Skateboarding’s Impact on Popular Culture
Misfits, renegades and kids that don’t give a shit- they are the only people skating....
Maybe this was once the truth, but the days of skateboarding being an act of defiance are clouded by mainstream acceptance, organised events (errr the Olympics) and big coin on offer. Whilst the hardcore, purist scene will always be at the heart of skating, it has permeated society, it may have once been a form of counter-culture, but it is now seen by many as a recreational activity and sport...there are even skate coaches and national teams.
How though? How did skating emerge from the streets to fill our socials and tv screens?
There are many answers to this question, but I believe the true answer is due to skateboarding’s depth of appeal, that is, on the surface it may come across as street kids with baggy pants killing time, but underneath the appeal of skateboarding and everything it stands for truly does influence a much larger audience.
Skateboarding has done more than influence just it’s loyal devotees over the years. Artists, musicians, directors, designers and other creatives have been influenced by the allure of gravity defying stunts, the speed, the culture and community that skateboarding embodies.
Here are just a handful of industries that skateboarding has influenced, and in turn been influenced by. I'll leave whether its a good or bad thing to you.
Like any activity that has grown in popularity in the last 100 years, music has no doubt been influenced by skateboarding, and vise versa. After all, we all go about our day to some kind of sound track right?
Skateboarding started making huge waves on the west coast of America in the late 70’s and early 80’s. These were the original “Anti-Establishment” street kids with a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove.
Many of these kids also played instruments and were heavily involved with music. In no time at all bands were formed and the skating culture influenced the music they wrote, heavily.
Bands such as NOFX and Black Flag broke through with its own style of anti-establishment punk, and in no time at all, “Skate Punk” was made a genre.
On the back these bands audiences, skating was being received by a much larger group of people and quickly became accepted by a much more mainstream crowd.
In turn, more commercially accepted bands such as Blink 182 and Offspring began to form, and all of a sudden, Skate Punk was being heard by millions.
Since then music has changed drastically, but the nuances that these early bands and skaters created can still be heard and seen in today’s musical culture.
Television and Film
It’s hard to pinpoint who was first on the screens, but what is sure is that as soon as skateboarding hit our screens, we were hooked. This is where I believe skateboarding became “cool”.
Television and Colour Film were both revolutionary inventions, but it was when these things became accessible, that skateboarding in turn was in everyone's living room.
Skateboarding began appealing to young children on the back of cartoon characters like Bart Simpson and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At the same time it was appealing to Young Adults with documentaries such as Dogtown and Z-Boys. Afterwards spin offs like Lords of Dogtown began to reach our screens and in turn, the popularity of skateboarding grew.
More recently Bam Magera, Johnny Knoxville and Stevo, all of which have a history of skating, have graced our screens with their series Jackass, where once again skating culture shows of it’s anti-establishment, all or nothing mentality.
All of these examples have helped give rise to the awareness of skateboarding culture, and in doing so, influenced many others who previously had never gone near a skatepark.
Skate, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Skate or Die, were all huge successes in the early console gaming world.
What is most important to note, is that millions of copies of these games and sequels to these games were sold over the years, and yet did the sale of skateboards or skate related items increase in comparison? Not even close.
The popularity of these games has helped propel the skaters featured in them to new heights, injecting money into the indusrty. The have also provided a great way for people to feel connected to skating, motivated kids to get on a board and provided a safe space for older skaters to re-live their youth
So has skateboardings influence on gaming been positive?
In the sense of gaining more influence and being exposed to a wider audience, I would say yes. Not only did the games provide enjoyment for their players, but they stayed true to their cultural beliefs, and in doing so “spreading the word”, so to speak.
Oh, and if you're listening EA Games, hurry up with Skate 4 FFS!
You cannot talk about skating culture without talking about ART.
The two go hand in hand, as one of the most famous ways to rebel against the man, is to leave your “Tag” on the street.
From the early street artists you could see all kinds of paint throughout the local skate park. Over the years this form of artistic expression has been embraced by the classical artists, with many street artists now being accepted for their art and not for the rebellion.
Street art is quickly becoming a global obsession, with many capital cities embracing the look and feel of the street. Cities such as Copenhagen, New York and London can all been seen with iconic street pieces that add to the cities look.
Who would have thought that what was once seen as an act of rebellion would now be embraced by national government?
Naturally, after all the exposure that the 3 examples above created, fashion was eventually going to be affected, by skateboarding culture.
Fashion designers and clothing brands were exposed to skateboarding culture as time went by, and began to see market opportunities to target the popular activity. Brands that initially were niche, and just for skaters have become super mainstream, Vans and Santa Cruz being standouts. Even Thrasher, the seminal skate magazine has become such a popular fashion brand that many skaters actively shun their shirts.
It is not uncommon to see a bunch of dudes in old school black Vans, Santa Cruz socks and a Thrasher T sipping craft beers, who wouldnt know the difference between a McTwist and a Big Mac.
Many of skateboarding’s purists have rejected mainstream celebrities from wearing skating fashion, saying that they simply don't get it. Over time however, brands have made this kind of clothing fashionable, much the same way as the skate punk bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s crossed over to more popular audiences, and in doing so exposed the sport of skating to the masses.
Skateboarding has definitely made an impact, there is no doubt about it, but has it been for the better, and in becoming more popular, has it taking away some of the spark the early skaters created?
It is a hard question to answer, and I am sure some of the early skaters would be disgusted in what their favourite past time has become.
Like anything, there are opinions on both sides, but it is definitely clear that with the larger exposure that different artforms and industries bring, the popularity and acceptance of skateboarding only gets bigger. And this has to be a good thing right?