Skateboarding & Streetwear

I should be packing for Sweden right now, not to mention about 100 other things that need to happen before I jet out, but the Hundreds post got me thinking…

I have long been an observer of skateboarding’s influence on what seems like almost everything. Even fucking architecture! So it freaks me out a bit to think that kids are getting into skateboarding as some weird extension of their fashion. It feels backwards. Dude… go skate! Obsess over the way the board pops, flips, rotates and ultimately comes together so perfectly below your feet. Trust me when I say that is what you will really remember 15 years later. That is why you will go bust your 32-year-old ass just to re-live the feeling.

I am guessing that Bobby Hundreds is a bit younger than I am, but he consistently drops blog posts that sound like recaps of conversations I have with friends about skateboarding history and its influence on everything else. I don’t yet own a single article of Hundreds clothing, but I read his blog everyday. I love it. He is clearly dialed into culture on a level that will ensure he is here to stay. Obviously he understands streetwear probably as well as anyone out there, but most importantly, he totally understands the more culturally significant movements that influence streetwear (i.e. real skateboarding and music).

What bothers me most about the convergence of streetwear and skateboarding is that at its essence, it is not a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. In my opinion, skateboarding fashion (beyond crazy 80s hairstyles) was driven by utility. Yeah, people wanted to look good, but people ultimately chose what worked from a skating perspective. Look at the skaters that are considered the best: Lee, Hensley, Gonz, Templeton, Daewon, Carroll, Mullen, Koston, Marc Johnson, etc… they were all defined by superior skateboarding, not their skinny jeans or wallet chains. They were essentially fashion-neutral. At best, you could argue that these guys inspired apparel trends within skateboarding, that then spread to the mainstream, and in some cases as far as Abercrombie and Fitch and frat houses.

Matt Hensley. Wearing Heineken dunks. Yeah, right.

To me, far too much streetwear is simply a parasite feeding on the essence of real skateboarding. I don’t get out to the west coast too often, but here in NYC it is abundantly clear that the streetwear movement and NYC’s skateboarding scene are far too intertwined to be positive for real skateboarding. I can only chalk it up to the fact that when the weather sucks and you have a million other things that you can do, the fashion part of skateboarding is the easy part. “I cannot ollie up a fuckin’ curb, but I have a $200 flannel shirt on.” Even if you go to Brooklyn Bridge park, you see a dozen kids standing around wearing Supreme and Dunks watching a logo-less real skater doing a 50-50 down the handrail. Oh yeah, and dozens of video cameras.

With some new collabs, a Williamsburg skateshop getting some attention, Neckface and Vans, I can see this movement towards NYC becoming perhaps more and more relevant. But this time, it seems it is for all of the wrong reasons. It is not because of progressive skateboarding, some historic spot, a skate company making some noise, or even art for that matter. It is far too driven by apparel, and that cannot be good for the progression of any sport. Maybe the volume of participants increase, but they are not pushing the sport forward.  Maybe this is the future and I am just an old dude clinging to the good ol’ days. The salad days.

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