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Fashion in skateboarding

The age-old tension between function and fashion

Are skate shoes now more valued for their aesthetic appeal, or are they still primarily valued for their function? It’s complex—fashion in skateboard culture varies within a spectrum. Skateboarding is not a traditional sport, so skaters aren’t bound by the traditional outfits you’d see in other sports like basketball or soccer.


Having a good shoe that performs well is important, but there’s freedom in choosing what to wear and how to wear it. Enthusiasts aren’t confined to a single place to practice the sport, either. The whole world is their oyster, so to speak. In other sports, it might be cool to roll up to the spot with matching team outfits, but that’s not the most common thing you’d see at a skate spot.


Skateboarding fashion is a combination of subcultures. It comes down to how one expresses themself—there’s no right or wrong way to do it. But within the cyclical nature of fashion, the skateboard community tends to follow the trends. Fashion within skateboarding does have its specifics, but it is really dependent on the individual who takes part in it, making everything subjective.


You can wear pretty much anything you want to skateboard—you can walk right out of class, step on the board and be ready to shred. Puffer or tank top, dress shoes or socks—if there is a will, there is a way. 


We, as a society, are progressively more fashionably sensible and consistently moving up the benchmark. With each new year, our levels of drip go up—for the most part. Baggy has been in vogue for a while now in skateboarding circles with an infusion from the streetwear scene, a modern take on how skaters dressed in the ‘90s. 


But at what point does it become more about fashion than function, and vice versa? Should skate shoes be merely for looks or give you the extra edge you might be missing? 


For basketball players, it is all ultimately about the grip and functionality of the shoe. So when people are skating in Travis Scott Dunks, is it really because the shoes are good? Or are they showing off their exquisite taste in the shoe game?


Oftentimes, shoe brands like Nike, Adidas or Vans come out purporting the latest and greatest technology. Shoes may feature a new, immersive sock lining or combined Duracap and Rapidweld no-sew technology


These types of shoes definitely prioritize performance over look. The pinnacle of skate shoe technology is just different from basketball shoes, so these brands often try new ideas to try and get them there.


While some of these shoes might market themselves as the next, biggest, greatest thing—possibly also allowing for increased longevity and performance—is all of this necessary? For some, having shoes that last two or three months longer might be important, but if my shoes look stupid or make my feet hurt—what’s the point?


You ultimately buy shoes to be destroyed through use over a period of time. Whether it’s about the aesthetics or the feel of the shoe, it’s a certain balance that only you can decide for yourself. Shoes and clothing in skateboarding are simultaneously about fashion and performance. There’s no right way to do it. You can go canvas or suede, baggy or skinny—it’s really dependent on individual taste. 


For me, I want shoes that won’t have holes in them within a week, so I prefer suede. I want my pants baggy enough to move freely because having to think about my outfit when I’m skating is the worst thing. 


In the end, whether you side with the fashion or function side of this debate, just do what feels right for you!