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Editorial

Exclusive: Tiago Lemos Talks Creating The New Tiago NM1010

Go behind the shoe and hear from Tiago himself, New Balance designer Jeff Mikut, and why the NM1010 is way more than a homage shoe.

Exclusive: Tiago Lemos Talks Creating The New Tiago NM1010
Posted by Anthony Pappalardo 8 min read
Sunday, August 16, 2020

The public journey of Tiago Lemos Soares has lasted almost a decade but it feels terse and ubiquitous. There are moments in skateboarding where someone’s entire presence answers a psychic need and this is precisely why he’s become “Tiago.” It’s hiking up the jeans, it’s skating like a 20 Shot Sequence/Trilogy disciple but without kitsch, coupled with video game pop. But why? What translated to skateboarding as a whole that made Tiago Lemos such a beloved staple and his footage a new benchmark in skating?

There is no formula. There is no action. It’s just what he does.

Having a name first that feels exotic to most outside of South America. For historical context, in the 1980s, few skaters were able to snap and level out ollies often because the vert-centric decks lacked a proper upturned nose. In fact, turning your front two bolts so the nut and excess threads faced up became a thing—one that destroyed your shoes—so that you had the means to facilitate your ollies. One of the exceptions to this was Natas Kaupus, whose surf-inspired, painterly approach to street skating grabbed immediate attention but it was his pop that became almost a unit of measure. Kids across the globe would look at things and think, “I bet Natas could ollie that.” Now any ledge over waist height is, “Something Tiago could switch back tail, easily.” 

Tiago Lemos Pro Signature Skateboarding Shoe, the NB1010 from New Balance Numeric 1

Tiago’s path in skating has felt as natural as his flow, first turning pro the Rob Gonzales and Danny Montoya-led Boulevard Skateboards via Brazilian pro Rodrigo Petersen and becoming the perfect retrofit for DC Shoe Co, who released his first pro model sneaker along with a healthy check from Mountain Dew. Since the lens zoomed in on him he’s produced a shocking barrage of footage, ranging from raw to the hyper-produced Ty Evans production We Are Blood and as the voiceover says in his section, “Tiago Lemos is magic.” That magic has translated into more parts, edits, clips, documentaries, features, photos, and coverage than most pros log in an entire career. Tiago has yet to turn 30.

While you can’t quantify the intangibles that make people trust Tiago, it’s of note that his just-shy-of 23-minutes DC Promo Rough Cut part (2017) is currently at 1.3 million views. No music, plenty of bails, shocking makes, and a lot of bewilderment in the b-roll, he’s one of the few skaters who people want to see the process as much as the product. Despite the aesthetic fit with DC, Tiago announced his departure from the brand via Instagram in November of 2019, with a rumored move to the New Balance Numeric program. Leaked clips with him popping and sliding with the iconic N on his feet fueled the buzz that was confirmed weeks later with an official announcement praising his ambidextrous ability and promising a retro-inspired, modern tech model named the NM1010 in July of 2020. 

Tiago Lemos Pro Signature Skateboarding Shoe, the NB1010 from New Balance Numeric 11

“It was the hardest decision ever for me,” he explains. “I felt I wanted to do something new. DC provided some of the best times of my life but I wanted to experience something different, find new motivations. Although NB is a big company, their skate program is tight, Everyone in the office skates, I talk straight to the boss, feels like they all got my back regardless, plus it’s a family-owned company.”

Due to a slight delay because of COVID-19, Tiago’s first New Balance shoe has arrived, fulfilling the tease and offering a dynamic departure from his past models, leveraging the brand’s performance benefits and proprietary tech.

“For the first month (of quarantine in Brazil) I didn’t leave the house at all,” he says. “A couple of friends and I decided to rent a house on an island down south, right in front of the beach. I went on a couple of missions with Wilton Souza and Pedro Biagio, first to their hometown of Maringá and then to Brasilia. We were taking care of ourselves the whole time, but we needed to get clips.”

Tiago Lemos Pro Signature Skateboarding Shoe, the NB1010 from New Balance Numeric 2

With a nod to Guy Mariano’s Axion shoe colorway in its key model, the NM1010 delivers on its promise of a performance-driven, ‘90s hip-hop inspired skate shoe but what does that really mean? Unless a shoe released in the skate-sphere is marketed as a chiller, performance is endemic to a skate shoe but in the incase of the NM1010, it’s less about touting how the shoe works but why and wiring the look and demands to Tiago’s spirit.

In speaking with him about the debut model, there was an obvious through-line to his approach to shoe design and the footage he logs in it: rhythm.

“At first I didn’t understand what they were saying so the beats were getting me hyped,” he says of the 1010’s ‘90s hip-hop homage. “The music’s flow kept me going, after a while the lyrics too, it’s more street related.” Have you ever been to a bar or event in New York City and Shook Ones, Pt. II comes on? It’s like a fucking time machine that puts everyone into a ‘90s hypnosis for four minutes but as Tiago implies, that feeling is less about nostalgia and more about the moment. When asked if he had an actual time travel device, he describes his dream session as, “New York, in the 90s with Keenan (Milton), Gino (Iannucci), Javier Nunez, Wilton Souza, Rodrigo Petersen, William Truta, Wes Kremer.”

“You can tell that the mid/late '90s are Tiago’s favorite era just by the way he presents himself right?,”

says former pro skater and current Numeric Sales Manager, Jason Rothmeyer. ”The kit, the trick selection, all of the details about him just scream that era and I think the 1010 embodies that. The best part about all of it was Tiago sent us a list of people he wanted to get some early promo pairs to for the launch. The whole list is like a who’s who of 90’s pros—basically the whole roster of dudes in Trilogy plus some bonus dudes—Clyde Singleton, Kareem Campbell, Javi Nunez, Tony Ferguson, Marcus McBride, Eric Pupecki, Billy Valdes, Lee Smith, JP Jadeed, Rob Welsh, Jefferson Pang,  and so on.  It’s the guys he was hyped on growing up in Brazil and watching their video parts—he wanted to make sure they got shoes.” 

With the vibe of the 1010 checked, Tiago praised the shoe’s primary designer for not only executing his vision but teaching him a lot in the process. NB#’s Lead Designer, Jeff Mikut broke down the detailed process.

“The '90s is more of a vibe than a literal translation,”

Mikut says. “We didn’t want to create a shoe 1-to-1 from the '90s, but wanted to be inspired by that era of skateboard footwear and NB’s footwear of that time. It’s important to look into Tiago’s influences and what inspires him as a skateboarder. Performance is a key focus in every skate shoe in the line, essentially making it a standard for Numeric. In the case of the 1010, we are introducing NB’s latest FUELCELL compound that is utilized across running and basketball products. It’s a high-rebound foam that provides a sort-of lively underfoot feel with incredible results/responses from both the lab and Tiago himself. Beyond the aesthetic change of a flat vulcanized shoe to a more sporty athletic silhouette, there are a lot of gains in trying out the 1010. A basic vulc usually has a very thin upper, moderate insole support and tends to lose structure after a few sessions. With the 1010, Tiago wanted to create something that could truly last – a shoe that essentially got better over time. I think that you will feel more protected in every direction and be hyped to discover a shoe that doesn’t lose its shape or performance benefits over its lifespan. Maybe you’ll be able to SSBSTS too? No promises.”

Tiago Lemos Pro Signature Skateboarding Shoe, the NB1010 from New Balance Numeric 4
Tiago Lemos Pro Signature Skateboarding Shoe, the NB1010 from New Balance Numeric 5
Tiago Lemos Pro Signature Skateboarding Shoe, the NB1010 from New Balance Numeric 3

Mikut and Tiago’s meticulous approach creates a full-360 degree fit, not only in a dynamic shoe but Tiago’s actual aesthetic. I joked that the last thing you’d want to do after designing something so intense is cover it with denim and as a Baggy pants Icon®, this had to be a concern. “Baggy enough to be comfortable but not to hide my shoes,” Tiago says laughing. “Usually 38” fits good.” Apparently humbly entertaining fit nerdery is another one of his talents.

With the 1010 on the shelves and a perpetual task of one-upping himself on camera, Tiago remains fixated on skating—street skating—not because contests are canceled indefinitely, because it’s how he’s wired, regardless of any outside incentives. He mentions that he’s blessed to be a professional skateboarder and he’s still in pursuit of a career-defining part.

“I don’t do anything for money,” he says. “I do it because I love it. Money is just a consequence. I quit the Brazilian Olympic team last year to focus on the streets, have fun, and travel the world with my friends—that’s what’s gonna make me happy not a medal. The money was good but the love for the streets talks louder.”

And the streets love Tiago back, as evidenced by the fan-made re-edits and recently, a stream of Tiago tributes on YouTube created in the newly released SkaterXL video game on YouTube. I’m not kidding, this one “creator” went in for 25-minutes as “Tiago.” Maybe it’s the signature smile or the inherent ease he exudes when actually doing things only possible in a video game but things just feel free and easy for Tiago. 

So what is actually hard for Tiago Lemos?

“I never really thought about that before,” he says. “But all the fake people that never shook my hand when I was younger and now come to me with a smile on their faces, that I don’t really like.”

If you've not seen, watch Tiago's Welcome to Parade clip here.

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