Skating fashion: a grungy return to roots, or a form of cultural appropriation? As ever with fashion trends, the question is murky. What’s for certain is that skater style — as epitomized first by your archetypal long-haired, chilled-out skater boy but now accessible to everyone — has made a strong comeback.
What’s important to recognize about skater fashion is that it doesn’t just stop at checkerboard Vans, Thrasher sweatshirts, or Supreme tees. It’s liked to a long and intricate skating culture. It began in the early 50ies when Californian skaters started manufacturing boards with roller-skates affixed to the bottom. Skating was essentially sidewalk surfing. Soon thereafter began skateboard magazines, indelibly tying skating to artsy zine-style publications and spreads.
Skating, like surfing, was part of youth culture, and though it suffered a loss in popularity in the 60ies, it came back full fathom forward in the 70ies. Board styles and wheels became more diverse and more colorful.
Today, in a world enamored by street culture (sneakers, hoodies, sweats, caps, we need not go on) skating has caught the fashionista’s eyes. But is the love mutual? Many skaters would be inclined to say that people purchasing Thrasher hoodies for no reason other than aesthetics are posers. But on the other hand, the ethos of skating culture is one of supreme tolerance.
“Most cultures get appropriated in some way by people who like to pose,”
says Noah Anselmo, a psychology and Native American studies student and skater from Southern California. “Then again, ‘skating culture’ shouldn’t be limited to a certain subset of people.” Indeed, the ethos of skating culture is one of supreme (pardon the pun) tolerance. It is a sport, or rather a lifestyle, that welcomes all.
Sinister as it can be, there is nothing new about mainstream culture metabolizing the avant-garde. Pop culture is always on the lookout for cool, and nothing is quite so sexy as counterculture.
At this point, counterculture’s evolution is almost an economically predictable model: it begins, spreads through word of mouth, catches the public’s scandalized eye, is denigrated for its provocative nature, and, if it withstands this test, is finally digested, smoothed out, and mass-produced.
But as skaters will confirm, Stanford certainly caters to the skating habit. We reached out to some of our school’s most infamous shredders so they could show the rest of us how it’s supposed to be done.
“When I skate, I can be loud, I can be covered in sweat and dirt, I can dedicate myself to something that's doesn't make me any money, all things that society shuns,” says Andreas Ratteray, an Earth Studies and Arabic student from Bermuda.
“Skateboarding builds a community of people that damn sure wouldn't have many other options for creative expression if not for skateboarding.”
Ultimately, the consensus both for skaters and skate-fashion aficionados is not to overthink it. “I don’t think too much about it,” Noah says. “That, for me, is the best part. Skating culture is cool in the sense that it can mean whatever you want it to mean.” And Andreas concurs. “Rather than worrying about being good or bad, I get to simply enjoy the process of existing on this stupid little piece of wood,” Andreas says. In that way, skating is more than a hobby, it is an existential act.
What does that look like for the rest of us? “If you want skating to be something that helps you get to class faster, then that’s what it is,” Noah says. “If you want it to be a part of you and represent something more badass, then you have that opportunity.” And just maybe, the Vans you were wearing because you saw the Kardashians rocking them on Instagram might just lead you to pick up a board and find yourself cruising through campus on a sunny day. Who knows, you might just enjoy yourself.
By: Anne-Sophie Bine
Photography: Ryder Kimball
Skaters: Noah Anselmo, Andreas Ratteray, Matt Hernandez