éS Sal 20 shoe review

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Had a taste of shoe heaven yet this year? If not, you’re about to find some. The history of the original Sal 23 started as the very first éS shoe when they launched back in 1995 – at the time it was a bona fide classic, the first pro skate shoe for Sal Barbier that spread like wildfire throughout the scene that was not only admired for its fashion statement, the functionality of the shoe was 100% built for skateboarding by skateboarders.

This period was golden. Skateboarding was raw, the real underground. None of Michael Jordan’s people were anywhere near our scene at the time, although said sports pro did share the same basketball number with Sal – the 23, a number that most 90s skaters will never forget due to this shoe. This new re-issue sees his infamous number switched to 20, paying homage to éS celebrating a sterling 20 strong years in the skater owned shoe game. Only a hardcore few will want their 23 back, but the double decade will do nicely.

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Rightful big ups to éS for their achievements aside, let’s go back to functionality, because it’s rare these days for any skate shoe company to issue a shoe that has an ollie patch. Most companies want you to skate every day so that your Mum has to buy you a new pair and replace them fast – it’s a sucker marketing strategy, sneaky too. Barbier and the dudes at Sole Tech wanted a shoe that lasted. It’s a beautiful touch and one that you will appreciate when you slip these on and start pushing.

“I wanted a rubber piece on the side so it wouldn’t rip up. I kind of liked that, because I don’t always like wearing ’em when they’re brand new.” explains Sal in a previous interview. “By the time most skate shoes break in, you have to get a new pair because they’re all ripped up. I worked on the design of the whole shoe, the sole, the logo, everything, around 1994-95.”

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We had a delivery of the Sal 20 here recently and have spent 3 weeks in them now. The first obvious observation is that they are now made thinner than the OGs (thankfully), but back then everything in skateboarding was wide – apart from wheels. They are comfy too. None of this waiting for the shoe to be ready for a sesh, these are lit straight out of the box. I personally like to stick the laces behind the tongue allowing the logo to represent, like a number plate. Surrounded by smooth suede with perforation holes in front of the first lace, these are super simple, but perfectly efficient for street or mini ramp skating.

All you need to know is that these are 100% skateboarding. éS have brought a classic back from their wonderful archives and re-issued them in style. You need a pair in your life. Support skater owned brands so the next wave of hard working skaters can get what they deserve.

It’s worth noting that these come up a little small, so I opted for a half size up and they were perfect. Find them in your local skate shop this month in three colourways.

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éS Sal 20 web doc

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Those who remember the Etnies Sal 23 shoe back in the day know that it was a game changer. They were an innovative skater owned shoe choice, backed with the skills of Sal Barbier who was pushing skateboarding forwards at a rate of knots.

Watch this new éS web doc on the history of the shoe that they’ve re-issued this week and look out for them on your travels.