1980s Skateboard Style

We’re going back in time in this week’s edition of STYLE.  My never ending odyssey to explore the secrets of STYLE journeys to a fabled corner of my wardrobe.  We may not reach Narnia, but we do arrive somewhere very special indeed…

Gateway supermarket car park, 1989.  Yes, you wanted it – nay, DEMANDED it – and so have I provideth: Skateboard STYLE, circa late 80s.

Amazingly, some late 80’s skate merch still resides in my possession.  The pinnacle of awesomeness in this collection are my original Powell Peralta sweatpants.  Originally purchased from Split Skates in Manchester, by some miracle I can still (just about) get in them.

You see here the Rat Bones design, with rodent skeletons crawling up the side of each leg.  Oh, how I coveted these pants for months before I owned a pair: they cost a bloody fortune, but eventually Mum relented and I got a pair for my birthday.  They got some heavy use back in the day; amazingly they still exist (but in a pretty tatty state up close).

Another relic from the past is my Santa Cruz hooded top, again a purchase from Split Skates (on a different trip).  This dates from the days when hoodies were a fresh sight on UK streets and were yet to be adopted by chav scrotes.  Hoodies are an essential part of any gentleman’s wardrobe, regardless of unsavoury stereotypes.  I love this SC dark blue number.

In these photos, I’m wearing a Santa Cruz Road Rider wheels t-shirt.  In the late 80’s, I actually only owned two skate t-shirts: a bright yellow Thrasher Pus-zone T and a red Vision Street Wear one with a manhole graphic.  Both are long gone now.

On my feet are a pair of hi-top Vans, which despite being stylistically accurate are actually a more recent acquisition.  I could never afford Vans when I was a kid, I had one pair of red Converse and then had cheap Chuck knock-offs for years (‘cos I’d shred ’em in a month).

But God bless Vans, a deeper look into their wonder will no doubt grace a future edition of STYLE.

The look is completed by a Vans trucker cap (again, a newer rehash of 80’s style); a Casio digital watch and a Quiksilver hip-bag.  The hip-bag was absolutely necessary as the sweatpants had no pockets (probably would’ve pushed the price up even more).  I had a Hot Tuna one back in the day.

As I recall, skaters in the late 80’s pioneered a few fashion items ahead of them becoming part of the mainstream.  As well as hooded sweatshirts and hi-top trainers we wore knee length shorts (thus dragging the human race away from budgie-smuggler short shorts).  Hip bags became “bum bags” and were fashionable for 5 minutes with everyone, before everyone decided to dump ’em (bring them back!).

As a result, my adoption of skate STYLE did little to reduce the ridicule received from my peers that I had suffered previously.  But I didn’t care ‘cos I was a skater and outside of their world by choice.  Plus, I always had the last laugh when six months later, they were all wearing Converse, knee length shorts and surf wear.

Sometimes we stumble upon STYLE.  Sometimes STYLE just happens along when we least expect it, enraptured by something else.  We just need to roll with it and remember that fortune favours the brave.

NOTE: Yes, I look a bit chubby in these pics – but how many clothes from 30 years ago can you still fit in?!

You can read about the Santa Cruz Street Creep shown here on this blog.

Clothes model’s own.

Skateboard Museum: SMA Jim Thiebaud

Come with me as I take a roll down skateboarding memory lane, ollieing the cracks as I go…

Santa Monica Airlines Jim Thiebaud

This classic deck dates back to the late 80’s, I picked it up in 1989 if I remember.  At the time the Chester branch of Milletts, the camping and outdoors shop, were stocking skateboards for some reason or other.  They had some pretty rad stuff, too.

When the time came to replace my worn out deck and get a new one, I saved up my pennies/swapped vinyl records and got myself this Santa Monica Airlines deck from Milletts.

At least I think that’s where it was from, I can’t remember.  Either way, I didn’t support a skater owned shop on this occasion, to my shame.

SMA

SMA were really blowing up at the time, and Jim Thiebaud had been on my radar since I saw the (criminally minimal) footage of him in some of the Powell vids.

Thiebaud was – and is – a supremely cool skateboarder with a smooth, rad style.  He was one of those original street pros that I really admired.  Along with Gonz, Natas, Guerrero and Vallely, JT was a bona fide street skating pioneer and innovator.

The shape was perfect for me at the time, exactly how I wanted a skateboard to be.  It’s still a classic shape now, I really like it. Nice size tail, comfy wide deck – but not too wide.  Great street deck of the era.

This deck also had the cool comic book style superhero graphics which I loved.  I’ve always been a big fan of superheroes.

However I wasn’t cool enough to get on this particular wave of popularity earlier.  If I had, I might have picked up the previous variation on the graphic, which featured a bad guy designed to resemble the Joker.  The Batman movie was out around that time, so I guess the whole theme was prominent back then.

So the Joker version had to be scrapped due to some issue with DC Comics, I believe the story goes, and I ended up with the purple suited thug instead.

No matter – cool graphic or not, this deck was to be skated.  I transferred my Indy trucks and OJII wheels and was ready to go.  Well, when I’d also added the Powell Rib Bones as well.  Not to save the graphic, mind – in those days the received wisdom (at least amongst my friends and I) was that the rails helped you slide better.

This particular set up was particularly long serving and loyal.  It was like a magic carpet that seemed to respond perfectly to my wishes.  Honestly, I remember learning tons of tricks on this finely shaped beauty.  Footplants and Boneless variations were (still are) major tricks in my arsenal and I learned several on this very set up. 

Biggest of all though, was the kick flip.  We called it an “ollie kick flip” back then, and it was a pretty desirable trick to own.  I learned kick flips on this gorgeously wide beast and was unbelievably stoked.  I still remember that first one.

It was well skated – in fact the tail is worn to a sharp and splintered point – but this set up is still skateable.  It’s still around as it was replaced with thinner decks and trucks as shapes evolved; thus I never swapped it.

The SMA Thiebaud is still on the garage wall, still looks great, and still gets a roll every now and again.  Classic.

Take a close look at the photos and you’ll notice some interesting features:

  • Madrid Fly Paper grip tape (note the fly shapes cut out)
  • Rad SMA top graphic
  • Santa Cruz Cell Block riser pad
  • A couple of cool stickers from back in the day still hanging in there
  • The trucks are fitted with Grind King reversed kingpins, there’s even a sticker on the front hanger…
  • You can see some of the bands I was into at the time from the grip tape art, which I did with Tip-Ex…

The Greatest Skateboard Graphic Ever

Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp “Face”

Everyone has their own personal choice.  Over the years I’ve seen many amazing skateboard graphics – some intricate, some clever, some stupid, some risque.  Back in the 80’s it was mostly skulls and gore.  At the end of the decade, these themes became extinct, replaced by ironic cartoons and brand logo appropriation.  You name it, it’s probably been featured on a deck somewhere.  There are great examples of art of all styles.

The two giants of skateboard graphics in the 80’s, at least in my eyes, were Vernon Courtland Johnson and Jim Phillips.  VCJ created the many iconic designs for Powell Peralta such as the Ripper and Skull and Sword.  Awesome graphics that made my eyeballs pop, as a kid nurtured on comic book art and monsters.

The art of Jim Phillips featured on many Santa Cruz decks, including classic pro decks for Jeff Kendall, Jeff Grosso and Jason Jessee.  My absolute favourite though was the Rob Roskopp street model, with a huge ugly face on it.

I first saw the Roskopp graphic in my sisters Smash Hits magazine, of all places.  They did one of those lame “introduction to skateboarding” type of features, with things like “how to talk like a skateboarder”.  It did feature UK hardcore band The Stupids however, and a model holding the deck in question.

As soon as I saw it, I loved that graphic.  It was big, bold and over the top – but beautifully detailed.

A couple of years later, I eventually acquired a Santa Cruz Roskopp Face of my own.  The deck itself was white, with the graphic in black screaming out from the bottom of the board.  I was very happy that regardless of the fantastic art, it was a great shape and well made board.  So the decision wasn’t made purely on the artwork. IMG_2797

I don’t remember what happened to that particular deck, I probably wore it out and swapped it with someone.  There’s a photo of it somewhere.

A few years ago, I picked up a reissue of the Roskopp deck.  It’s yellow, with the same great graphic as I had all those years ago.  It’s never been skated – I keep this one on the wall, right above my desk (I have other boards for actually skating).  It hangs there as a proud reminder, and an example of great skateboard art.  That’s what this skateboard is to me – pure art.

In my opinion, the Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp “face” is the best skateboard graphic ever.

Check out the latest reissue here.

The Santa Cruz website is here.