Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
With the help of the Tony Hawk Foundation, Jersey City unveiled its newest skatepark located in Berry Lane Park this past summer.
Since then, the park has been immensely popular, attracting both beginners and seasoned vets trying to hone their skills. When arriving at the park, you’ll find people of all ages flying out of the bowl and grinding the ledges.
However, skateboarding isn’t just embodied by a piece of wood with 4 wheels; there is an entire culture behind it. A culture rich with history in rock, art, rebellion and hip hop.
“Skateboarding isn’t like a traditional sport where you wear a uniform and everybody looks the same. The tricks you do, how you look doing them, and what you’re wearing, it’s a sport of self expression.” said pro skater Paul Rodriguez in the Nike SNKRS “The Story of Dunk” series.
Self expression for skaters can start with the “style” of their tricks, but it doesn’t end there. The expression can extend to their clothing attire, which has taken the fashion world by storm.
The influence of fashion in skateboarding is undeniable; skaters like the late Dylan Rieder have bridged the gap between the fashion industry and skateboarding by modeling for DKNY. In fact, some of the powerhouse brands in the fashion world have roots deep in skateboarding.
Supreme’s Humble Beginnings
Brands like Supreme and HUF have origins in the gritty sport. Before the flashy collabs and celebrity cosigns, Supreme started as a New York skate shop founded by James Jebbia in 1994.
Street skating was one of the many developing subcultures of New York at the time and Jebbia took note of that.
This wasn’t a regular shop — it was run by street skaters and became a local hangout spot. Skateboard legends in the making like Jason Dill and Mark Gonzalez spent their time there with no idea that Supreme would become the cultural phenomenon that it is today.
Supreme was unapologetic of the culture they embodied and didn’t match many other shops in the city. It was a shop for skaters, by skaters.
Joaquin Cariaso is a local skater from Hudson County. With interests delving both in fashion and skateboarding, he has seen first hand the influence of the skating culture.
“With brands like Supreme — whose original concept behind the company was skateboarding and then it becoming the fashion phenomenon that it has — really shows how much skateboard culture has progressed into the fashion world,” he said.
Cariaso and the entire skateboarding community has seen Supreme evolve over the last two decades. At its core, Supreme has held onto its skating roots, releasing the “Blessed” skate video in 2018.
Today, Supreme has a skate team fusing some of the best skaters of the past decade like Tyshawn Jones and certified legends such as Mark Gonzalez. Other members of the team, Nakel Smith and Sage Elsesser, have both delved into the world of fashion and music.
Keith Hufnagel and HUF
At the time that the late Keith Hufnagel was hanging out at the Supreme store, he was also cementing himself as one of the best street skaters of all time. Born in Manhattan, New York, Hufnagel’s skills on the board earned him pro status after moving out to San Francisco at 18 years old.
Hufnagel later went on to establish his own brand, HUF, one of the most recognizable brands in streetwear.
Even though the HUF brand exploded in popularity, Hufnagel made sure that skateboarding was always at its core. Like Supreme, HUF has also established a talented team of skateboarders and continues to drop skate apparel.
“We always take care of the skateboarders, but you have to think of the bigger picture because now you are selling to the world,” Hufnagel said in an interview with The Guardian.
The first HUF store opened in San Francisco with hopes to fuse skating, streetwear and sneaker culture. Today, the brand has locations coast to coast, in premier cities like Los Angeles and New York.
The impact of Supreme, HUF and countless other skateboarding brands are undeniable, but the sport is still setting current trends.
Skateboarding’s Place in the Fashion Industry Today
Justin Oceguera is another local skater who has spent many years perfecting his craft. While he said his style now isn’t influenced by skateboarding as much, he doesn’t forget the times where he wanted to look like his favorite skaters.
“My fashion now is more influenced by the outside of skating, but when I was younger I would be influenced by a whole company’s style,” Oceguera said. “It was like you tried to make it look like you could be on their team.”
Cariaso, on the other hand, still takes a lot of inspiration from his favorite skaters.
“I always believed that regardless of what a skater wore, that’s their style and a reflection of their skate style,” Cariaso added.“… Some skaters I look up to style wise are Na-Kel Smith, Nyjah Huston, Luan Oliveria, Stefan Janoski, and Paul Rodriguez and what he’s doing with Primitive Skate.”
While skaters like Oceguera and Cariaso have taken inspiration from their skateboarding idols, it’s important to note how much outsiders of skateboarding have borrowed from the culture.
One of Nike’s most successful shoe models in the last two years is the Nike Dunk. The shoe became immensely popular in the 80s as a way to represent NCAA Division I schools, but was overshadowed by the rise of the Air Jordan 1.
However, that wasn’t the end of the Dunk’s life cycle.
It was adopted by skaters in the late 80s to early 90s for its durability and the fact that it was readily available. They paired Dunks with baggy blue jeans and oversized white tees — a look that has ultimately made its way back in 2020.
“The trend of cuffed baggy pants with Dunks really started years ago since it was what the “typical skateboarder” wore back in the day and many fashion influencers took those old looks and brought it back into today’s style,” Cariaso said.
A typical outfit you would see on Instagram today is identical to the skaters of the past: baggy cargo pants, Dunks and a vintage skate tee. However, this isn’t the first time outsiders have taken notice of the skating bubble.
In order to capitalize on the popularity of the Dunk among skaters, Nike released the SB Dunk in 2002, a model of the Dunk specialized for skateboarding. It had everything skaters wanted: durability, impact protection and the endorsement of actual pro skaters. Additionally, this birthed the sub division of Nike SB.
In order for Nike to fully win the community, it was essential for them to allow skate shops and skaters to have a big influence over the Nike SB department.
The SB Dunks were exclusively sold in skate shops, but naturally they gained popularity. Outsiders began to love the aesthetics of the shoe and soon skaters weren’t the only ones showing up to skate shops to buy the SB Dunk.
However, what truly skyrocketed the popularity of SB Dunks in the 2000s were collaborations with other shops.
Streetwear boutiques and skate shops were given the opportunity to design their own colorways of the SB Dunk. The collaborations always told a story though; whether it represented the life of a city or the rebellious nature of skateboarding.
Many of the collaborations took over the resale market and go for thousands today.
The coveted Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low can easily be found selling for over $2,500. What people may not expect is the extent to which SB Dunks are sought after.
In 2003, Nike released the limited edition Paris SB Dunk Low, which features the artwork of French painter Bernard Buffet; today, the shoe can never be found for under $30,000.
But when talking skateboarding setting current trends, it’s essential to mention the future of skateboarding and fashion.
Louis Vuitton and Lucien Clarke, the Controversial High End Skate Shoe
In November, Virgil Abloh, artistic director of Louis Vuitton, released the first ever Louis Vuitton skate shoe in collaboration with pro skater Lucien Clarke. Ads came out in the summer through Thrasher Magazine and the reaction from the skateboarding community was mixed.
Was this just another big name brand trying to rip off the culture of skateboarding? Or was Abloh trying to show love and appreciation for the community?
When asked about his thoughts on the collaboration, Cariaso offered a positive outlook on its release.
“I think it’s cool that a Louis Vuitton skate shoe is in the works, as it mixes two of my favorite things, high end fashion and skating,” he said. “It’s all about Virgil’s intent, but from the way it seems and his past actions, he genuinely just wants to show love to the culture and he had an idea to create a fashion piece for people to enjoy.”
Supporters of the deal often acknowledge that since skateboarding is more popular than ever, it’s inevitable for the outside world to tap into the culture.
In fact, skateboarding was supposed to make its debut in the Olympics this year, but plans were derailed due to COVID-19.
Additionally, as skateboarding continues to grow, some believe that more money will be brought into the community in general, which would help local skate shops and core brands.
Huge corporations like Louis Vuitton coming into the skateboarding world is nothing new. Rapper Pharrell Williams assembled the Ice Cream skate team in the mid 2000s which, just like today’s Louis Vuitton collaboration, was met with criticism.
Skateboarding purists criticized the team for riding under Pharrell and his Ice Cream line, as he was an outsider to the culture. Many also accused Pharrell of simply trying to make a profit from skateboarding.
On the other hand though, Oceguera understands the negative feedback to the Louis Vuitton skate shoe, but offers a slightly different approach.
“I understand why some people might be mad at him, thinking that he’s ripping off the culture, but they can just not support it.” He also added. “… Same people wouldn’t call out Nike and Adidas.”
Critics of the shoe deal have pointed out that even if Abloh has a good intent, the shoe isn’t necessarily optimized for skaters to buy. The release has been limited and you can’t just walk into any Louis Vuitton store to make the purchase. Additionally, it is expected that when the shoe fully hits stores, it’ll easily become the most expensive skate shoe of all time.
Today, many are still on the fence with Louis Vuitton coming into the realm of skateboarding, but it’s still necessary to think about the big picture of the fashion industry and the sport.
Skateboarding’s Future Within the Fashion Industry: A Trend or is it Here to Stay?
Skateboarding has continued to grow and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
The world has taken notice of the sport, everything from the fashion to the tricks itself. Moreover, the Street League Skateboarding competitions are broadcasted around the world and offer millions of dollars in cash prizes.
It’s obvious that big-name fashion brands will try and come into skateboarding as its popularity skyrockets, but many speculate if this is just a trend and big fashion brands will leave skateboarding behind at some point.
To some, that may be for the best.
Cariaso believes that just like everything else in fashion, trends will come and go — skateboarding is no exception.
However, he also points out that skateboarding and the fashion world will always be intertwined. For example, he thinks Nike’s SB Dunks will continue to be a staple for influencers and fashion enthusiasts.
“I think with all fashion, as time goes on certain things will fade and go out of style,” he said. “I think this will unfortunately happen with certain designers and they will continue to move on with what’s in trend at the moment.”
“I think the fashion industry and skateboarding will always have a relationship within each other and skate culture will always have its place in fashion.”
Oceguera expects more skater and designer collaborations in the future.
“As far as the relation between skateboarding and the fashion industry, I could see more collaborations between skaters and designer companies,” Oceguera added. “Definitely not for the long run, eventually skating will not be cool again, but this trend will last longer with skating being in the Olympics.”
Nonetheless, at least for now, the relationship between skateboarding and fashion is booming. Skaters are continuously venturing off into the fashion world and modeling.
At 23 years old, pro skater Sean Pablo has sponsorships from Supreme and Converse CONS, but he also founded his own clothing brand, Paradise NYC. The brand continues to grow today and can be found at popular retailers such as Dover Street Market.
Meanwhile, skateboarding brands themselves are innovating and evolving as well.
Polar Skate Co and their founder, Pontus Alv, have broken into skateboarding and streetwear from Sweden. Alv has become synonymous with his experimental skate films and the brand itself has become known as some of the best quality skateboard apparel out right now.
The culture of skateboarding will continue to evolve. Trends within the community will come and go, while skaters continue to pursue interests outside of their skateboard.
Whether the expansion of skateboarding into the mainstream is beneficial to the community or not, the mark that the sport has left on our culture is undeniable.