It’s easy to see the influence skate has had on fashion. Today we’re going to explain the skate culture that became a phenomenon and a fashion style of its own.

Back to the ’70s

To understand skate you got to understand the culture. And we got to go back to the ’70s to do so. Specifically, the ’70s brought about a lot of introspection in America and many people used the things that they do and their interests to showcase their brand of activism. Such was the same with the skate. We’re looking at the so-called outcast of society when we’re looking at skate.

John Hutson skate fashion style while skateboarding
The 1977 Catalina Classic – John Hutson on the streets of Avalon, CA

But there’s another factor – music. Skate was first attached to punk but as time passed and more commercial-friendly music became the norm, it defined a further growing generation of skate enthusiasts. Skate in and of itself was moving past its underground origin. It’s the music and the culture that often defined the fashion style of skate.

Involvement of companies

Early on, skate attire was primarily functional. Vans became an early supporter of skate style and would work with skaters to produce their shoes, most notably the famed Stacy Peralta. And coincidently, Stacy is a great example of showcasing that early functional skate style.

Stacy Peralta skate fashion style while skateboarding in the 1970s
Stacy Peralta at Coldwater Canyon Pool, 1977

As skate became more attached to grunge, certain aspects of the style would change completely. Companies would create the standard skate aesthetics based completely on the lifestyle skaters had outside of just being skaters. And this fashion style would become known as skate wear.

Brands like Stussy which was originally based on surf was adopted by skate. Thrasher, Volcom, DC, and eventually Supreme followed soon, all embracing skate culture and all using the anti-establishment, non-conformity message to speak to a generation of ’90s kids that all lived with the same ethos – to have fun, be free and to do what you want to do.

Do you even skate bro?

These early adopters would become very protective of the style. The question “Do you even skate bro?” would get thrown around a lot to posers who were just using the style to be trendy and cool. Even brand owners themselves would lash out at known individuals and celebrities who use skate as a trendy look.

Rihanna wearing a skate fashion style Thrasher hoodie, 2016
Rihanna wearing a Thrasher hoodie, 2016

We don’t send boxes to Justin Bieber or Rihanna or those fucking clowns. The pavement is where the real shit is. Blood and scabs, does it get realer than that?

Jake Phelps, editor at Thrasher Magazine

What those individuals involved in skate didn’t realize early is that it was exactly their dedication and intense cultural identity to skate that attracted people to the style. Skate was unique, you had to work at it. It was different, it was defining and it was seen as cool. Skate style would soon become the benchmark for an entire generation.

The pieces that define skate style

First came the over-sized pants then the over-sized distressed denim, work pants, and court shorts. Any of those mixed with graphic tees was a go. And as skate had released warmer pieces like graphic hoodies, crews, and coach jackets, the beanie saw a resurgence. Finally, accessories like the six-panel cap became further normalized and immortalized.

By this time, the mid-’90s to the 2000s, skate style was all-encompassing and global. Skate became an essential pillar in what we now know as streetwear. Streetwear comes from skate. Elements of hip-hop, surf, grunge, workwear, and even parts of luxury make up the entirety of the style.

The graphic tee became so popular that it would be strange to think of a world without them. Even luxury brands are doing them now, all due to the influence of skate. And even if we sometimes cringe at skate-inspired fashion, there’s no denying its cultural impact.

The power of skate style

Brands like Palace and Supreme are a given, but let’s not forget DGK, Santa Cruz, Element, Primitive, Freshjive, Thrasher, and countless others that have become the godfathers of the current fashion movement when it comes to skate.

Mid90s movie cast members skate style fashion
Jonah Hill nailed the classic skate style for Mid90s movie

The power of skate style is its ability to make something normal into something noticeable and identifiable. Essentially, it’s just ragged clothes, worn the skate way.

You don’t want to leave good things behind, you just have to reinvent how people think about them.

Brendon Babenzien, founder of Noah

And that’s all skate really did.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post on how skate influenced fashion to become a style of its own. Make sure to check out Dreadpen’s new Stories – Summer 2020 collection. 🙂

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