Skaters have always been a pretty easy bunch to spot. Granted, that’s largely down to the fact they tend to be on skateboards, but it also has a lot to do with the garments and labels they clad themselves in.
Skatewear brands have always been central to the scene’s signature sense of style, and as high-fashion continues to take an interest in skateboard culture, many of them have been thrust into the spotlight.
We now live in a world where streetwear and skate clothing represent a new fashion paradigm. Today, the inhabitants of fashion week’s front row and the crowd grinding rails at the Southbank are largely indistinguishable from one another. Now, many of the brands making modern skatewear staples are enjoying the type of reverence previously reserved only for haute-couture houses and high-end designers.
To mark the occasion, we’ve compiled a list of the best skate brands around, and the reasons why they’re worth knowing.
As a brand, releasing new items in restricted weekly drops isn’t the most traditional way to introduce consumers to your seasonal collections. However, when there are queues forming around the block with people who are prepared to sleep on the street just to be in with a chance of copping a brick with your brand’s name on it, well, you must be doing something right.
As a result, the brand is now one of the most revered names in not just skatewear, but fashion in general, boasting high-profile collaborations with the likes of Rolex and Louis Vuitton.
Want to know what would have happened if Supreme had been born in London rather than New York? Just take a look at Palace.
Lev Tanju’s ultra-hyped label is relatively young compared to its trans-Atlantic counterpart. However, a combination of good timing, superb branding and a sense of humour have seen Palace achieve unprecedented global success.
The brand is a perfect encapsulation of London’s gritty skate scene. You’re more likely to see Palace’s team riders clad in tracksuit bottoms and Ralph Lauren caps than the usual oversized hoodies and jeans. It’s something that’s mirrored in the brand’s collections, where you’ll find sportswear-heavy pieces sitting alongside off-kilter items like loafers and velvet smoking jackets.
Arguably the granddaddy of skateboard fashion, Vans has been doing its thing since 1966. The Californian brand has been intertwined with the sport since the beginning, making some of the first purpose-built shoes for tearing up bowls and cruising the streets.
Today, Vans’s appeal isn’t limited to just skaters. After Converse, the label’s canvas sneakers are some of the most popular on the face of the Earth. Models like the Old Skool, the Authentic and the Sk8 Hi have become nothing short of shoe-rack essentials. It’s perhaps one of the first examples of skatewear going mainstream and when you look at the simplicity, versatility and timeless styling of Vans shoes, it’s not difficult to see why it caught on.
When the Nike SB first emerged in 1997, it was received with disdain by the skateboarding community. Here was a global sports conglomerate turning an outsider pursuit into a money making machine to serve itself. It was never going to be an overnight hit with a group of people whose punk ethos is central to everything they do.
Still, as time went on, Nike SB proved itself to be a valuable ally to skateboarding, bringing the sport to a new audience and eventually earning the respect of real skaters around the world.
It was largely thanks to recruiting a handpicked selection of skateboarding’s top names to form its team. With riders like Paul Rodriguez, Eric Koston and Stefan Janoski on side, the brand had credibility. Couple that with the fact it’s making some of the best shoes in the business and it’s not hard to see why Nike SB is now one of the biggest names in skateboarding.
Call Me 917
Pro skater Alex Olson is a man with fingers in many pies. He achieved star status through his segments in skate videos from the likes of Supreme and Nike SB, has featured in a skateboard-themed campaign for Louis Vuitton and, last but not least, is the owner of two of the coolest labels in the scene.
Olson’s best-known imprint is probably Bianca Chandon. Yet, while it sometimes gets tagged as a skate brand, his other label, Call Me 917, is a lot closer to the mark.
Call Me 917 is a quirky brand with its own pro team, an array of skate decks, seasonal collections of offbeat skatewear staples and regular high-profile hookups. Expect logo hoodies, tongue-in-cheek graphics and oversized cuts aplenty.
Swedish label Polar Skate Co may be little but it packs a big punch. The independent is one of the pioneers of skateboarding’s recent small-brand resurgence and its crossover appeal has seen it win contracts with some of the most respected retailers in fashion.
Polar is no stranger to a collab either. In the past the label has worked with everyone from Carhartt to Converse, bringing its unique brand of playful skatewear minimalism to some of the biggest streetwear staples going.
There are plenty of offbeat graphic T-shirts to be had, too. Many of them drawn up by the Polar Skate Co multi-talented team riders.
Jean Feil co-founded Magenta with his brother Vivien and their good friend Soy Panday in 2010. An indie label built by skaters, for skaters, Magenta was born out of frustration with big corporations.
The brand’s owners didn’t like how big-name brands were beginning to get their claws into the sport they loved, so set about doing its own thing.
Nearly 10 years down the line, its plan couldn’t have gone better. Independent brands are king in the world of skateboarding again and Magenta is one of the most respected names among them.
The brand’s clothing output is big on graphics, with their instantly recognisable plant logo featuring heavily throughout the collections.
If offensive prints are your thing, look no further than Fucking Awesome. The brand is the handiwork of skateboarding legend Jason Dill and has been keeping the core skateboarder happy since 2001.
A former Supreme team rider, Dill felt disillusioned with skateboard clothing for fashion’s sake and wanted to create something that spoke to those who live and breathe the sport.
Today, the brand is still going strong, although Dill has shut it down on a couple of occasions when it threatened to get “too popular”. Something which has only served to increase the hype.
Like many skate brands, a raucous sense of humour is central to almost everything Alltimers does. The New York brand first gained attention for its uniquely shaped boards, including (but by no means limited to) a Ryan Gosling shaped board, one that looks like a giant stack of money, and another in the shape of a Lamborghini.
After a short time, the label began applying its trademark tongue-in-cheek approach to a line of clothing, too. Something which has gained traction not just within the skateboarding community, but in the wider streetwear world as well.
Montreal’s Dime is another shining example of a skate brand with crossover appeal. Often compared to the likes of Palace and Supreme, the label began life as a skateboard crew known for their ‘jokes first, skating second’ approach.
Much like Supreme and Palace, Dime’s appeal has spread far beyond just skaters. The brand has become a streetwear stalwart in its own right and counts a number of celebrity fans among its loyal clientele.
Expect clean branding, street-friendly staples and a humorous undercurrent as standard.