With twenty years of hindsight, it doesn’t sound quite so improbable. But who could have imagined back in 1976 that Jim Jannard would parlay his sticky rubber, oddly shaped motorcycle grips into a multi-million-dollar sunglass empire?
Now, Jannard wants to do it again. The rubber is still sticky and the shape is still odd, but this time the playing field is shoes.
In typical Oakley fashion, the roughly 200-million-dollar company called its tribe of athletes, employees, as well as the press and special friends in to the footwear-launch party that took place early May.
Roughly 500 people showed up and crowded into the Oakley auditorium for the official unveiling. After some confident “They said it couldn’t be done, but we did it” opening remarks from Jannard, one of the designers was called up onto the stage to present the shoe. The lights were dimmed, he plugged in his electric guitar, and started playing a solo rift that fell somewhere in between Eddie Van Halen and George Thoroughgood. On the screen above him, close-up images of the shoe slowly faded in and out of focus. Art again mixed with form and function at the Oakley headquarters.
When the song was over, the shoe appeared in total focus on the screen. The lights came on and Jannard climbed back onto the stage sporting a pair of the yellow and black shoes and holding one in his hands. He looked like a proud father caressing his newborn child-something he called “a race tire for your feet.”
Jannard then talked about the shoe-it’s called The Shoe and there will only be one model in several color combinations out this year although a second model might ship before the new year. He said it’s a technologically better-produced shoe, manufactured in the United States-right there in Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch, Orange County, California.
The sole is made of Oakley Unobtainium (a type of rubberlike race tires’ that’s really grippy) and features three-point triangulated sole geometry, toe roll-off curvature, and heel contouring. The midsole utilizes a unique micro-cellular elastomer called Padded Cell. The upper features O Matter, a long-chain polyamide that resists abrasion; Kevlar; and a hydro-entangled trilaminate backer.
The shoes will be distributed to 200 select retailers this summer, some of whom were flown in or dropped by just for the launch, including Go Skate, Liberty, Active, Jacks, 17th Street Surf Shop, PSNY, BASD, and Laguna Surf and Sport. Once production is up and running, the distribution will begin to widen. In a unique twist, the company will also sell the shoe directly to consumers through the Internet. (However, Oakley eyewear won’t be sold this way.) The shoe will retail for 125 dollars, wholesale for 65 dollars.
In regard to pro sponsorship, the company noted that approximately 60 percent of its athletes don’t currently have footwear contracts. Many of Oakley’s athletes were in attendance, including snowboard pros like Terje Haakonsen, Jamie Lynn, Dave Lee, Todd Schlosser, B.J. and Erik Leines, Derek Heidt, Dave Downing, Shannon Dunn, Bryan Iguchi, Jason Ford, Billy and Jeff Anderson, Maelle Ricker, and Travis McLain.
All attendees had an opportunity to see shoe construction firsthand by touring the facility. The tour spilled out on Oakley’s full-size basketball court, which was covered with black tarps and dining tables. The event rolled into the evening with drinking, eating, cigar smoking, and dancing-the typical end to any industry event.