Not Everyone could pull off an entire art show inspired by a single shoe design, but then most shoes don’t carry the significance that local skateboarder Steve Caballero’s Half Cabs do.
The art show, called “Birth of an Icon,” Feb. 7 at Cukui in San Jose’s Japantown, will feature work by more than 25 artists, including Caballero, who is also curating the event. The idea behind the show is for each artist to create a single piece of artwork based off the shoe in some way.
“I kind of wanted to do something with the premise of you know when people do artwork of the classic Air Jordans, they have the Air Jordan in the piece of art. People look at that painting and go, ‘oh cool, Air Jordans.’ I wanted to do the same thing but with my shoe, and when people see the painting they go, ‘oh Half Cab,’” Caballero says.
The Half Cabs, which are made by Vans, landed in stores in 1992, right as street-skating was taking off. The shoes came to be synonymous with skateboarding and remain popular to this day.
Artists’ sole instruction in creating their pieces for “Birth of an Icon” was to take inspiration from the Half Cabs, so it probably doesn’t hurt that the shoes have such a memorable logo: a drawing of Caballero doing the Half Cab trick. Interestingly, the Half Cab skateboarding move was actually pioneered by Tony Hawk in an alteration of the Caballerial—one of Caballero’s most influential tricks, which he invented in 1981. It was the launching pad for his career and a big leap forward for skateboarding.
It’s fitting, though, that the shoe is named after a trick inspired by a different trick, as the Half Cabs were based on a previous Vans shoe design of Caballero’s, the Full Cabs. They were essentially the same, only they had high tops. Caballero learned that skaters were cutting off the high tops and duct-taping them back up in order to skate better in them. He called up Vans and suggested they make Half Cabs and take a little height off the ankles.
Caballero’s contributions to skating are well known enough that the Caballerial was the subject of a Jeopardy answer a few weeks ago. (“Time to hit the street on this piece of equipment and do a Caballerial.” The question, of course, is “What is a skateboard?”)
“It was really cool to see that. It’s pretty amazing to see how far skateboarding has come,” Caballero says.