John Shanahan Interview
Do you have a middle name?
John Robert Shanahan. How often do people fuck up your last name?
Actually not too often. People usually get it. You’d be surprised. Some people say Shanahanahan—they keep saying that shit. They usually have more trouble with the spelling.
Where are you originally from?
I was in born Hackettstown, New Jersey, but moved to Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania. My parents were divorced so I was always back and forth.
Which one do you claim?
Usually I’ll say Pennsylvania because I grew up there more. I skated Love Park and City Hall a bunch with the older kids. I started to go to New York City because it was an hour and a half from where I lived. I feel like I gravitated more towards New York.
Who were your favorite skaters back in the day?
I like the whole Alien Workshop thing—Jason Dill, Jake Johnson was probably my favorite at the time.
Thirty minutes before this some gangsters popped the trunk and pulled out the street sweeper on us because we skated their steps. We bailed after some very heated words and $50. John 360 flips down the block Photo: Heikkila
How about now?
Jake Johnson is still up there. I like Rob Welsh, Stevie Williams, Kalis, Chad Muska, AVE, Wenning. I’m definitely leaving some out.
Have you skated with Wenning recently?
I have actually. He was on some of the trips we were doing on the East Coast.
What was that like?
It was sick. He’s cool as fuck. He’ll say some funny ass shit. He keeps it mellow.
Is DC the only shoe sponsor you’ve ever had?
I got shop flowed Circa shoes for a while when I was 11 or some shit. But yeah, DC is pretty much the only one.
Switch tré with a comfy landing, board feel is a conspiracy Photo: Heikkila
I was told that you were discovered by Jeff Pang in NYC, wearing vintage DCs.
Yeah, my boy Andy Po from Homebase skateshop hooked me up with Jeff Pang. I would stop by the showroom and see him. I was sending him footage every month, just talking to him more and more and then eventually he started sending it to other people. Jeff Pang definitely hooked it up.
Do you feel like you skate more of the DCs you buy than the ones they send you?
A year or two ago I would be buying and skating them but now that they’re making so much good shit, I’m just skating what they’re making. I don’t gotta worry about them falling apart.
Removing the skate stoppers was only half the battle. Shanahan fakie 5-0s in the freezing cold Photo: Heikkila
Are the reissues literally the same ones they used to make or did they remodel them?
Before, they were remodeling them, making them slimmer, but now they just make them exactly how they were.
Where does the whole ’90s vibe come from? Why do you love old DCs and that shit?
I feel like all of the footage that came out at that time was more authentic. It seemed like it wasn’t just a bunch of kids that skateboarded because it was cool. They actually loved skateboarding and that looks cooler to me. The stuff they were doing was a lot more original and they weren’t copying as much.
Why do you hate feeling your board?
It’s not that I hate being able to feel the board, it’s just that you don’t need to feel the board as much as people claim you do. Do you want to feel that shit when you land Primo? I feel like it ups my confidence. If I Primo it’s not going to be nearly as bad. I see people skating in Timbs, doing crazy shit.
Boosted backside 180 over the bar—can’t buy that off eBay Photo: Heikkila
Did you always skate like that or did you just happen to change it up one day?
I always had the same trick selection and all of that but I started dressing a bit differently after this one summer at Woodward. I was skating every single day, working there and my feet were killing me from pushing on the ground. I felt every little thing. I was so over that. I remembered that DC was the best brand for old, puffy shoes so I was, like, fuck it. I’m going to buy some right now. I started looking on the Internet and at that point I felt like people weren’t buying them yet so there was a bunch of really sick shoes. Now they’re kind of harder to find because people are buying them and shit.
What’s the holy grail of vintage shoes for you?
Maybe the Howard 2s. I like them because it’s a mid-top with a strap. Those are the illest ones. There’s the Cyphers—its kind of a random shoe that Welsh switch tré’d over the Brooklyn Banks wall with. There’s also a photo of him nollie front 180ing over some shit with them. They look crazy. I really like that shoe. That’s one that a lot of people wouldn’t remember that I happen to really like.
This building is actually the Philadelphia DA’s office. Shanahan gaps to crook out the front door before we all got chased down the streets by bike cops. Everyone escaped except DC TM Jimmy Astleford who got a hefty ticket for filming inside Photo: Heikkila
What constitutes a good old puffy shoe from a shitty one?
Sometimes they’re too wide. I think a good puffy shoe has to be somewhat pointy. Sometimes they’re too wide and blown out. They gotta be pointier but still have all the padding. They gotta have a puffy tongue.
Are there puffy shoes that don’t have a puffy tongue?
Nah, most of the ones I skate got the puffy tongue. A lot of people cut the foam out and shit. I like that shit, though. If your board hits you on the top of your foot, you’re not going to start crying.
What are your initial thoughts on the surge of people starting to wear the same style of clothes as you? Are you bummed?
I think it’s cool because if people are fucking with it, DC’s going to want to make more. I’m really hyped on the direction they’re taking as well. They’re making a lot of cool shit and I’m glad it’s getting picked up on. I’m psyched that people are running it. Skating gets boring when everyone’s wearing the same shit. A lot of skate shoes look the same nowadays. I think it’s tight when people are more open to crazy shoes.
A few people have flown over this crumbling asphalt bulge so John had to break out the bike rack. Backside flip Photo: Heikkila
You have a couple side hustles going on. You work with Vintage Sponsor selling used vintage gear, right?
Has that bridged over from looking for old vintage shoes? How did you get into that?
I was getting into the thrifting thing around the same time as the old shoes because my best friend Matt that I grew up filming with was really into it. He would go to thrift stores and I would tag along with him, kind of looking around. He taught me about that and I got into it super quick. He started the Vintage Sponsor Instagram account and we would thrift together all the time and what I found I would sell on there. I would promote it and stuff.
Have you found anything for dirt cheap and sold it for an absurd amount of money?
I found this really old snowboard that I got for four dollars. It ended up being a pretty sick one—it had one of the first Volcom Stones on the graphic. I could have sold that one for a lot but Matt was really hyped on it so I hooked it up for him. I gave it to him for $300. I saw them on eBay for around $750 to $1,000. I’ve definitely sold some clothes for a bunch of money, though. Usually it’s a t-shirt—a graphic or band one. I know Matt’s found crazy Wu-Tang and Snoop Dogg shirts. I think he sold a Wu-Tang shirt for $600.
We were skating a high-bust spot in downtown Montreal one night and a random skater pulled us aside after getting kicked out and said that he was actually the security guard at the office building a few blocks away where this double set is. He said once he clocked in for his night shift he wouldn’t see anything. Underground pop shove, security free Photo: Heikkila
Jesus Christ. Does he sell it on Depop or something?
Nah, we started selling on eBay before everything. We don’t really fuck with Depop too much. eBay is really good for expensive shit because people bid it up. But now that Vintage Sponsor has enough of a following to sell expensive shit like that, we don’t really sell on eBay anymore. He actually just got a little pop-up store going on Canal and Market. It’s been going for like a month now.
Tell me a little bit about One Off John.
It’s just some crazy clothes that I design and sew up myself. It started out from thrifting all the time with Matt. We’d be finding stained-up clothes with a graphic that was still good or there was something cool about it. I didn’t want to leave it there so we ended up with a bunch of cool Champion sweatshirts and shit, where the graphic was still fine but it was stained up all around it so I started cutting the shit out, trying to recycle the pieces that were still good. Nobody’s going to want to buy it because it’s fucked up so I started recycling them. But now it turned into a little bit more than that.
Do you sew everything yourself?
How did you learn how to do that?
Kind of just freestyling. I started doing it by hand at first but my girlfriend’s mom had a sewing machine and she taught me how to set it up and stuff. It’s pretty easy to learn.
I’ve tried to learn how to sew and it’s not my thing. I’m gonna go ahead and say that.
It takes patience and it gets frustrating but you gotta want it.
Shanahan floats a three piece with a torqued-out frontside flip Photo: Heikkila
Do you ever feel like you’re a hoarder with all of these clothes?
Yeah, definitely. I live in a small apartment and the shit gets pretty piled up sometimes. I’m not trying to hold onto the clothes; I’m trying to find the right thing to match them up with. Sometimes it takes a while. It’s getting better. We need to get more dressers and stuff. They’re mostly just piles of clothes. We’re figuring it out. Also, it’s not hoarding if you’re collecting cool shit.
It’s like art.
What’s the longest you’ve ever had a piece of clothing that you never wore? Is there anything that comes to mind when you think, damn, that fucking shirt is still here.
I don’t know. Shit definitely sits around for a while. Usually I’ll wear something once and maybe get a trick or a photo in it, then end up not wearing it again. It’ll still be hung up with my clothes and I’ll be going through them, know that I won’t wear it again and just sell it. There’s been shit that’s been around for a whole year that was just sitting there.
￼Popping an ollie before that curb on the launch is madness but Shanahan makes the cut all the way to the bench Photo: Heikkila
Do you ever get rid of something and regret it?
Yeah, there’s a couple things. I’m not super bummed on it but there was one pair of shoes that I skated that I wish I didn’t skate.
What were they?
I got them off eBay. They were these crazy Rob Dyrdek colorways that were samples; they never came out. The shoes were white patterned leather with orange camo flames. They looked insane. The dude who sold them told me that he got them in a yardsale at Dyrdek’s family’s house. I just skated them and completely fucked them up. I wish I had kept those.
How did you get into snowskating?
I used to hate on snowboarding heavily when I was younger because I was just so bummed I couldn’t skate. There was a mountain that was ten minutes from where I was living that all of my friends would go to. I finally gave into it and bought a snowboard. My friend started riding a snowskate and I wanted to try that thing. I started riding it, taking turns with him and I ended up buying one. I eventually never snowboarded again. I just used the snowskate all of the time.
When all that snow hits the East Coast during winter, do you just crack out the snowskate and hit the streets?
Definitely. It’s actually mad fun. If you don’t do that shit, you’re just bummed that it’s snowing. When it starts snowing you get hyped. It’s just fun as fuck. You get a few people out and it gets crazy.
John tweaks a heelflip over the rail at America’s very first library, opened by Ben Franklin in 1731 Photo: Heikkila
Do you have a group of friends that you go out snowskating with?
Mostly my friend James but a bunch of kids from the town started trying it and got good at it. We actually sent footage to a company called Ralston Snowskates and they hooked it up. Sent us a couple completes. We started riding for that shit and they ended up doing a snowskate trip. He paid for our flights to go to Big Bear in California and ended up meeting a bunch of guys who do it out there. Sometimes they’ll come through and stay at my crib for like a week.
Is snowskating really similar to skateboarding?
It depends. There’s two snowskates. There’s the double-decker one for the mountain and that one is hard as shit. It’s harder than skateboarding. The tricks are similar but it’s just way harder. It feels more like a snowboard. The single-decker one is more like skating. You just throw down and do all sorts of tricks on it. It’s way more frustrating and annoying, though. You can’t turn and move in all this snow gear. But it kind of gives you the same feeling.
Do you ever enjoy it more than skating?
There’s been moments where I’ve had an equal amount of fun doing that as skating. But nah, I don’t think I ever enjoyed it more.
Ninety-eight or ’18? Who cares. Backside noseblunts are timeless Photo: Heikkila
DC’s Street Sweeper video is coming out. How do you feel about your part?
I’m psyched on it. I feel like the last month or two is where I’ve gotten my best shit. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m pretty hyped on the footage.
Do you have any advice for the kids keeping it ’90s?
You can’t be all for one thing. I like wearing baggy pants and shit but you can’t hate on skinny jeans. Some people pull that shit off. I feel like with skateboarding you have to be open-minded and anything could be cool if you’re doing good shit. Don’t hate shit you’re not doing.
One Off John nollie shoves over the top rope and into the future. Don’t hate! Photo: Blabac
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