ICONIC STYLE: SKATER GIRLS SINCE THE 1970s
By now, it's clear that the fashion industry has an obsession with skateboarding culture - or at the very least, the aesthetics of skating.
From Dior Homme's Fall 2016 runway - which was literally a light up skate ramp, to those goddamn Thrasher t-shirts, Gosha Rubchinskiy's skater-inspired fragrance last year, and the ongoing infatuation with the enamouring skater/model hyphenate (think Ansley Gulielmi and Blonde McCoy), this is a trend that the industry has ordained to be the highest form of 'cool.' Even Chanel tapped Cara Delevingne to ride around Paris on a skateboard in their animated ad campaign for this year's "Gabrielle" bag.
By and large, the skateboarding community has had a negative reaction to fashion's (high end) appropriation of their sport and its imagery. For people like Jake Phelps - the longtime editor of Thrasher magazine - "the reason [fashion celebrities] wear the gear is because it's stylish and people went and bought it for them, they don't know what Thrasher is."
Skateboarding has a long history with complex roots that transcend the boundaries of sport and occupy a subcultural space of their own right. And like any subculture that has grown exponentially over the last four decades and enjoyed aspects of mainstream recognition, there is a constant tension between commerce and culture, and how to stay true to the movement's heritage amidst assimilation into popular culture.
As skateboarding has become more visible (and more financially lucrative), a major aspect of its history that has been lost is the appreciation of women's contributions to the sport. Before Santa Monica's legendary Z-Boys rose to fame in the mid-1970s, groups like the Hobie skateboard team had co-ed teams as early as the 1960s. Women were active and oftentimes equal participants in the sport, thanks to the determination and talent of skaters like Kim Cespedes, who competed around the world and went to Japan on Nike and Coca Cola's dollar, and Ellen O'Neal, who won hearts skating in an episode of Wonder Woman in 1978.
Looking at skateboarding today, however, it is easy to feel like female skaters are invisible. Skating vertical Jenkem investigated the oftentimes misoginist, homophobic, and racist tendencies in skateboard culture after skater Nyjah Huston told Thrasher that "skateboarding is not for girls" in 2013. We've also previously reported on the efforts of female skate collective and skatewear brand Brujas, based in the Bronx, to create a more inclusive space for women and minorities through fashion, education, and sport.
Miu Miu's 2016 fashion film directed by Crystal Moselle captured all that and more through the eyes of local skaters in New York. The short film is poignant, touching, and beautiful, reminding us that it's time to look beyond the typical angsty (white, cis-male) "skate boy" trope and show a more appreciative view of what skateboarding culture looks like in 2017, and has looked like for a long time.
And so when other luxury fashion brands decide to "pay homage" to skate culture, we think that it's important for them to acknowledge the various levels of discrimination at play, and take a moment to also honour the impactful women who have earned their place in the sport as well. As cultural influencers, female skateboarders have shown their grit, tenacity, and skill - all in style - since the sport's inception.