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Shoes for a Clean Getaway: Create your own grinding playground with radical new Soap shoes
Playboy - Dec 31, 1969
By Terry Peppers
As published on Playboy.com (Thank you Terry Peppers for clearing this up and not being a litigious person =)
Grind: v. The act of sliding or creating friction on inanimate objects
Nestled at Jackson Avenue and Wacker Drive stands Chicago's 110-story Sears Tower. Reaching into the heavens with a powerful phallic thrust, the black, glass-and-steel tower dominates the city in an eerie spiritual way. To the immediate west of the Sears Tower, running along Wacker Drive, lies any grinder's wet dream: several gold handrails standing in silent sentry atop a flight of black marble stairs. Worn from years of groping hands and biting weather, these rails might look like a stairway to heaven, but in reality they're more like a highway to hell. Well maybe not hell, but if one of Chicago's cops catch you sliding down them like Fred Astaire you can get pretty damn close to hell in the Cook County clink.
The grind -- skateboarders do it, rollerbladers do it and so do BMX'ers. At its heart, grinding is sliding on something for the hell of it -- riding down a rail because no one else will, taking a shortcut between points A and B that others miss, ripping out a trick for the sake of ripping it. It's physics in motion, mathematics in action and utterly psychotic at heart. But options are severely limited when it comes to making the fantasy of a public grind a reality. For example, a skateboarder would have to lug a board to the top of the aforementioned Sears Tower steps, quickly size up the jump, pump up some speed and go for broke. A rollerblader would have to do the same thing, but with cumbersome blades. And because it is so frowned upon by the fuzz, you'd have to do it without drawing the attention of all the Johnny Laws patrolling the tower grounds. So, up until now most grinders' mantra was, "I fought the law and the law won." Well, that old mantra is about to be 86'ed by a radical new shoe from a youngster company called Soap.
The idea for the Soap shoe bubbled out of a lunch meeting between Chris Morris, founder and president of Soap, and Dave Inman, an industry consultant. Morris slipped away from lunch with the idea for shoes with built-in grind plates. "I guess you could say that I love playing with myself. I want everyone to play with themselves, but I think Soap shoes are the best way to play with yourself in public without having to go through all that embarrassment," says Morris. A 14-year veteran with Minnetonka, Minnesota's now-famous Rollerblade company and the so-called "great-grandfather of aggressive skating," Morris has created a fresh new shoe that combines seriously bitchin' looks and a patented grind sole.
Just by holding a pair of Soap shoes, which go for about $80, you can tell they're different. My previous skate shoes were like a 1971 Datsun B210 -- light, flexible and semi-reliable. Soap shoes are more like a 1980 Mercedes 300D Turbo-Diesel -- heavy, rugged and completely reliable. The styles are subdued in a classic old-school manner -- hip but not overly hip. And beneath the boss look lies their clandestine functionality: a special grind plate embedded in the arch. The trick is that Soap shoes can go where skateboards and in-lines would never venture -- attack the Sears Tower handrails without being stopped by Johnny Law; demolish schoolyard bike racks; infiltrate schools with their multitudes of stairwells. In short, Soap shoes are the stealth bombers of grinding.
But this element of stealth is what could get Soap users in trouble. Their hidden attributes allow for a freedom that most grinders aren't used to. Public defacement normally results in a citation of sorts and, depending on the mood of the cop that catches you, a possible misdemeanor. Also, Soap shoes don't leave urban obstacles squeaky clean. In fact, a light film of plastic is left on anything you grind, giving new meaning to the term "skid marks." Morris, however, conveys a different tone when it comes to public defacement via Soaps.
"We took special care when developing the grind plate," he says. "Our main concern was developing a plate that wouldn't deface public property. It isn't like the grind plate is metal, it's just a piece of plastic. We've been relegated to the urban environment we all live in. We no longer have places where we can run around and have fun. We need to make do with what we have, and Soap shoes are just a way of enhancing our urban environs."
In addition to legal hassles, there are also health issues associated with Soaps -- i.e., you can bust your ass on them. Like your physics professor told you, every action has an equal reaction, and this is certainly true for grinding. Sometimes that reaction is the pavement ripping your skin. Then there's the asphalt embrace that can shatter bones and smash skulls. Grinding definitely has its repercussions, not to mention concussions, and Soap knows this. So to protect his assets (and his ass), Morris has attached a large yellow sticker to the Soap shoes grinding plate. The sticker is an actual legal agreement saying that by peeling it off, you (the wearer) assume all liability and risks that could be associated with the use of Soap shoes. And lemme tell you, after bailing on my shoulder and hip my third time out in Soaps, there are risks. I wouldn't recommend doing a 100-stair grind your first time out, unless you have a death wish or want to feel what being in traction is like.
As with anything (skateboards, Rollerblades, bikes, snowboards), you need to use Soap shoes responsibly and with protection. Sure, helmets look stupid and they're expensive, but if you want to avoid a concussion I would strongly suggest wearing one when attempting big grinds. Face it, bailing is part of the territory when it comes to grinding, and sometimes it's unavoidable. But hey, Soap shoes aren't any more dangerous than boards or blades. With a pair of Soaps on, the urban landscape morphs into a public playground for wannabe grinders. Rails, benches and curbs once camouflaged by their mundane everyday utility are transformed into new thrill rides. A simple jaunt around the block can become a grinding adventure. There really isn't a limit to what you can do in Soaps -- if you can jump up onto an obstacle then consider it yours to rip.
Street buzz is working on Soap's side these days. More and more kids seem to be hip to the notion of buying shoes for more than just walking. According to Toby, a 25-year-old grinding aficionado, "I thought it was a bit bizarre of an idea. At first, I really couldn't decide if Soaps were cool or not. I'd never seen anything like them. What surprised me was that no one else had come up with a shoe like it before. My first couple of times out grinding were awful, and I almost killed myself. What me and my friends quickly learned was, 'Concrete is cool but metal is better.' These kicks are -- dare I say -- hella cool."