Many classic fashion and style trends have their roots in youth subculture. The mod culture of the 1960s, the punks of the 1970s, hip hop culture of the 1980s… the list goes on. The clothing choices that were adopted by their members remain a significant indicator of those subcultures and many of these styles have transcended time and space, filling out the closets for the generations that followed.
Picture skinny jeans, a black band tee and leather jacket and try not to imagine the members of the Ramones, one of the seminal punk bands of the 1970s. Or picture an Adidas track suit and Superstars and try not to imagine Run DMC with their large gold chains and bucket hats. Not only are these styles synonymous with the cultures from which they originated, they continue to inform fashion trends decade after decade and can still be seen all over, whether you’re in a Queen Street dive bar or checking out a high fashion runway show.
When I was younger, I took a deep dive into skateboard culture. Until I got my driver’s license, I skated everywhere. Even when I got my license, it just meant I could drive to skate spots that were previously unreachable on foot (on-board). Besides my love for the sport, I gravitated towards “skate” style which typically included a bright coloured skateboard brand t-shirt and hoodie, straight leg jeans that were baggy at the ankles—never shorts since they exposed my legs to scrapes, bumps and bruises while skating—skateboard shoes and a skateboard backpack. The style of my friends and myself were straight out of a Sum 41 music video circa 2001.
As it goes, your adolescence is often defined by the things you do, the people you hang out with, the music you listen to, or the clothes you wear. And often those cultural markers are strongly linked. For me, music and skating was my whole life from the age of 12 to 18. If my friends and I weren’t in my drummer’s basement for band practice, we were trolling town for a new spot to skate.
I don’t skate anymore. And I don’t often listen to the aggressive pop-punk/post-hardcore/ska music that we tried to imitate in my buddy’s basement. But I do still consider these to be the things that most defined my childhood. The times that I do turn on a song from those days, or ride my little brother’s skateboard for a bit, always take me back and remind me of the amazing times I used to have when I was a kid.
Because of the nostalgic feeling I gain from diving into my childhood, some of those elements of my youth have remained a part of my life. Though I’m not in school anymore, before all my final exams in undergrad and in law school, you could find me listening to Alexisonfire’s Crisis album, or Streetlight Manifesto’s Everything Goes Numb. I’ll still listen to those albums when I need to pick the energy up. To this day, you can still catch me wearing skateboard inspired clothing, despite not doing much skating anymore. Besides the fact that I believe skate style maintains its status as a significant style trend of the 1990s and early 2000s that has transcended its time, mixing skate style into my wardrobe makes me feel like a kid again.
While you might not find me wearing pants every single day of the summer to protect my shins from skateboard injuries, I like to sprinkle my outfits with skate inspired pieces. Here’s how I manage to do it without looking like a 15 year old on his way to shred the concrete gnar.
I still keep 2-3 pairs of skate shoes in my closet to wear during the summer and fall with my casual outfits. Granted, I’m not wearing the chunky ès, Ipath or Etnies skate shoes that I would skate into the ground when I was younger, but my go-to casual sneaker will almost always be a pair of the Vans Authentics. Currently, I’ve got the Madder Brown pair, as well as a green leather pair that I can mix with most jeans, chinos or shorts. Vans, whether we’re talking about their lace-up options or their slip-ons, are a classic sneaker that offer a clean look that can rival a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths or Converse All-stars any day. If you’re not willing to throw down a few hundred dollars for a high-fashion sneaker, I would highly recommend grabbing a no-nonsense pair of Vans.
Most would argue that this is almost always a fashion faux pas (I hate saying that), but I think a logo or branded t-shirt can add a great personal touch to a casual outfit. Some might opt for a vintage band tee, and others, like myself, like to wear an understated branded tee that I would have likely wore in my teens.
My argument against making the branded tee a style go-to is that the name of the designer across your chest is not enough to show how style savvy you are, and that should never be the goal. The quintessential Guido, wearing his Affliction or Ed Hardy t-shirt, with his flared and distressed jeans, and square/pointy-toed white leather dress shoes, is the biggest offender of this rule. Sorry to pick on my Italian friends, but, you know what I’m talking about.
Personally, I love the simple design of the DC Shoe Co logo and have no problem throwing it on under a zip-up hoodie or while I’m at the gym. I don’t wear the branded tee to state that I have style, I don’t even think I wear it ironically. I do wear it for the sake of feeling nostalgic and to give a personal touch to my outfit.
Brands like Santa Cruz and Thrasher have vintage style tees that offer great casual options. An understated branded skate tee doesn’t say that I spent a lot of money, and it doesn’t say that I’m trying hard to be stylish. It’s just a simple, personalized alternative to the solid colour tee that I would normally recommend and not a bad option when you’re just getting outside to get the mail or going to grab a coffee.
I’m sure there are other ways my skate culture roots sneak into my contemporary style choices but the point is that it’s easier than you might think to add some of your past into your present without looking like you haven’t updated your style since the 11th grade. Don’t shy away from your roots, it says a lot about your personality and who you’ve ultimately become. Embrace it!