Born in New York City, Keith Hufnagel grew up skating alongside some of the most iconic skateboarders of the 1990s such as Keenan Milton and Gino Iannucci. In 1992, Hufnagel relocated to San Francisco to further pursue his skateboarding career. After hearing news of this move, Jim Thiebaud (co-owner of DLX Distribution) drove around San Francisco hoping to find Hufnagel with the intention of sponsoring him. Miraculously the two encountered each other and ever since Huf has been one of the most notable Real Skateboards riders. Hufnagel’s sections in Real to Reel, Non Fiction and Dan Wolfe’s 2011 directed video Since Day One are all considered classics.
Hufnagel’s eponymous footwear brand began as an extension of his earliest days exploring the world of brick and mortar retail stores. The first HUF store opened in August of 2002, located on San Francisco’s Sutter Street. The small boutique style store predominantly carried other brands and after introducing their own line of t-shirts, grew to include hats, fleeces, denim and much more in their apparel collection. With his place firmly established within skateboarding and interest in other more fashionable aspects (witnessing the growth of Supreme and a period of time spent riding for Stussy), Huf’s intention for the brand was to illustrate the punk rock, hip hop, counterculture natures engrained within skateboarding and streetwear. His position as a professional skateboarder enabled Hufnagel to continue touring with his sponsors while employees ran the day-to-day needs of the shops, however after opening five stores Huf’s life began to become consumed by the business.
HUF, the brand, was initially sold through their flagship stores with the exception of other businesses owned by close friends of Keith. In 2008 distribution of the apparel line was opened up to the public. By 2011 the focus shifted completely away from the original stores a new venture as HUF Quality Footwear was introduced. The sneaker market is an aspect of skateboarding which Huf has always been fond of, working closely with footwear designers during his days riding for DVS. The original intention was for HUF Quality Footwear to provide clean designs which were also simple, durable and functional skateboard shoes. This intentioned has been realised from day one with the high top Hupper while models such as the Sutter (named after the street which was home to the original SF store), Soto, Galaxy and toe-capped Classic Lo and Hi continue this tradition of scaled back, efficient and lasting footwear.
A key part of HUF’s popularity could be attributed the welcoming of Austyn Gillette and Dylan Rieder as team riders in 2013. After months of speculation about which footwear brand the Team Handsome heavy hitters would move to, their choice to join HUF was considered a power move and helped boost opinions of the emerging footwear company. Both have had pro model HUF shoes, with Dylan resurrecting his old Gravis slip-on shoe to acclaim. Brad Cromer, one of the very first riders Hufnagel sponsored after expanding into footwear, also received a well deserved pro-model shoe in 2016 which has had a warm reception. HUF’s footwear team now boasts Sammy Winter, Tyler Bledsoe, and Dick Rizzo alongside surfer Craig Anderson amongst their other riders.
Hufnagel considers the company to be a 'skateboard lifestyle’ brand due to their roots being in not just skateboarding but also music, art and graffiti. In 2015, after many years operating the brand exclusively as HUF Quality Footwear, Keith made the move to open a new flagship store located on LA’s Fairfax Avenue. Then one year later, Huf brought the brand home with the opening of another HUF store on Crosby Street in New York City. Both stores are located in the same districts as streetwear staples Supreme and Diamond and include interior design by Japanese sculptor Haroshi; reflecting the brand’s influences of fashion and art alongside HUF’s skateboarding heritage.
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