The archetypal athlete in the Chamonix area of France is a free-heel ski savant in the winter and a skyrunner in the summer. (Think Kílian Jornet.) It was only a dozen years ago that a couple such athletes, also Salomon execs – Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard – figured there was a better way to a skyrunning shoe, in particular a shoe that managed the downhills. The name of that shoe meant “Fly over the earth,” in Maori.
That brand appears to have changed its name and now maybe it only means “Fly” in Maori, because the HOKA remains, and the One One is gone. And let’s face it, you and I have been calling it HOKA only only for some time now, have we not? Just… HOKA.
There was a time when the pronunciation of the shoe brand was the subject of a boardroom discussion and I was in that boardroom. It was 2013 or so and a lot of early HOKA adopters and the brand managers sat around pondering this question, and the decision was just to call it “won won,” rather than the pig latin sounding “o-nay o-nay.” The founders were purists, and it was o-nay all-day, because that was the way the Maori said it. But the Deckers Corporation folks, who’d bought the brand, had bigger fish to fry. Teaching the world that One One is not pronounced won won was too big a lift.
That first management team grew the brand from around no million in revenues to $100 million, but changes were made and a new team came in, along with a relocation from the Berkeley-area headquarters down to the Santa Barbara-area home of parent company Deckers which also owns Ugg (pronounced Ugg), Teva and other footwear brands. I was surprised to find out that with this new management team o-nay o-nay was o-kay! Your brand, your pronunciation.
And o-nay is where it has been for the last few years until I was just apprised of something I did not know: The One One, however you want to say it, is oh-you-tee (out). If you go on the website, which was hokaoneone.com but is now simply hoka.com, you will only find HOKA One One on legacy pages that seem to have been an oversight (and which will likely be changed each time someone on the web team happens across it.)
Everything is HOKA, just HOKA, and even the One One on the logo is gone. The narrative you’ll read on the site is: “Welcome to the HOKA family,” and “At HOKA, our goal is to inspire people to move… HOKA has your back.”
Often I’m the last in the room to notice something, but I think this is a pretty recent change. I just laid down my two hundred benjamins for another pair of Bondi X trainers and while they say HOKA only on the outside, under the tongue the shoe data tag reads HOKA One One.
Still, I’m all for it. The One One may be a legacy, and a part of this brand from the beginning, but my appendix is a legacy from my beginning and I don't need that.
My grandfather used to say, “Call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for lunch.” Which is pretty much how I feel. I just know they make shoes I like. And this is all the time I’m going to spend on this. HOKA is a fine name. Besides, who knows how accurate that original translation even was? When I go to Google Translate and I type in “fly over the earth” what I get in Maori, is, “rere ki runga i te whenua.” Thank god they didn’t call it that.