Christian Hosoi has seen it all, both in life and in skateboarding. Since turning pro at the age of 14 back in the early ’80s, the creator of Christ Air has been compared to Air Jordan due impart to his impact on the sport and his icon status. The wild child, skate superstar that innovated the vert style has experienced highs and lows, landing firmly on his feet today as a man of family and faith. Back on the board and inspiring on the daily, we caught up with Christian to discuss his life, love of skateboarding, upcoming skate session at Fun Fun Fun Fest, his ever evolving style and, of course, his favorite kicks from Vans.
Nice Kicks: How did your relationship with Vans begin?
Christian Hosoi: When I first started skateboarding, Vans was the skateboarding shoe back in the late ’70s. I just remember going to Marina Del Rey skate park, and even prior to that the Vans store, ordering my style suede and getting my low-top boat shoes. Then, the high top Vans skate shoe came out in 1978. It only came in blue and brown and it was the sought after shoe at the time for skateboarding. Ray Bones was wearing Vans, so I was like, “whatever Ray Bones is doing I’m gonna do.” He hooked me up with some of his personal custom baby blue and red ones. Throughout the years, Vans has been the number one skate shoe. We reconnected when I got out of prison and its been an awesome journey. Steve Van Doren is obviously the godfather of skateboarding and giving back. And his heart for the industry and the fans – he’s like the mascot of the sport for somebody that invests their time. In my life, when I got out of prison, who knew what I was gonna do. But they trusted me, they came, and they welcomed me to the team. Now I’ve got multiple signature shoes and I’m more blessed than ever to be part of an establishment like Vans.
Nice Kicks: What was ordering a pair of custom Vans from the Vans store like back in the day?
Christian Hosoi: I think I ordered my color suede shoes back when I was like ten or eleven years old. I remember going down to the Vans store, picking out my own color combination, waiting for them to get done and going to pick them up. Those things are so special as a kid. Today, it’s not the same. Kids can’t have that type of real attachment to things. This is before the internet, computers and cell phones. You had to go to the shop, you had to wait for the magazine to go out, and there were no videos. You had to almost imagine through the pictures that you saw in the mag to figure out what you wanted to get. So you’d go to the skate shop and it was always like a fantasy moment to look at the sticker selection, to look at the shoes. I don’t even think there were shoes in the skate shops yet – it was just skateboards, wheels, trucks, equipment, and that was pretty much it. I just remember it being such a special time. Even the sticker placement on your helmet and on your board – you took hours to do it and you took pride in how you did it. Once your shoes came in they were your shoes that no one else got that you ordered. When I’d go hang out with my friends down in Westwood it was always the thing at the skate park that we’d talk about. Obviously, skateboarding is gigantic now. Now companies offer the best product, the best colors, the best shoes you can have. It’s better for kids now, but the process and the waiting time we went through back in the day was so much more suspenseful and climactic when you got it. Vans was on to something when they did the customize your shoe thing back then even prior to the explosion today. It just goes to show how authentic, how real, how down to earth and how fashion forward their shoes are. And they’re the best skateboarding shoe with the waffle sole.
Nice Kicks: What’s been your involvement with the style and design of your Vans shoes over your career?
Christian Hosoi: We’ve been incorporating the historical side, like the Rising Sun, the hammerhead graphic, the street pop art and me doing a front side air. We’ve been doing a lot of collabs on the historical side and the iconic logos of mine. I’m looking forward to the future. We’ve been planning some things that are going to be super cool. I always look forward to designing and giving my input. Saying, “Hey, I want the notch out of the back of the high top so that when I knee slide it’s easy to slide instead of having it bind at the top of your ankle.” Stuff like that you add. You make it thicker in certain places, you add stitching in certain places, then you pick the colors and the stripe. You feel like a kid in a candy store when you get to do stuff like that. It never gets old designing and actually seeing the finished product come out that you had a part in it. Then it’s got your name on top of it! [Laughs] I mean how cool is that?
Nice Kicks: Dating back to the beginning, what has been your all-time favorite Vans model to skate in?
Christian Hosoi: Lately, I’ve been skating a in the Half Cabs. It’s durable, it’s semi-high top, you can still bend your foot on knee slides, it’s got a little more reinforcement on the sides, and it’s a little more of a narrower shoe. For me, that works well for me and my maneuvering. I’m always tilting my foot from side to side, moving my foot around on the board and taking my foot off and putting it back on. The streamlined design of the Half Cab makes it smooth and easy to maneuver. I’m looking forward to designing a shoe with my name on it. Hopefully one that can become a staple Vans shoe, because once we design a shoe and it comes into a season, I basically get a bunch of them and wear them because they’re not gonna be out next season. So, I can’t just wear them out and skate them all. I like to keep them just for memories and give them to my family, my dad, my wife and some of my close friends that are really passionate about it. For me, I’d really love to have a shoe that would run all year – hint hint Vans! [Laughs] But I’m good with whatever they throw my way. I’m blessed just being a part of the program and just being part of the team. It’s an honor to represent Vans, they do so much for me. They send me all over the world, traveling everywhere, paying for multiple ways to get my name out there. For me, I’m humbled, thankful and grateful, but it would be nice to skate my own shoe. But the Half Cab? It’s an all year round shoe that I can get it in any color I want and that’s been my number one skate shoe.
Nice Kicks: Among your peers in skating and at Vans, whose shoes or style do you admire the most?
Christian Hosoi: I’m a simple and a complicated guy. I like it when it’s crazy colors and I like it when it’s a nice, clean white or a black shoe. All time, the Slip Ons are always just so casual and dressy at the same time. Then you’ve got the Eras which are so iconic to the origin of skate shoes. For me, I go all the way back to hanging out with Jay Adams, Tony Alva, all those guys and looking up to them. Just seeing them in dust blue Vans and me going, “I need to have those!” [Laughs] Those are some of the memorable times that I look back on and those are the reasons why I like what I like. Then of the shoes that they made of mine, the “Rising Sun” shoe with the soft perforated leather and the red satin inside was phenomenal. I wouldn’t mind seeing another one like that. If you’re gonna wear shoes they might as well be luxurious and stylish, and if you want to skate in them you can skate in them too! [Laughs]
Nice Kicks: How has your style evolved over your career?
Christian Hosoi: It’s changed with my imagination and my creativity. You kind of hear all the stories of me going from spandex, to doing the whole Jimmies thing, and then basically wearing no shirts ever and hanging them off the backsides of my pants, having my hair long, short, cut, colored, polka dots, long on top… Style is basically how you feel and what you’re thinking about at the time. My style is always changing. Now, I like a clean style, a sophisticated style with a little bit of edge in it, and that’s throwing in whatever flair that comes to my mind. Whether it’s jewelry, wearing a shirt off the backside of my pants or my belt while I’m skating, tearing off my sleeves and putting them on my head and my wrist, or tearing off the bottom of a shirt and wrapping it around my neck. I have no problem still doing those things because it’s just who I am. Style should just be who you are and that’s pretty much where it should come from.