Krista Corrigan

February 15, 2021

The rise of board culture

Find out the back story behind what made board culture mainstream and its staying power across retail fashion.

Popularized in the 90s by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, more people are participating in board culture and its making big splashes in fashion seen across collaborations and runway trends.

Sports that once were resigned to counter-culture, skateboarding and surfing are becoming increasingly mainstream. With both slating to appear in the Olympics, we take a look into the rise of board culture and how best to invest.

Looking to tap into the board culture scene? Reach out for a demo today.

Key drivers

90s revival

September 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of the release for Tony Hawk’s video game series for Playstation. Launched in 1999, the game put the sport and culture under the spotlight. Skateboarding has once again risen in popularity due to the revival of 90s apparel trends, brands, TV shows and music. Style icon for the ‘hypebeast’ generation, Jonah Hill explored 90s skate culture in his directorial debut film, Mid90s, to critical acclaim. Streetwear giants such as Stussy, Palace and Supreme were born out of board culture, largely started by amateur skateboarders or surfers. The skating community and history is what keeps consumers loyal and engaged to brands, while the revival of the 90s aesthetic draws in a new audience.

The adventurer aesthetic

A softer approach to streetwear‘s functional and utilitarian styles, skate and surfwear trends feed into the current adventurer aesthetic. Skateboards are now a common accessory for commuters, creating a need for practical yet trend-driven skatewear. Surf trends offer a laid-back alternative, drawing on bohemian and travel themes, which lend well to vacation and high-summer assortments. Adidas have an own-brand line of skatewear, while Nike offers skate and surf apparel – both brands are bridging the gap between performance wear and trend-led collections. This is an area of the market, however, that remains largely untapped by mass-market retailers.

The luxury evolution

In 2017, Supreme unveiled a collaboration with Louis Vuitton – a collection that marked the evolution of skate brands and was a catalyst in the acceptance of streetwear as “luxury fashion.” Since, there have been countless collaborative collections between cult skate/surf brands and luxury labels. Palace, a London-based brand, has partnered with football champions, Juventus and sportswear giant adidas for a tri-branded apparel range and official Juventus strip. The collaboration will see the skate brand on the big screen, inevitably reaching a wider audience than ever before.

A growing presence in gaming

Lockdowns have propelled the success of gaming and the sector continues to predict astronomical growth. According to a Newzoo market research report in May 2020, the gaming industry was expected to have a 9.3% growth YoY to reach $159.3 billion. However, in November 2020, that statistic was readjusted to reflect a 19.6% growth rate, reaching revenues of $217.9 billion by 2023.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 video game, which launched September 4th, helped contribute to the success and has become the fastest-selling game in the franchise. Red Bull also revealed its entrance into the AR gaming world under Discover Your Wiiings. The series will run through March 31st and includes participation from gaming phenomenon Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, skateboarder Zion Wright and surfer Carissa Moore.

Backed by Virgil

By July 2021, Accra, the capital city of Ghana, will have its first state-of-the-art skate ramp, largely thanks to Skate Nation and Surf Ghana. The global expansion of the sport signals a movement around the world supporting skate culture. Pan-African clothing company Daily Paper and American-Ghanaian designer Virgil Abloh are also big supporters of the project. The labels will release a series of capsule collections to benefit the project – the first drop released on December 21st.

A Tokyo Olympics debut

The sport is set to debut this year for the first time at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The event is broken down into two types, street and park, and the competition is set to begin July 25th with 80 total competitors. There is equal participation from both men and women, signifying efforts toward gender equality in these sports. Surfing, sport climbing, karate and baseball/softball are also new sports set to make an appearance this year in Tokyo.

The men’s Fall 2021 runway loved it

Board culture is predicted to remain relevant in 2021 across menswear, with skater stories emerging as key themes in our January 2021 Paris Trend Overview. The look offers function, practicality and comfort – all central characteristics for success given the unknown state of lockdowns. The story also feeds the persistent interest in nostalgia and 90s-inspired trends like branding, oversized fits and sneakers.

Maison Mihara Yasuhiro blended sporty themes with utilitarian details including color-blocking, bucket hats and denim ensembles, all laced with a grunge aesthetic. Kolor also utilized similar pieces with standout looks including, anoraks, checked trousers and baggy tees complete with oversized branding. Stay tuned to see if matching aesthetics are noted during New York Fashion Week, kicking off this week.

Skate-inspired collections

Several retailers capitalized on the trend as it gained momentum throughout 2020. Levi’s expertise in denim and durability made it the perfect candidate for a range. BoohooMAN enlisted the help of American skateboarder Boo Johnson for its “street meets skate” drop. Meanwhile, luxury label Hermès got in on the fun with its Game On! collection featuring simple, sporty silhouettes and Zara launched an inspired edit in kidswear. Other retailers promoting skate themes in 2020 included Urban Outfitters, adidas and Lululemon.

EDITED user? Log in to find out who the skateboarding influencers to know are.

The trends to invest in

Womenswear

  • Rugby shirt: Prep and heritage themes continue to infiltrate streetwear trends, consider branding and youthful hues such as pistachio and lilac for a fresh feel.
  • Branded hoodie: With the logo trend still prominent, the branded hoodie offers a fail-safe investment. Oversized and deconstructed silhouettes offer a directional alternative, while tie-dye prints offer an updated design.
  • Cargo pants: Update existing cargo pants with sportswear-inspired fabrics. Straight and wide-leg fits are best applied here.
  • Bucket hat: The 90s accessory trend continues to gain traction, with the backing of Chanel and Fendi – consider cheerful colors and fuzzy textures for a contemporary approach.

Menswear

  • Cardigan: A note-worthy trend in streetwear and on the runway – invest in overshirts, eye-catching prints and soft textures.
  • Oversized t-shirt: A low-risk investment in the skate trend, oversized T-shirts work well in basic assortments. Consider 90s-inspired licensing, graphics and logos for a trend-led option.
  • Straight-leg trousers: Straight-leg trousers in smart fabrications give a grown-up take on the trend. Merchandise with sneakers and oversized t-shirts for mass-appeal. Add paint splatter to the trousers for a style update too.
  • Cross-body bag: Continue to invest in cross-body bags, updating the trend with seasonally appropriate hues and text print details. Leather fabrics can add value to designs and work well within smart casual stories.

Enjoyed this report? Sign up for our weekly Insider Briefing.