The term “classic” is thrown around a lot these days. We use it to refer to things – both physical and idealogical – that embody a timeless and instantly-recognizable greater idea. The voice of a singer can be classic. An approach can be classic. So too, can a silhouette.
For HUF as a brand, the term “classic” is integral to the brand identity. Founder Keith Hufnagel is widely regarded as having one of the most imitable styles in skateboarding. And, when the brand rolled out its inaugural footwear offering a couple of years ago, the skate community at large tipped its collective hat to this new, yet comfortingly familiar entrant.
The HUF Classic Hi, accordingly, represents just that. It’s a no-frills, vulcanized lace-up built to the demands of modern skateboarding. Branding is left to a minimum and, thus far, it has been released in straightforward colorways that don’t sound like faux-Pantone® names. It is a favorite of HUF team riders and street shredders alike. After skating in the shoe for two weeks, it’s easy to see why.
On the HUF website, the Classic Hi is first described as a “vintage-inspired silhouette.” To some, that may be a stretch of the terms “vintage” and “inspired”; wearing the shoe in Boston might feel like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Yes, all the charm of a certain shoe has been well-captured by HUF’s design team, but that’s the point. While skateboarding is at it’s heart, HUF’s particular audience doesn’t necessarily need to look as if they’ve just walked out of the park. Other shoes in HUF’s line, namely, the Dylan, have had a similar concern with multi-context wearability.
Accordingly, the Classic Hi is a social butterfly, fitting in (most) everywhere it goes. As well as it performs on-the-board, it’s also highly versatile; the Classic Hi can be a sneaker for the weekend, for coffee cruises and lunchtime skatepark sessions (seen above). While it won’t look good with jogger pants, you’ll do just fine in cropped chinos or your favorite pair of light jeans – especially in this Navy/Seaport colorway from Spring 2015.
Design In Practice
Despite its handsome looks, the Classic Hi is built for the long run. The upper is composed of a thick slab of suede, which is thankfully backed on the interior by a cushy mesh lining. Metal eyelets are left unpainted and are inset over the dorsum of the foot, which was a smart, subtle design cue taken from the demands of skateboarding. The inset lacing and thick suede work in conjunct to make the Classic Hi more resistant to blowout holes and frayed laces than other similar models.
Despite all the technological innovations available to performance sports companies, the vulcanized outsole remains the popular choice for skateboarders. Vulcanized sneakers are heat-bonded with a strip of rubber wrapping the bottom part of the sole (typically the gum-colored part) to the upper. The Classic Hi, while not splitting the atom, does make a nifty assertion on vulcanized technology by extending said rubber from the sole to cover the toecap and heel.
The Classic Hi lends itself to the slimmer side. The extended sole acts as a secondary support in the heel, which noticeably secures the foot in place. At the forefoot, the rubber toecap again improves the overall durability of the shoe. It’s worth noting that some wayward toes may miss the natural stretch of suede toecaps; the added layer of rubber comes at the cost of a slightly longer break-in time. By the third session however, the sneaker fit like a glove.
Boardfeel & Cushioning
Boardfeel is not an issue with the Classic Hi. Referring back to the whole vulcanized sole element: the ability to feel the board beneath oneself is a chief objective for buyers – the Classic Hi pays this back with dividends. Given the construction, the sneaker’s sole is mostly devoted to the gum rubber traction on the bottom. Aside from reinforced stitching at the interior, a foam insole is really the only thing dividing your feet from the griptape. The insole is actually rather cleverly worked; HUF makes the forefoot portion the thinnest part – again reinforcing the sense of tactility – while the part corresponding to the heel is relatively rigid to protect against heavier impact. That’s not to say that you should be taking any particular Leaps of Faith with these, but the Classic Hi will hold up when you need it to otherwise.
In all, the HUF Classic is a solid, everyday option for the average skater. The model’s name definitely precedes it; in the Classic (which also comes in a low-top version), HUF has a winning formula for a flagship model. The way we refer to the Old Skools or Janoskis as the go-to skate shoes of their respective brands, so too should the skate community induct the Classic Hi into the ranks of foolproof models.
That said: put them on and lace ‘em up – the sneaker doesn’t have much to prove. If you haven’t already, get down to your local shop – mine is Labor in New York City’s Chinatown – and pick up this skate staple.