Skateboarding has its golden eras and its dark ages. During boom times, skaters are cast as models, decks are on-set props, and famous people will strive to make it part of their unique lifestyle personae. Christian Hosoi was a rock star demigod in the ‘80s. He was all style—neon spandex, teased hair, and phenomenal skills. Then the ‘90s street skating era ushered in a new, much less fashionable breed of skaters with ultra wide leg jeans, bowl cuts, and weird flatground tricks that do not look rad on TV.
And so on. At the moment, it appears we are once again in a “skateboarding is cool” phase.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'd rather have a strong skate industry that supports small brands, let's shops flourish and compensates athletes well, than a struggling, insular community of people who think they are cooler than anyone else (skaters will think that either way). As a skateboarder, I cringe at the site of Lil Wayne skating in rap videos, but if he inspires kids to go to skate shops and spend their mom’s money, then I’m all for it. Hopefully they’ll buy decks and wheels instead of cough syrup.
I think it’s cool that skate brands like Supreme and Palace and even Thrasher get big celebrity cosigns. If it means they can sell more T-shirts to make more money to put back into skateboarding, then I’m all for it. My loyalty is to skateboarding, not to any brand.
It's worth noting that skateboarding likes fashion. And that's fine, too. Skate brands love to knock-off designer logos. Subversive designs and parodic logos are part of skate culture's DNA. That freedom to borrow from different realms—be it hip-hop, punk, preppy, or high fashion—is part of the appeal.
But it doesn't work both ways—not everything in life is a two way street. I don’t think it’s cool when fashion uses skateboarding as a lifestyle aesthetic to sling product. If the effort is merely an appropriation of the culture as a way to harness the cool that skateboarding currently embodies, as it was for Katie Eary for her S/S 13 runway show, or Diesel Black Gold’s recent presentation, or Vogue’s recent “Fashion Forward Skateboards” story, it’s a bad look for everyone involved.
People who actually skateboard won't for a second be fooled into thinking all this half-assed bullshit is legitimate. If anyone does think it’s cool, it’s because they don’t know anything about skateboarding. Let’s follow this line of logic a step further: If you use skateboarding because it’s cool to make something you’re doing look cool, but skateboarding doesn’t think what you’re doing is cool because it’s bogus, haven’t you just lost any hope of achieving what it is you’re after in the first place?
Funny, then, that Lil Wayne's foray winds up seeming the more earnest crossover effort. Dude genuinely wants to be a skateboarder. You think it’s helping him sell records? You think skateboarders are running out and copping Trukfit tees? Because they aren’t. Weezy just wants to get some tricks. Who can be mad at that?