since the shoe came out. Back in the day some blazers maybe but…
That was before the shoe dropped, actually, since the samples came out 11 years ago I haven’t changed my shoes. I just like my shoe.
Today we are celebrating 10 years of the shoe but actually the shoe you have on now looked the same but it is not the same as the one that came out 10 years ago right?
No, it is not, it got a little souped up.
We didn’t really have to do much, no number 2 shoe or anything because we did it right the first time. We took the time to change little details. Take away some piping, add another stitch, we took away the embroidery and added perforation.
When we first made the shoe I wanted the least amount of everything, materials, the look, the absolute minimal between my foot and my board. With the remastered, we have just taken what we have learned and gotten closer to those ideas.
A sleeker shoe, a slimmer sole and so it is just the same but with minor details changed to improve it.
I actually heard from people that the fit is different, it is a bit better for wider feet.
I wouldn’t have noticed because I have really tiny feet but yeah I heard that is true. Somebody asked me that before and yeah we changed it a bit because that was the number 1 complaint about the shoe.
The original was tailor-made for your feet so it makes sense.
Yes, that is true and I have narrow fucking feet.
In the skate shop, people would complain about the fit but they would still buy them because they needed to have the shoe.
If you walk in them they mold but it takes a moment. Also, different materials have different fits.
You actually physically hurt a lot of people with your shoe.
(laughs) Yeah, toes, ankles… definitely I actually hurt myself too sometimes.
I guess we kind of turned a corner from the past into the future though with the remastered version. In a way, it is a shoe that made a heavy mark in skating and I can’t imagine the shoe business without the Janoski’s around.
I think that is great.
It is an achievement.
And you know, we didn’t think about using things from other designs, it was just me selfishly wanting a thing that Nike didn’t have at the time and no one predicted it to go like this.
I was surprised when the kids really started wearing it but it is a really good skate shoe not only a good looking shoe.
It even went as far as Shane O’Neill having his name on your pro model shoe.
That was really crazy… that was really cool. Shane is great! One of my favorite skaters and I have known him since he was a little “Nugget” that is what they used to call him.
It is always great to see your friends grow up to become the best skateboarder in the world (laughs).
So with you progressing and growing older in skating what is your role in skateboarding as time goes on?
Personally, for me, it is like you are trying to do it and then you hopefully do it and then the next step is to stay doing it. Many people become pro but not many stay pro for very long so just to still be a pro skater and doing everything is an achievement in itself.
There is not much longevity in skateboarding and there is not a lot of back up plans in skateboarding. People are all in or all out, some people get jobs at a skateboard company or you start a skateboard company but for me, it is still being a skater.
Right now is a fun time for me doing it but also watching the kids doing it and going on trips and to watch them struggle at spots where I already did tricks (laughs).
As far as longevity goes, your shoe is like a classic album. People keep coming back to it. Your generation and even the generation before you seem to have found their place in skating and are able to stay in it longer than most.
Look at Lance Mountain, he is still out there doing it and there are not a lot of his peers involved in skateboarding any more as a pro. Mark Gonzales obviously is the same but there is not a lot without owning or working for a company in skating. And I just want to keep going and see where it goes and right now it is going.
That is a nice goal, thank you for the interview.
Photos by: Clement Chouleur
Interview by Roland Hoogwater