There were 1,400 pairs of Vans skate shoes made in the United States last year. I now own two pairs of them: one in white, one in black. Unfortunately for me, they were so expensive, and so irreplaceable, that I have yet to lace either pair up. Yes, I know that’s ridiculous.
When I read about the WOOBIES MOD-1, however, I thought that I might have stumbled on an affordable alternative. The WOOBIES website and marketing materials are primarily focused on “first responders” and military types, but the phrase “skate shoe” does appear. And the price is right: $85, just a bit more than a set of Ultracush-equipped Vans Pros. So I ordered a pair. They’re produced intermittently so it took a while for the Mod-1s to arrive. So… are they a great alternative to Vans?
The answer, as Juan Peron’s advisors say in Evita, is… a qualified yes.
In terms of style and construction, the WOOBIES MOD-1 owes a lot more to the Converse Chuck Taylor than it does to any skate-specific shoe of yesterday or today. Everything, and I mean everything, is dyed black. Construction looks sturdy and there is a lot of thick stitching visible.
Comfort is also remarkably good, with insoles that are softer than those of the Vans Ultracush shoes. I wore them barefoot for a day, which is kind of a litmus test for skate shoes, and had just one issue: the hard rubber toe cap can be felt while the shoe breaks in. It remains to be seen how well they will wear in the long term, but I think it’s safe to say that they are going to be a durable and comfortable alternative to sweatshop-made sneakers and skate shoes.
There’s just one problem: the soles are clearly made for police/fire/EMS/military applications. It’s a sort of sticky-ish rubber with a channel pattern that is obviously meant to clear water and offer a grip edge no matter what angle the shoe meets something like a ledge or rough surface. Against a BMX pedals, however, they are just about useless. The random channel design means they don’t sit evenly on the capscrew pins found on virtually all modern BMX/mountain bike pedals. So there’s no way I would wear them for anything more serious than a ride to the grocery store.
Most of my readers won’t have that particular requirement. They will see the MOD-1 as the cheapest USA-made sneaker on the market, one that proclaims no branding or bizarre aesthetic ideas. I’m hoping that more of these basic, staple-ish products return to our country as time goes on. The MOD-1 is a good start.