The Ones: Philly Santosuosso
The force behind Humidity Skate Shop talks risking it all to stay rooted.
Words: Nic Dobija-Nootens
Photos: @HumphriesPhoto & @Cel.Jarvis
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. This edition highlights athletes repping the new skate inspired Air Jordan I Low.
Philly Santosuosso is a skateboarder’s skateboarder. Growing up in New Orleans, Philly hung out at his local skate shop, Humidity, where he saw firsthand the sense of community that a traditional, independently-owned skate shop offered to everyone passing through. Now, as its owner, he keeps those memories close.
In his 20s, Philly had an opportunity to buy Humidity and run it himself. Although he didn’t have the money, he was determined to find a way to make things work. With some help from his mom, Philly went out on a financial limb, quit his job and the rest is history.
Today, Humidity is a central part of the New Orleans skate scene and a representation of its local flavor. Through it, Philly supports his community in countless ways, by screening skate videos, hosting art shows, organizing team signings and doing giveaways. To most, that amount of care would be extraordinary, but to Philly, it’s to be expected. He wouldn’t settle for anything less than what keeps him hyped on skateboarding.
Recently, Philly collaborated with Nike SB on a pair of high-top Dunks, which Philly calls “the Trumpets.” They’re shiny gold from toe to top with lush, purple velvet lining and a clip-on red bowtie for the laces. The shoe’s design is quintessentially Philly — a sneaker for big personalities — as well as an homage to the jazz history of his hometown.
It’s easier to give up on the things you love as you age, especially when one of those things is as demanding as skateboarding. However, Philly’s love for the sport goes way past the skatepark and into the depths of his soul. Skateboarding is part of him in every way possible, and if there’s anything abundantly clear about Philly, it’s that he’s not one to give himself up.
What keeps you passionate about skateboarding today?
It’s still just the act of skating. I think a lot of people get it twisted — that I’m passionate about skating but more passionate about being real. I don’t care about the skate shop, that’s just my job. I don’t care about where the industry is going, because at the end of the day, we’re going to go skate.
The kids who are doing something different are what keeps me going — kids who are not wearing what skateboarding tells them to wear, kids who are doing tricks that aren’t supposed to be done. I met a lot of people in skating that don’t skate anymore. Not that I’m hating, but I’m 33, and I still go skate every day. I’d probably be way more successful if I didn’t go skate every night.
Were you always comfortable speaking your mind?
No, I was scared for a long time. There are certain brands that don’t sell to me, because I opened my mouth, but I still stand by what I said. At the end of the day, they’re just doing their job, so that’s when I was like, I’m not biting my tongue anymore. I don’t make money as it is, so why should I have to fake it? Take all this away from me, I’m still going to skate. No one is going to stop that. So that’s when I realized I don’t care anymore.
“Take all this away from me, I'm still going to skate.”
Have you always been into Air Jordans, both wearing and skating in them?
Yeah, New Orleans man. If you had Js on, you were the shit. Jordan is part of our culture down there. Skating in Jordans — the reaction is fun. I don’t do it out of disrespect, I just naturally like shoes. And when you see a shoe skated in, it looks cool in a weird way.
What do you enjoy about hunting down new brands to carry in your shop?
I like carrying something that no one else has. There are kids out there doing cool shit, so I try to find their stuff and bring it in. It’s just fun, honestly. It’s a hobby. If you go to a trade show and buy everything at the trade show, you’re going to look like every other skate shop down the street. I’m not going to the trade show, I’m going to find what kids are doing and get that stuff so I look different.
What was it like taking the risk of owning your childhood skate shop?
My mom pulled out some money to keep the store open under the old owner’s name while we looked for a loan. We were stressing. Then we found a bank that liked the business proposal, so my mom put a lien on the house and got a loan. It was nerve-racking. To think that the bank owns your mom’s house because you want to do a skate shop, it’s scary. But we paid it off in two years. I just grinded. I remember I turned my last check in, and they were like, “Well, now you’re approved for this loan.” They literally wanted me to take out another loan the day I turned my loan in. I was like, “Hell no, I don’t want to owe you anything!”
You also worked with Real Skateboards to make a Statue of Liberty board that raised money for the ACLU. What inspired that project?
New Orleans is predominantly African-American. I went to public schools where there were four Caucasian kids and hundreds of minorities.
With all this shit going on, I hit up Jim [Thiebaud, co-founder of Real Skateboards,] to make a board. I want [Humidity] to be a skate shop that’s not afraid to speak up. If you don’t want to come shop with us because of this, don’t. We don’t want you in here. That board was a welcome sign to immigrants, so that’s why we did the liberty graphic. That statue was built to welcome immigrants.
The Air Jordan I Low is available at select retailers.