Skateboarders have always had their own distinctive take on fashion. From the sun-bleached, boho threads of the original Southern Californian sidewalk surfers back in the late 60s, to the likes of current pro Dylan Rieder modelling for DKNY, the skate scene has always produced non-conformist dressers with an edge to suit the gnarly lifestyle. Join us as we go rolling back through the decades with the key looks from each generation of skateboarding.
The skate style story
By Ross Wilson, 29 May 2015
With Dogtown locals the Zephyr Skate Team (Z-Boys) developing a more adventurous style of skating, the budding scene moved from the sidewalks to empty backyard swimming pools during the long summer droughts in Los Angeles.
With this other-worldly setting came a new distinctive new visual language. Tony Alva quickly became the poster boy with his Hendrix-style headbands, Nike Blazer sneakers, tube socks and short shorts, while troubled kid Jay Adams had all the style – his flowing blonde locks, raglan tees and worn-out Vans Authentics offered a more timeless style template.
In the 80s, skateboarding blew up thanks to massive VHS videos (ask your parents) from The Bones Brigade, Santa Cruz and Vision. Christian Hosoi was the style icon of this decade with his flamboyant clothing a match for his equally exuberant skating.
As the scene moved from the pools to the vert ramps, the 80s was all about dressing as loudly as possible – neon pink, lime green, grape and turquoise were the colours of choice. Tees were often cut down, shorts were baggy and the footwear game belonged to the Converse Chuck Taylor, Vans SK8-Hi, OG Nike Air Jordans and the Converse Weapon basketball sneaker.
This was the decade skating returned to the streets. Shorts and kneepads were traded for tough, hardwearing denim and controversial graphics from the likes of Marc McKee and Sean Cliver.
As skateboard wheels got smaller the clothes got larger – huge oversized stonewashed jeans that covered your massive chunky kicks (Airwalk, DC or Etnies) and long baggy tees were the standard uniform from Philadelphia to Wolverhampton. Top off your outfit with a web belt, chain wallet and Flexfit cap and you were good to go. For a classic slice of 90s skate style check out Larry Clark’s infamous indie movie Kids featuring various downtown NYC skaters including the sadly deceased Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce.
Post-millennium, skaters slimmed things down (slightly) and refined their signature look. Independent skate stores such as Supreme and Slam City Skates starting carrying the new limited edition Nike SB Dunks, attracting an influx of sneakerheads to the skateboard community. Influenced by these two cultures colliding, 'skate/streetwear' brands like HUF, Diamond and The Hundreds emerged. Staple items included an endless supply of graphic tees, full-zip hoods, cargo pants and snapback caps.
The past five years have ushered in a polar opposite approach to the XXL obsessions of the 90s. From London’s South Bank to the Palais De Tokyo in Paris, a new crop of skaters have been spotted in button-down shirts, fisherman’s beanies, coach jackets, five-panel caps, chinos and slim-fit denim. The shoe scene is dominated by the likes of the adidas Busenitz, Nike SB Janoski, Lakai Manchester Select, Emerica Reynolds and the classic Vans Old Skool.
As we roll into the second half of this decade we’re seeing some definite 90s influences creeping back through long-sleeved tees, pullover hoods and colour-blocking outerwear. Whether the days of short shorts or massive baggy pants will similarly return is more doubtful but one thing’s for sure – skateboarders will always do their own thing and unwittingly start trends in the process.