Foot Fancy Review: HOPS Sportswear Ol Skool (Prototype)
A new school company debuts with “Ol Skool” KICKS. Puns intended.
A KICKS/SLAMonline exclusive
So…we all know about the big boy brands in basketball footwear, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have to utter their ubiquitous names right this second, and usually it’s pretty hard to put your attention elsewhere. There’s so much innovation, so much technology and so much jargon, that sometimes, I believe people want something simple and easy to read. Not “easy to read” as in phonics, but easy to read as in something’s that’s straight forward and simple to define and project upon ourselves. With the way that the world is changing, it’s not as simple to do those sort of things these days. In the shoe universe, Nike seems to continue to defy odds and set new standards, adidas answers those Swoosh-ly beckon calls with their own unique take on performance and style, and now Reebok has come back from a land of limbo to call out to their own sheep in the consumership; meanwhile, Converse and the Jordan Brand are assertive in their own right about how they drive in their lane, and they’re leaders as well. Within these landscapes, though, there is a place for the new jack and specifically for one that uses tried and true knowledge with an understated innovation about what feet and their accompanying body really want and need — enter the HOPS Sportswear Ol Skool.
A sneaker created from the minds of HOPS owner/company director Matt Kaipuke and lead designer Pietro Pellicelli, the Hops Ol Skool basketball shoe is the premier model of the upstart company from Australia. Being former professional international basketball players, the aforementioned creators decided to place a distinct focus on performance without having to sacrifice youth appeal, and the Ol Skool doesn’t disappoint in either area. Just looking at the shoe, you get the sense that it was decidedly made to get some eyes looking down at the feet. My white/black/red version of the Ol Skool is what I like to call “the Scarface” model, because of the half/half colorblocking with the red trim. The silhouette, though, plays up the model’s name–it appears as if the Ol’ Skool itself was constructed with the late 1980s and early ’90s in mind, from the toebox to the midsole, the sneaker carries a nostalgic flair about it. While the shoes themselves aren’t going to be discreet enough to get you into a club, they have a distinct look about them that sets them apart from the usual suspects of footwear; but apart from the aesthetics, the real bread & butter of the shoe is in the feel.
There are a handful of things I like about the shoe, three biggies, actually: the Ol Skool is lightweight, well-cushioned and stable. Upon my first casual wearing, I was immediately impressed, as the shoe was surprisingly light. It was obvious to me that this is so because of a combination of the shoe’s upper, midsole and outsole. The upper is made up a totally full-grain leather and it’s really supple. The midsole (according to Hops Sportswear) is a “lightweight CMEVA midsole for premium cushioning” and it’s true to its word. Having worn the shoes for high-intensity workouts over the past month, the Ol Skool’s low weight shows, but I honestly believe that the “sticky rubber” outsole helped to keep the shoes from being so heavy as well. The outsole has a full-length herringbone tread carved in it, and that it reduces the weight from the bottom is something that I felt right away.
The Ol Skool’s cushioning is also good and serviceable. The inner lining of the shoe is cotton-soft and really quite plush, and this is as much a luxury as anything else you might want in another article of clothing, like say, a glove with a similarly soft lining. The tongue is padded and backed by the foam that I presume lines the asymmetrical ankle collar and quarters of the shoe, and it also “is linked to the footbed through elastic bands to provide maximum comfort and foot lockdown.” It’s a quite pleasant feel.
Stability is a big thing about the shoe that certainly is highlighted in no small part from Hops’ patented performance feature–the Medial Wing. According to the company, the reasons for such an invention have great purpose in playing basketball:
“Lateral movement (side to side) is crucial to being able to compete at peak performance in the game. If you are able to move quickly in these lateral movements, you will have the ability to attack or defend the basket. Lateral movement usually starts from the foot opposed to the desired direction you are moving in, so the medial side of the foot is the area that controls this movement. What we have done at HOPS is we have created an outrigger effect under the plantar arc that enhances support and traction under the medial area so that your lateral movement will be more balanced and explosive.” (From Hops Sportswear)
(I also want to note that the Ol Skool is a fairly flexible shoe when it comes to your feet being active on-court. Again, I attribute the full herringbone outsole, EVA midsole and full-grain leather for the proper give during foot flex.)
Although the Ol Skool has a lot to like, it does have just a couple of things that hinder it somewhat. (Note: Mind you, because the version I tested was an early model, there may be some final tweaks to the shoe that may improve upon its weaknesses.) In much of the shoes that are on the market for basketball, breathability is an issue that, up until recent years, was a functional setback that many players had to endure as part of the playing experience, or not endure and risk losing necessary support. With the Ol Skool, the same lining that gives great comfort to the shoe also seems to help block the escape of heat, but you’re in good company with moisture-wicking socks. Also, the Medial Wing is can be an adjustment for players who are used to playing with shoes with heavily-contoured arches; shuffling your feet on defense won’t be an issue, but it’s a different feel with an arch outrigger. The Ol Skool is also pretty soft on cushioning (which is not a bad thing), but the great thing is that the sockliner is removable, so don’t worry if you need orthotics for a denser feel underfoot or anything else that you need accommodated.
I recommend the Ol Skool for players who want substantial overall support in a mid-cut shoe that also provides good flexibility and comfort. Likely happy customers will be the players who play all around the court, who can make the absolute most of the Ol Skool’s traction, fit and flexability.
For more information on Hops Sportswear and Hops footwear & products, go to www.hopsportswear.com.
I want to especially thank Matt Kaipuke of Hops and SLAM editor-in-chief Ben Osborne for the great opportunity to review the Hops Ol Skool.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unyielding Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.