SKATE STYLE LEGACY
By Sam Higgins, 30 May 2017
For decades now, skateboarders have had an unmistakable style, born out of comfort and durability – because, let’s face it, there’s no escaping the odd rough fall or missed landing. In recent years, however, the skater-style stakes have risen and the boardwear blueprint has been tweaked, refreshed and reworked by high fashion’s head honchos. Join us in taking a look at how skater style went from curbside to catwalk and returned afresh.
Baggy and oversized in the 90s
While skateboarding has its roots in the 50s, it was the sidewalk surfers of 90s that took the sport – and associated subculture – to the masses. Pro skaters like NYC scenester Harold Hunter were embraced by the fashionable set (see Larry Clark’s infamous 1995 exploitation flick Kids), and the by-now staple styles of ultra-baggy T-shirts and trousers, wallet chains and bulky suede kicks filtered their way (via VHS skate tapes and magazines like Thrasher) to communities around the world. While the gigantic, floor-scraping jeans and voluminous workpants might seem questionable cuts now, the combination of 90s skate styles and hip-hop’s obsession with all things XXL saw oversized threads make their first bid for menswear-world domination – a trend that has returned in recent years, albeit in a more refined, flattering silhouette.
Enduring skate staples
Even if you’ve never picked up a deck in your life, there’s a fair chance your wardrobe is currently littered with skate-inspired pieces. Jeans ripped from countless falls, oversized vintage shirts, baggy hoodies – it all sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? You might not have realised it, but contemporary streetwear style is steeped in the skate tradition. But remember – just because you’ve assumed the skater look, it doesn’t mean you can automatically do a kickflip.
Head down to London’s South Bank or to Lafayette St in New York and you can bet there’ll be hordes of kids, skateboards in hand, caps acting as stylish substitutes for helmets, and T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the latest, greatest label. While we’ve seen brands like Stussy adorn the tees of skaters since the brand’s inception in the late 80s, the rise of Supreme, Palace, Huf, and other hyped labels highlights the scene's inroads into the menswear mainstream. The hysteria surrounding every release, the day-long queues and the quadrupling of the re-sale value have all helped push the unassuming skater aesthetic to the cutting edge of fashion influence.
Take a look at the last few seasons of designer showcases and it’s evident how a casual, street-ready influence has seeped into the world of high fashion. While Gosha Rubchinskiy has focused his efforts on reinventing 90s sportswear in his latest lines, Demna Gvasalia has been spearheading the skate style shift from street to catwalk via his Vetements line. From the tongue-in-cheek DHL logo tees to the oversized, Thrasher-esque hoodies, the designer has flipped catwalk tradition on its head, with the approval of Kanye West and anyone else willing to pay the hefty price for a designer take on classic, wearable pieces.
With skate style’s influence on haute couture feeding back into the mainstream, we’ve seen a mishmash of new pieces from various sub-cultures introduced, breathing new life into the traditional skate template. While staples like hoodies, wide-leg trews and old-school kicks remain at the heart of skate style, they are now joined by a host of pieces inspired by terrace casuals, grime style and gothic typography – creating a fresh iteration of the style’s original individualistic, 'do what you want, wear what you want' aesthetic. No one exemplifies this shift more so than Rocco Ritchie here, seamlessly slotting a track jacket and floral shirt into a skater-staple combo of wide-legged black jeans and black Vans.