Michael Heath: Skate Board Fashion


Photography and Text by Michael Heath, Copyright 2017




In the nearly 20 years since I last had a skateboard under my feet, it seems that much has changed in the realm of what one might wear as they furiously push their way across a flat towards a quarter-ramp to do a trick before falling on their face. In the late 1990’s, the standard issue skater uniform was simple: baggy shirt, baggy pants that never fit around your waist, Converse All-Stars or Airwalks, long-ish hair, and a wallet chain. If it was cold outside, maybe you would follow the grunge trend at the time and wear a plaid long-sleeved shirt. It was clothes to get dirty in, to sweat profusely in, to give a middle-finger to everyone who wore neatly pleated khaki pants, rugby polos, and loafers to high school in.

2017, however, has revealed to me that skate park fashion has evolved and diversified immensely since I was 16 years old. Some of the trends I was familiar with are in a retro phase, including the aforementioned All-Stars and baggy pants, but they were the exception to the rule that more form-fitting clothes were acceptable. A great number of ‘boarders were wearing skinny jeans, purposefully destroyed for show, not as a sign they had fallen on their knees umpteen million times trying to perfect their railing grind. Some were wearing layers with t-shirts under collared shirts; others wore henleys or stretch cotton shirts.

The most surprising update in the last 20 years: Color. Eye-grabbing, unapologetic color.

I am unsure if the only clothes skateboarders owned two decades ago that nobody cared about destroying were black, brown, dark green or blue, denim, and whatever color tube socks came in, or if it was just the overall palette available at the time, but I never recall skate fashion being this attention-worthy. Bright reds. Neon yellow. Pastels. Faded colors. White. Purple. You name it. It was glorious.

Oh, and then there were the haircuts. Gone were the bowl cuts and bald heads I remember. In were fades, braids, twists, dreadlocks, pompadours, military cuts, flat-tops, long beards, short beards.

Skate park fashion, my how you have grown up.


Portrait of Michael Heath by Rongrong Liu. Copyright 2017


About The Author: Michael Heath is a Senior IT Support Specialist, ISC Classroom Technology Services, at the University of Pennsylvania.


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