Skateboarding’s Undeniable Exploitation by High Fashion
do you even fucking skate bro?
Let’s cut to the chase. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny the fact that skateboarding, or perhaps just the lore surrounding it, has made its presence felt in the creative realm of contemporary fashion. As this happens though, we must ask ourselves: “Are fashion houses paying their appropriate due homage to skate culture, or are their actions rooted in self-interest and opportunism?” Now, I think we all know what the answer is, but nonetheless I’d just like to share a few of my thoughts regarding the topic, so bear with me here.
As somebody who’s worked at a couple different skate shops, and whose father grew up in Southern California during the midst of Z-Boys and Dogtown, it’s easy to see that I have a soft spot for skateboarding. I mean, can you blame me? It’s hard not to admire the sheer individualism, and “off the wall” self-expression that dominates the culture. With that though, there are bound to be “Culture Vultures,” the worst of which being those who seek only financial exploitation. Yes, I’m speaking to you Dior Homme.
The main gripe I have with these fashion house cash grabs, is that their existence couldn’t possibly be any more antithetical to what skateboarding is. For starters, skating is available, and oftentimes adopted by outsiders seeking a brief intermission from their otherwise hectic lives — I feel like a Mid90s reference works here. Skating’s not clean. It’s not pretty. It’s not refined. It’s not wrapped up with a bow on top. So why must companies like Dior, DKNY, and Louis Vuitton continuously try to present it as something it’s not? In essence, it’s a reflection of their rather nauseating devotion to an utter lack of all self-awareness.
I believe this now begs the question, “What’s the difference between these big companies exploring skate culture, and a singular person who doesn’t skate, yet still wears certain brands? (i.e. Thrasher). Well, I believe that the everyday person who chooses to wear, say, Thrasher, does so because they have an innate interest in the nuances behind the scene per se, drawn in by the allure of the outcast culture. Couple that with the respect for those who do skateboard — because admittedly it is incredibly difficult — and it’s clear to see why people would adorn themselves with skate gear. It’s the same reason people who don’t play basketball wear Jordans; Michael was a badass, plain and simple. And people want to be like Mike.
“One day you’re an outcast, and the next day everybody wants to wear the clothes you’re into and lay claim to it? You’re going to be a little annoyed by that”
When these bigger entities are not busy blatantly stealing designs from smaller brands, *ahem* Jeremy Scott and Gosha Rubchinskiy, they’re recreating skate goods for egregiously high price points. Just off the top of my head I can recall the notorious Supreme x Louis Vuitton deck, trucks, wheels, and carrying trunk set reselling for upwards of $80,000. I understand this isn’t a reflection of the retail price, but believe me, it wasn’t that much lower.
How did we even get to this point though? How did skateboarding cross the radar of these pompous fashion institutes? Well I’ll tell you. It’s the kids. It’s always the kids. Our younger generations dictate what is “cool” in society, and they’ve picked up skateboarding and ran with it. It’s hard to blame them though, as the most objectively creative designs almost always hail from brands like Diamond Supply, Santa Cruz, Thrasher, HUF, Ripndip, etc. Luxury fashion catches wind of this and goes, “hey, look at this transition in what people like to wear. Only a matter of time before it trickles upwards. We better hop on.” It’s a shame though, because what high fashion will never understand is that it’s cooler to make the waves, not ride them.
Fashion (at least to those who treat it as a science or something) is trend driven, which for the situation at hand can be seen as both good and bad. Good in that this obsession with the greater skating culture will one day end, but bad in that it will all be for naught. At the end of the day, the relationship between the two is hardly symbiotic, only shedding light on individual skaters/models rather than brands/ideals, though I will admit it is better than nothing. People like Blondey McCoy and Evan Mock deserve all the recognition they get, for if it weren’t for them there would only be further dissociation between the two groups. And there needs to be this light shed, because skateboarding is not the only culture that fashion appropriates. Far from it actually. And it’s quite unfair that there are never any repercussions.
Perhaps the late Jake Phelps said it best:
“We don’t send boxes to Justin Bieber or Rihanna or those fucking clowns. The reason they wear the gear is because it’s stylish and people went and bought it for them. They don’t know what Thrasher is.”