I'm currently away attending a two-week journalism program at the New York Times Summer Academy in NYC and I just completed my first writing assignment.This program is a once in a lifetime experience for me as I have the unique opportunity to study at a top national newspaper company and meet and learn from award-winning professional reporters and expert practitioners from all different fields. I get to learn outside the classroom by attending enrichment trips to museums, historical sites, local neighborhoods and cultural events. The opportunity to learn journalism in a big city like New York is an ideal environment and training ground to immerse myself in a culture that is so rich and diverse and be up close to the action where news and compelling stories originate.
Here are a couple of my written assignments- the first one was on skateboarding. I took a trip to a local Brooklyn neighborhood skate park and learned and reported about skateboarding. Many of my peers wrote about the gentrification and race/gender stereotypes of skateboarding but I took a different angle as I was fascinated of how art and fashion plays a role in skateboarding. My second writing was on street art and this was my favorite assignment because I learned so much about this creative and unique visual artwork which is what is now coined 'urban art'.
Please note fictional names were used to protect the privacy of individuals. Happy Reading!
Art and Fashion in Skateboarding
By: Emily Chang
A rainy Tuesday morning in Brooklyn does little to stop people of all ages as they make their way to Golconda Park, the hottest new spot in town. Colors flash by as participants skillfully fly into the air performing tricks and perfecting their technique. Dressed in baggy attire, gliding on embellished boards, these people are easily identifiable: skateboarders.
For as long as skateboarding has been around, art and fashion have followed. This huge aspect of skateboarding culture is often under appreciated and even looked down upon by conventional society, but these skaters’ artistic talents are often not given nearly enough attention.
“Why be boring?” said John Garcia. The 20-year-old from Fort Greene, Brooklyn explained how much he loves seeing people use their artistic eye to create sensational effects in both art and fashion. He, along with other skaters, believes skateboarding doubles as both a sport and a form of individual expression.
The beautiful designs that adorn boards are unique to each skater, giving individuals their own personal, creative outlet to explore various designs and patterns. Using their boards as their canvases, skaters can express themselves through colors, designs, and sticker selections.
Stickers are one of the most recognizable characteristics when referring to art in skating. As described by Garcia, they are a “sign of creativity.” They are a key element in the decorative process, appearing in every shape, size, and color.
Skaters select stickers based on personal preference - many stickers have undercover meanings and symbolic references, while others are chosen simply for the overall aesthetic. Popular sticker trends include rebellious slogans, favorite animals, and memorable locations.
Steve Rodriguez, the 47-year-old creator of Golconda Park as well as an avid skater himself, referred to each board as a “personal DIY gallery” of stickers.
“Stickers have always been a part of skateboarding,” Rodriguez explained, due to the fact that almost every participant uses them to customize his or her board.
Stickers also function for advertisement purposes, allowing skaters to show off their favorite brands. Neff, Zumiez, and RipnDip are just a few of the many companies that can be found displayed on customers’ boards.
Rodriguez also mentioned that “a lot of people actually make stickers themselves using sticker sheets,” and garnishing their board with their designs allow them to promote their brand and gain recognition. Not only is this good publicity, but the intricate detailing of brand stickers also makes them aesthetically pleasing and shows off the creator’s artistic abilities.
Besides art, fashion plays another major role in skater culture. Typically dressed in loose-fitting pants, printed t-shirts, and sneakers, skaters aim for a look that represents a cool but comfortable vibe. Not only does the relaxed, casual clothing allow skaters to move around freely, but it also reflects their free spirits.
More recently, urban skater fashion has become immersed in high fashion. Skaters’ clothing choices make a statement, influencing pop culture icons and inspiring new trends as a result. Hunter explained that many celebrities such as A$AP Mob “get a lot of their fashion from skating, you know like baggy pants.” As trends continue to evolve each day, more and more skater qualities are becoming enmeshed in popular culture.
Although skaters’ fashion ideas have become more prevalent in today’s society, this actually negatively impacts them. Companies such as Vans and Supreme which initially existed solely for skaters, have now become huge brands that have expanded far beyond the skating community.
“If skateboarding companies get more popular, they’re going to hike up the prices and then we can’t wear our own clothes. It’s kind of messed up,” said 17-year-old Lisa Tsang from Brooklyn.
For instance, Supreme has existed for 24 years, initially considered nothing but skate-wear. However, more recently, this company has become a reputable brand, especially for celebrities and rappers. Their prices have skyrocketed with shirts, sweatshirts, and hats costing in excess of $1,000.
Like Supreme, many other skate companies’ customers are not skaters anymore. This has negatively impacted the skating community because their culture is no longer uniquely theirs. These brands have become more of a world fashion statement rather than something only skaters share. Lewis Clark, a 14-year-old from Brooklyn, is against this, saying it is “taking away the culture of skating.”
Skaters are also very emotionally attached to the brands which they identify as skaters’ clothes. When Justin Bieber and Rihanna were spotted wearing Thrasher shirts, skaters lashed out in protest.
“ Back then, skateboarding was rejected by the public. People got mad at skaters and told them they are a nuisance to society,” skateboarder Henry Smith commented on Youtube. “It pisses off skaters that (were) ridiculed by society, and now society just seems to take away one of our major companies.”
Even Thrasher magazine’s editor, James Phelps, believes celebrities have encroached on the skating industry. He released a statement that cursed out “clowns” like Bieber and Rihanna for wearing skater clothes.
Despite the fact that popular culture has begun to take over skating culture, this has not stopped skaters from continuing to express their true selves through art and fashion. Aesthetics are a pivotal part of their culture which should be celebrated in order to preserve the “skater look.”
“The most fashionable people,” Smith said, “are skaters.”