Skateboard Fashion Over the Years: The 70’s to Now

Skateboard fashion has been a major part of skate culture since the 1970s.

Few other sports have created a global fashion phenomenon quite like skateboarding. From a simple Element tree logo t-shirt to high-end Supreme collabs with luxury brands, the way skaters dress has played a major role in shaping modern youth culture and even mainstream fashion around the world today. 

Every decade, skateboard fashion evolves. New skate and apparel brands make their way to the top. Nowadays, you can find many streetwear shops in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles with lines of people out front hoping to get their hands on the latest drops of skate footwear and apparel.

Because skateboarding has become a staple in the modern fashion world, skaters, non-skaters, celebrities, music artists, and people from all over the world want to get their hands on the freshest gear from the best skate brands

Skateboard fashion is bigger than ever, but what you see on social media today isn’t what skate fashion used to look like back in the day.

If you’re curious to see how skateboard fashion has changed over the years, you’ve come to the right place. See the brands and trends that helped shape the skateboard culture we know and love below!

Skateboard Fashion in the 1970’s

Let’s be honest, most skaters would probably get a laugh if you showed up with 70’s skate gear to your local park today!

Some of the hottest men’s skate gear in the 70’s included short shorts, fitted t-shirts, tank tops, long striped socks, and a pair of Converse or Vans shoes. For women, the trend was ripped shorts, tank tops, and pretty much the same striped socks and footwear. 

Dogtown and the Z-Boys

The legendary Z-boys crew from Venice, California played a major role in shifting the “short shorts and high socks” era of skate fashion.

These guys wore hockey tees or no shirts, had long hair, ripped jeans, and they basically just looked bad ass. Some might say the Z-boys were a big influence in creating the “cool factor” that skate fashion (and skateboarders) took on in the coming years.

If it wasn’t for them, skate fashion would likely be much different. 

Skateboard Fashion in the 1980’s

At this point, some of the biggest names in skateboarding were Tony Alva and Stacey Peralta, which helped bring skateboarding closer together with punk rock culture.

While Stacey was living the early years of Powell-Peralta Skateboards, Tony Alva became a skateboarding rockstar, setting fashion trends as he shredded backyard pools.

High-top Skate Shoes

In the 1980s, one of the most significant changes in skateboard fashion was footwear.

Converse had their iconic high-top “All-Star” shoes and Vans started to create high-top styles, ideal for vert or pool skating. At this point, street skating wasn’t quite a thing yet, so high-top shoes were the go-to skate style. 

Nowadays, you may see top pros like Yuto Horigome rocking Nike Air Jordan 1’s. Believe it or not, Nike and Jordan shoes were popular among skaters in the mid to late 80’s! The flat sole and durable upper made them well-adapted for skating. 

Cutting The Vans Caballero Shoe

In the late 80’s, Vans released the Steve Caballero pro signature shoe. Little did they know, this shoe would go on to be a staple in the Vans skate lineup for more than 30 years. 

As street skating emerged, skaters like Mike Carroll and Ray Barbee became some of the first to start the trend of “cutting down” Caballero’s signature shoe. Cutting around the ankle of the shoe helped give your ankle more freedom when doing flip tricks while street skating. 

Steve and Vans started recognizing the wants of skaters to have a more low-cut version of the Caballero shoe. When 1992 rolled around, one of the most legendary skate shoes in history was born – The Vans “Half Cab”.

Skateboard Fashion in the 1990’s

In the 90s, street skating was becoming more and more popular. Vert skating was certainly still around, but street skating was evolving into what we now know today. Skaters were learning how to skate handrails, do more technical flip tricks, and more complex grind variations.

Because of this, skate fashion evolved too, and “street” culture started entering the mix.

Basically, skaters wore what was best for their style of skating. Street skating required more protection and comfort, so denim jeans, bulkier shoes, and larger tees became increasingly popular.

Of course, other common 90’s fashion items like flannel and plaid shirts also entered skate fashion.

The Best 90’s Skate Brands

The 90’s saw an emergence of new brands that marketed towards the new skate crews and styles of the decade. Some of the most popular skate brands of the 1990’s included Santa Cruz Skateboards, Toy Machine, Blind Skateboards, Powell-Peralta, Girl Skateboards

Skateboard Fashion in the 2000’s

In the 2000s, skate fashion entered a new era of fame with the help of hit MTV shows and skate brands being available outside of core skate shops.

Shopping malls around the world began seeing stores that offered skate apparel and footwear to a mainstream audience. Hip-hop and punk style fused together with skate fashion in many ways. More prominent companies like Nike also began their own line of skateboarding footwear, you may know this as Nike SB

Skateboarding in the 2000’s was largely dominated by boxy fit hoodies, cargo pants, chino shorts, graphic t-shirts, logo hats, trucker hats, and puffy skate shoes. However, the punk skater look was different in this decade, as they would wear skinny or straight cut jeans, a relaxed fit skate tee, and a cap. 

The skateboard fashion you wore in this decade was largely influenced by the kind of music you listened to.

If you were into hip-hop, you would wear baggy cargo shorts, oversized t-shirts, and hoodies. If you were into rock, punk, or metal, tight jeans and a pair of puffy skate shoes were often the go-to. 

Skate brands that dominated the 2000’s included Circa, DVS, Etnies, DC, Element, and other skate brands that released their own clothing lines.

Skateboard Fashion in the 2010’s

In the 2010’s, skateboard fashion rose to popularity on a global scale that went far beyond the skaters themselves.

Kids everywhere learned to love and embrace the clothing and styles that skaters represented, even if they had only stood on a board once. 

Due to this, many skaters saw the brands they grew up with turning into “mainstream” brands. For some, this actually hurt their reputation among the skate community as some skaters preferred the fact that the brands were lesser known.

However, many of these brands continued to support skateboarding as time went on, which ultimately helped gain notoriety for the sport, and their brand, in other ways.

Thrasher, a magazine and brand previously known mainly by skaters, has become one of the best examples of skate fashion becoming popular among the masses. With a little help from artists and influencers such as Rhianna, a few photos on social media were all it took to have people around the world looking to get their own Thrasher Magazine t-shirt. Regardless, Thrasher remains solely dedicated to supporting skateboarding and skate culture. 

Nike, Adidas, Converse, Puma, and other big names in the fashion industry also entered the skateboarding market during this time. Skate shoes became somewhat slimmer overall, but often with a focus on skate-specific performance features. Dickies work pants gained popularity for skating and t-shirts, crewneck sweaters, jackets, and hoodies were the tops of choice.

Modern Skateboard Fashion

Nowadays, skate fashion is as diverse as the skaters themselves. Skateboarding has arguably grown so large that subcultures exist within the sport depending on where you are. Skaters in New York may tend towards certain styles that differ from those in Los Angeles.

The same goes for skaters in France, England, Spain, Japan, or Australia! Different brands trend in different parts of the world or with different styles of skaters, and the trends are constantly changing. 

One of the best things about skateboarding and skate fashion is that it’s created by skaters like you!

Skateboarding embraces creativity and being your own unique self. If you think something looks cool – it does! Skateboarding needs skaters to bring new styles and trends to their scene to continue the evolution of the sport. So rock whatever you love and go skate!

Article written by GB Castillo

GB Castillo
Author: GB Castillo

Before I started writing about skateboarding, I worked in skateboard distribution and logistics. However, working in the skateboard industry was only a part of my experience. I gained most of my knowledge and experience from street skating, longboarding, and park skating because before anything else.... I am, and always will be, a "skateboarder.

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