Kingpin magazine founder Niall Neeson shows how to upset an entire youth culture by pointing out what is hiding in plain sight: skateboarding created the hipster.
Alas, what I am about to tell you is true. One of the more tiresome facets of contemporary youth culture is the finger-pointy, more-real-than-thou way in which one cult looks at another and sniggers at its perceived shallowness, obsession with appearance or ‘gayness’. And the one word which has become the most insulting epithet is ‘hipster’ – ie. a moronic fashionista.
Well I’m afraid that in my capacity as Minister for Real Talk, I’m here to tell you skateboarding has created the cult of the hipster. From Shoreditch to the Meatpacking District, it is skipsters™ who drive the aesthetic. Sorry about that. From Vice magazine to the Skytop, there is nary a facet of hipsterdom that has not the hand of skateboarding in it.
Well, that’s just, like, my opinion man? But let us review the sartorial evidence first of all. No, let’s.
So ubiquitous as a kind of ‘Honest John the Longshoreman’ anti-fashion (yeah right!) in skateboarding a few years back that the premiere for Fully Flared looked like a log-rolling convention. See also: Alcobeards.
Oh yes, now we are started. De-rigeur thrift- store affectation goes from holding up Dickies in San Francisco to marking out hipsters the world over thanks to perceived functionality as disposable, unrestrictive skate accessory.
Breathable mesh is it? Hessian anti-fashion is it? Weird how all these free thinkers dress the same, isn’t it? Next!
Onetime Thrasher staffer Patrick O’ Dell’s nostalgia fanboy show is consistently the most watched show on hipster bible Vice’s website. Vice (the magazine which nobody admits to reading but everyone seems oddly aware of) is where you can also not read ex-Big Brother staffer Chris Nieratko talking about himself, not see Enjoi pro Jerry Hsu’s photography, and not see every skater in New York not being skipsters™ outside scene bar Max Fish, which you also didn’t hang out at as a pilgrimage that one time you went to the Big Apple. Mmm-hmmm.
John Cardiel starts cycling fixed gears, as does EMB alumni Jovantae Turner. Filmer Gabe Morford makes a film of them being all moody and doing skids, and hey-ho fast forward a few years and I see fixed gear magazine editorials decrying ‘commercial fixie vs underground’. Jesus wept.
Hammertime himbo Chad Muska’s Skytop for Supra became the footwear du jour for queuing up outside nightclubs on Santa Monica Boulevard, and now every chap and his dog does high-tops. Pure fashion. Add skinny jeans via Justin Bieber and Odd Future and you end up with One Direction.
Step forward, chilly-ankled skate celeb Dylan Rieder and your army of ubiquitous clones first of the board but now as seen in every we-roast-our-own-beans, free-wifi hang-out across the Western world.
One of unlikely style icon Chet Childress’ contributions to the world of skipster™ fashion. When you see rad dads from the north of England rocking these under the delusion that they are on some kind of Eastern Exposure tip, gently tap them on the shoulder and say ‘You’re not Peter Bici, give up the construction worker chic’.
As pioneered by Eric Koston and Brad Staba, and blindly taken up by nowbiters across the skate scene (‘We own pink’, anyone? Trill!) it would subsequently become a kind of metrosexual are they/aren’t they chinwagger everywhere that self- regard reigns.
Bumhuggers were another fake anti-fashion for skaters who owned a Radiohead album which led to poor circulation in the lower limbs of every boy who paid for a haircut.
Oh yes, for every professional skateboarder who is over it but can’t get a proper job, there is a look which says, ‘I sleep in ‘til half 12 every single day’. It is now the default look for anyone who might have smoked what they were told was heroin at a house party once. Marlboro cigarettes optional but recommended.
Probably the stupidest of the lot, alcobeards are what you grow when you get free shoes from Nike but have no other sponsors anymore. This means you get to go to lots of free parties in buildings you otherwise wouldn’t be allowed into or particularly want to enter, but you are still broke and increasingly disillusioned. From burnout-chic, the bushwhacker has spread to photographers, team managers and any other hanger-on who wants to stay relevant. So all-pervasive has the alcobeard become that it is actually featured on the skate hipster bingo card. Match with lumberjack shirt so people don’t think you’re the guy from The Joy Of Sex.
So there you have it. Ah, you cry, but where is the causality in all of this? Couldn’t it just be that skateboarding swims around in the same soup and is reflecting outside influences rather than vice versa?
Well, let me leave you with what the late, great Gavin Hills told me about the pervasiveness of skateboarding within youth culture generally when I asked him what he thought of nightclub kids wearing skate brands for fashion points: “It was skaters going to clubs that started that fashion off”. Nike’s whole premise for entering the world of skateboarding is that not everybody wants to skateboard but most youngsters like to look like they could. Add the millions who skated for a year after Tony Hawk changed the world of video games, and you have a perfect storm for skateboarding’s influence to extend way beyond the practitioners and into the fashion tastes of wider youth culture.
For skateboarders to sneer at hipsters is the rage of Caliban looking at himself in the mirror.