When did skateboarding become mainstream in America?

Sport, music and fashion: skating as a youth culture


Above all, skater fashion should be practical

Of course, when it comes to skating, it is important that a skater has mastered a few tricks and that he has a certain style when he is on the board. How he looks and what he wears is also not unimportant.

In the past, pragmatism won: Since Vans produced robust shoes with very abrasion-resistant soles that were also very cheap, the revolutionary skaters of the seventies wore Vans.

Later they also put on baggy pants. The wider the pants, the deeper the crotch, the better. The aim was to prevent the board from hitting the crotch painfully in the event of a failed trick.

The tendency to actually too large XXL clothes is said to have arisen from a need for protection: the more fabric you wear, the less bare skin you can scrape up when you fall.

Fashion contributes to scene identification

In the 1980s, more and more small skateboard companies established themselves, which, in addition to boards and accessories, also produced shoes and clothing. The skater market was not yet interesting for the big corporations, so the scene created its own structures.

This independence from the mass audience and the feeling of independence characterize the scene to this day. Anyone who skated was a member of a special club, and many skaters were secretly proud of this outsider status. Identifying with the scene internally and externally also included the look and the clothes: who wore which brand and thus supported them was just as important as the bands that someone heard.

Things have changed now: Skaterwear has become socially acceptable. Sports brands such as Nike, Adidas or Puma have recognized skaters and those who would like to be skaters as target groups. Manufacturers are picking up on trends from the street and doing business with them.

More and more young people (and also adults) wear skater clothes or integrate elements of it into their outfit without being directly part of the scene. They express their sympathy with the skater culture or use Vans shoes and Carhartt sweaters to look cool, fresh and young - or to feel that way.

In 2010, according to estimates by the Financial Times, only a tenth of sales in the skateboard sector were generated with hard goods, i.e. with boards, rollers, trucks and tapes. Manufacturers earn most of their money from soft goods, that is, from shoes and clothes.

Skatepunk - the sound for sport

But fashion is only one element of skate culture. The music you hear and associate with while skating also plays an important role. In order to demonstrate their rebelliousness and their otherness, many skaters like to listen to punk rock and hardcore: music that also comes from the subculture and is wonderfully suitable for setting yourself apart from your classmates and offending parents and teachers.

In the 1980s, a new genre of music even emerged, skate punk. Unsurprisingly, most of the bands in the genre came from California, the home of skateboarding.

Fast rhythms, hard, loud guitars and songs that deal with everyday problems, mostly young people, formed the soundtrack of countless skate videos. Bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, Sick Of It All or Pennywise were always there in the boom box when a few young people met to shred, to do tricks on the skateboard.

In fact, there is also personal overlap with the skater scene. Suicidal tendencies singer Mike Muir is the little brother of Jim Muir, who was a part of the legendary Z-Boys' skate team. With "Possessed To Skate" the Suicidal Tendencies wrote the national anthem of the United States of America.

At the U.S. Bombs was a former top professional cat on the microphone with Duane Peters, and there was also a remarkable change of sides in Germany: Claus Grabke, in the 1980s the best and internationally most famous German skater, caused a sensation in alternative- Rock and crossover circles.

Warped Tour: Hard sounds, high jumps

How sport, music and fashion merge in the skater scene can be seen on the Warped Tour since 1995. Every year in the summer, a huge group of skaters, BMX riders and musicians gets into motion and goes on a festival trip through the USA for several weeks.

Skaters can show off their skills on halfpipes and street courses, while bands play on several stages throughout the day. Similar to the skate competitions, the order of the bands is drawn, everyone is given almost the same amount of time and the same conditions.

There are also stands of skateboard manufacturers and fashion labels, tattoo artists and non-profit organizations, so that there is a certain flea market flair - with pretty loud music. In the beginning it mostly came from the hardcore and punk area, but now metal, reggae, ska and pop are also playing.

Despite the millions in sales that the Warped Tour now brings in, the organizers try to remain true to themselves and the ideals of the subculture. Ecological aspects play a major role at the festivals: the organizers attach great importance to recycling and environmental protection, operate generators with biodiesel and have a stage that is operated entirely with solar modules.

A youth culture that remains

As in other youth cultures, some of which are taken over by the mainstream, protests are always stirring in the skater camp: traditionalists and representatives of pure teaching complain about sell-out and commercialization - allegations that the organizers of the Warped Tour also hear. The critics miss the exclusivity and the possibility to set oneself apart from others. They demand a return to the values ​​of yore without being able to define them precisely.

The problem that the scene has gotten too big should, however, resolve itself. Because a look into the past shows: In the past few decades, skating has experienced many boom phases, but also lean periods in which health decline processes took place.

Skating, however, is unlikely to go away completely any longer. The sport has already proven its longevity. For more than 40 years, new generations have been discovering the appeal of throwing themselves down a ramp on four rollers or sliding along a railing.

And because skating takes so much time and practice to get halfway through, the skaters feel very attached to their sport and the scene. For many, once a skater, always a skater.

Author: Ingo Neumayer

Status: 06/19/2018, 11:22 am