The Making of the Double Tongue

Written by Matt Dolge

I recently visited my local skate shop and the new Adidas skate shoes immediately caught my eye because it looked like a soccer shoe on steroids. Once I had them in my hands I noticed that this was Dennis Busenitz pro model which displayed an extra long tongue had dash marks on the underside of the tongue. The dash marks on the underside of the tongue read:

Not feeling the long tongue? Cut along the dotted line for a pair of Busenitz Lights

So you could take a pair of scissors and cut off the extra long tongue to create your own DIY tongue. The suggestion of cutting off a tongue created a feeling of nostalgia and I was transported back in time to circa 1989 where I fashioned a double tongue by removing a tongue from an old pair of shoes. Now for those who don’t know what a double tongue is it is not a hydra tongue that they guy who has face tattoos hisses at you with but rather a style and methodology of puffing up and protecting the top of your foot from your skateboard. Contrary to belief the double tongue was first created for function but was soon adopted by fashionable skaters. Just like duct tape was also first used as a function to hold together ollie holes in skate shoes but then later used as a fashion accessory to skateboard shoes even though the shoes did not have any holes.

Still perplexed why someone would double-tongue a shoe? Well in the late eighties skateboarding was rapidly evolving to a very technical street skating and with that came an arsenal of flip tricks like the impossible and pressure flip that involved using the whole foot. The evolution of these tricks created points of contacts with the upper part of the foot and ankle normally not felt during transition riding. Because the popular footwear at the time was predominantly made of canvas and had small and lightweight tongues it exposed the foot to failed attempts at these new tricks and the side of the board or trucks would gouge into the dorsal part (top) of the foot. Skateboarders who transitioned from ramp skating to street skating (pun intended) felt the tops of their feet needed more protection and would cut the tongues out of old skate shoes and place the old tongue underneath the current tongue which offered additional protection and so the double tongue solved the bruised foot problem. Note that the Adidas Dennis Busenitz skate shoe has a heavily padded tongue and the extended tongue that is removable is very thin.

The double tongue look created a different silhouette to the normally narrow profile of the period’s skate shoe and creates a new footwear fashion for street skaters. The style was quickly adopted by all street skaters and even transition riders as the double tongue severed to protect the foot from bailed airs to knee slides. Soon all skill levels and styles of skateboards were wearing the double tongue and some even adding three tongues to their shoes. The style became so ridiculous that soon the secondary tongue was so large that it was bigger than the original tongue and was often seen falling out of the shoes upon initiating flip tricks.

Skate shoe manufactures swooped in on this marketing opportunity and created the puffy tongue. The puffy tongue mimicked the double tongue and protected the dorsal part of the foot. Osiris shoes led the puffy tongue charge with the release of the Osiris D3, which featured a ridiculously large tongue. The puffy tongue killed the double tongue and eventually the puffy tongue returned to a padded tongue under normal proportions. Since the majority of skate shoes on the market today have a padded tongue by default I thought the double tongue had gone the way of the dinosaurs but then Adidas enters the skateboard scene taking their low profile and lightly padded soccer shoes and transforms them into a modern skate shoe. By utilizing the same tongue mold from their most popular selling soccer shoe the Samba it appears Adidas may have inadvertently brought back the double tongue. If the double tongue does come back Adidas (or Busenitz) can claim they were the first to bring it back. Personally, I can’t wait.

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