How Shoyoroll Changed the Landscape of the Jiu-Jitsu Kimono (PT1)

Published on by Robert Kipness

Once upon a time the gi market that we know today looked a lot different. When the heroes of Jiu-Jitsu like Terere, Jacare, Vieira Bros, Cobrinha etc. were earning their legacy’s, there weren’t a lot of choices. There were maybe 10 total brands and about half of them had international presence; today we have over 75 brands to choose from. You heard correct, there are over 75 different brands in the Jiu Jitsu market place. While Koral, Keiko Raca, and KF Fighter may have given all these new companies the platform, there is one company who changed the way we look at and how we feel about our kimonos.

Shoyoroll - /show • yo • roll/

Even if you’ve just started your Jiu-Jitsu journey, the chances of you hearing that name are fairly high. They’re one of the most sought after gis but at the same time they draw a copious amount of criticism. Consumers hunger for these gis like an addict craves their next high. The gis will sell out in less than 20 minutes for many of their releases and then immediately will be listed on eBay for double, triple, or even more than their respective original selling price. They’re one of the only gis on the market that holds their value new or used. Their most sought after gi, the Grey Skies, once sold for $1,500 on eBay (for a used model). 

No other Jiu Jitsu brand on the market has this much hype behind each release or have such a loyal and rabid fan base. The Shoyoroll (SYR) craze is akin to the Nike and Jordan shoe market where people line up hours in advance to be able to purchase the newest model. Some are buying strictly to resell, while some are buying to actually wear.   

To even scratch of the surface of this secondary resale phenomenon we will need to first  understand the company in order to comprehend how SYR changed the landscape of what once was considered just an essential tool in a Jiu Jitsu athlete's closet, but is now a major fashion statement.

THE EARLY YEARS: Shoyoroll started as a clothing company in early 2000 as a hobby for Vince “Bear” Quitigua and his friends. This venture was an effort to feature their combined passions for surfing, skating, and grappling. Using iron on t-shirt transfers to launch their business, they named the company Shoyoroll as homage to the mats and where you represented and “Showed your roll”. The general consensus is that Shoyoroll was always cool and made money but that wasn’t the case according to Bear. They struggled for about the first six years and relied heavily on friends to help support and push their brand and movement. Even though they were barely breaking even, they decided to venture into the gi market to “try and make a cool looking gi that combined all the good features of all the gis on the market that we liked.”

BATCH #3: It wasn’t until 2008 when SYR first gained notoriety for their style and originality on MMA/BJJ forums with their third release that was titled “Batch 3”. It featured two color schemes; one white and one blue but both had a black contrasting collar  which was unheard of at the time except in traditional martial arts like Karate or Tae Kwon Do. Additionally, the Batch 3 featured a contrasting black gold weave crotch gusset. As you can expect, this gi had a polarizing effect on the market. The early adaptors gravitated towards the new design differentiation from the traditional Jiu Jitsu gi. While it was met with heavy criticism it was also with great praise from the ones who were thinking outside of the traditional box.

 This particular gi set in motion the next batch that would ultimately be their most popular gi to date and was titled the batch #4 Grey Skies.

THE GREY SKIES: The Grey Skies featured a white gi with a grey contrasted collar, a new tailored fit, one-piece jacket with no back seam, gold weave knee pads and crotch gusset. Additionally this new design introduced its customers to contrast stitching and woven taping in the inside of the skirt and cuffs. There was only one gi at the time that had contrast stitching and that was Lucky Gi. In this regard, you can thank Lucky Gi for introducing Shoyoroll (and Jiu-Jitsu in general) to the look of contrast stitching.

The Grey Skies would come to be known as one of two holy grails of BJJ kimonos to most practitioners, and would ultimately be the most sought after gi right beside the Mizuno Rickson Gracie Conquest series. The Grey Skies gi would go on to sell for up to $1,500 on the secondary market fourteen years after it was released.

HOW A DESIGN CHANGE CAN AFFECT A WHOLE GENERATION: So how does all these factors effect the BJJ kimono market? Let's examine the gi designs prior to SYR's debut and the similarities between the next 10 or so batches of gis that SYR released over the following years, and the impact that these changes have had on today's market place.

Before Shoyoroll, most gis featured the traditional styling of the same color between the kimono and the stitching, a box cut fit, and one or two loops for a flat drawstring which made untying challenging to say the least. There were several companies that each had  these great features, but none of them unified under one gi. SYR took the weave and foam lapel of Koral, the gold weave knee pads of KF Fighter, the overall fit of the old Machado gi top, Ouano’s lightweight pants, and the contrast stitching of Lucky Gi to make a modern gi that revolutionized the industry.

Lightweight pearl weave jackets, lightweight pants (ripstop or cotton), up to six belt loops, stretchy rope drawstring, woven taping, contrast stitching, gi material gusset and the occasional pearl/gold weave kneepads were some of the innovations that SYR brought to their consumers. All of these features are standard on the batch 4 Comp model, superliteRS, blackSTAR, batch 6’s, Golden State, 7th Son, The Yank, White Mamba, Yin & Yang, Americana, the Compadre and are still being used on gis that Shoyoroll relases today.

When you take these details and you compare them to the original gi companies like the ones we’ve mentioned earlier you can see the obvious differences.

Many overseas manufacturers have openly admitted a lot of new companies seek them out for business ask for the "Shoyoroll cut and features" mentioned above. Of course there are a lot of companies who have altered the cut and made their own way over the years, however they have gained the largest market share amongst gi manufacturers in the shortest amount of time.




Photos by Kevin Hu and Jpizo