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The sun has emerged in New York City, melting the mounds of dirty snow that have lined the sidewalks for months, leaving a litter of cigarette butts and glorious trash. A few days ago, I was outside in a sweatshirt! I hopped on my homie's Brain Dead cruiser and skated a few blocks and, FUCK, was it glorious. It had been five months since I'd skated and, excuse my uncharacteristic enthusiasm, the combination of temperatures above 50 degrees and surfing the treacherous Brooklyn sidewalk for five minutes single-handedly flipped my entire mindstate. The foggy veil of seasonal affective disorder was lifted in an instant and I emerged an unbridled optimist. Okay, maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but it was really fucking nice. Skateboarding has been a key to my spiritual balance for 20 years and the prospect of a summer skating around the city and drinking 40s on some Kids shit is my new motivation to sit here typing in a windowless room. Luckily for me, astute fashion dude that I am, it is now almost possible to dress like both a skateboarder and an adult.
I say "almost" because wearing graphic anything will always be a bit juvenile. And that's fine. Skateboarding will always be associated with youth. No matter how many checkered-Vans-wearing dads you see ripping it and the local skatepark, skating will always be a young man's game, a sport for spritely knees.
But that doesn't mean you have to give it up. It just means now you might appreciate getting wild blunted, throwing on some overpriced headphones and cruising down the street more than unsuccessfully trying 20 times in a row to kickflip a 4-stair before spraining your ankle and limping home. It also means you can't dress like a complete herb while skating. Thankfully, a recent bubble of brands has emerged to fulfill the needs of semi-adult, less wack skateboard enthusiasts. And they're bringing the heat.
Palace is probably the most known of the brands I'd lump into this movement, heading a reaction to skateboarding's continued march toward corporatization. I've heard the argument that you can't be a legit skate brand if you're selling $300 hoodies at Dover Street Market, but legitimacy in skateboarding will always stem from supporting and cultivating skaters, and Palace is firmly entrenched. Their video "Endless Bummer" was one of the best skate edits in recent years. Yeah, their videos have an intentionally nostalgic vibe. They look like VHS skate vids from the '90s. That's a bit affected, sure. We all know there's no actual reason for tracking glitches on a web video. But it is smart. For many of us, watching skate videos on a dirty couch at the local skate shop was the height of adolescent joy. Palace makes no secret of trafficking in nostalgia and they payed homage to the Jail Blazers, so, obviously, I will fuck with them forever.
In a more minimalist niche, the dudes at Dime are making some of the cleanest skate clothes around. The most recent collection was described by one of our astute commenter as "Moy basic shit." The aesthetic makes sense considering Dime is from Montreal, a city I've never visited, but assume is mad fancy because they don't speak English. Added to the fact that Dime comes from the minds of some very OG #influencers and it's easy to see why they've become one of Four Pins' favorite brands to pretend to buy. The simplicity of the product helps keep the focus on the skating, which Dime showcases with regular edits for you to waste time watching at work.
On an entirely different tip, Mood NYC has built a bit of recent buzz more on art cred than on skate cache, but the product is too good to ignore. Mood's focus is on collaborating with entities outside of skating to bring different points of view to product, and so far it's working. Their best pieces come from a collection emblazoned with the phrase "HD IS OFF," created with K-Hole, the trend forecasting think tank unfortunately responsible for coining "normcore." They also made my new favorite bottle opener (R.I.P. to the gawd Nimoy.)
For the staying power of these brands, the kids are important, but so are the big kids, the kids we used to be.
Occupying the ever-present hippie niche in skateboarding, Satta makes sun-faded organic tees, surfy old-school cruisers and these really pleasant looking wheels. They're like a grown up I-Path. It's a vibe I definitely relate to because, dude, you don't know how heavy I rocked with I-Path in my just-discovered-joints-and-Bob-Marley phase. I had nearly every tee and four pairs of the shoes, including these Karl Watson P2s, which are so ridiculous and rare you can barely even find them on the Google Image search.
Dabbling in skateboarding's weirdo-art tradition, Brain Dead is another brand from the talented mind of Kyle Ng. Brain Dead recently launched a set of collaborative decks with Nepenthes (good, I finally have your attention) and the release party was the most Tumblr tastemaker laden art party I've been to yet. But the hype was deserved. The clothes are fucking killer and the decks are just as good. The shit had me actually paying for a graphic tee for the first time in years and all the homies who are less poor than me bought decks. Half of them even built the decks into rideable boards rather than just displaying them on their walls.
On a similar tip, recent fashion industry favorite and Comme des Garçons-partnered Gosha Rubchinskiy isn't a full-on skate brand, but with some icy Vans collabos and a slate of '90s skate-inspired pieces, they figure into the larger trend with my wholehearted approval.
The dudes at Polar Skate Co. have a little bit of a word of mouth issue, at least stateside, but the Polar with an "A" is making some of the best decks in the world right now, both in terms of shape and wall-worthy art. With recent collaborations with Carhartt WIP and Converse, Polar's gear is on the come up, so hopefully soon you won't have to say, "No, not Poler" when telling the squad about your new gear.
Alex Olson's Bianca Chandon is the brand among this group you've most likely seen in artsy fashion magazines. Olson and fellow dude babe Dylan Reider have helped usher a recent interest in skateboarding by mainstream fashion thanks to their good looks, and Bianca Chandon fits squarely in that lane. I almost feel like I shouldn't like this brand, but maybe that's because everything they produce looks exactly like a Tumblr I would like to curate. All the gear is well-designed, minimalist fire. Olson has done a great job cultivating the aesthetic, but, let's be honest, a key part of that aesthetic is babes. That's not a bad thing. Making gear that looks great on waify chicks, and using lusty photographer Viktor Vauthier to shoot it all, is a great way to sell clothes to dudes. Noted narc dad, actually good skater, former Four Pins founding editor and currently Style Dot Com deputy, Noah Johnson, talked to Olson about the roots of the brand if you want to learn more. For our purposes, we can sum up Bianca Chandon as dope slash models.
This list only scratches the surface, I'm sure because, like, we haven't even mentioned Supreme. But that's kinda on purpose because, let's be really real for a second, no one who is buying Supreme today is even touching grip tape. Right now as we speak there's probably some tiny brand in Japan or Germany making the dopest skate gear yet to be seen. Skate culture has always been reactionary and democratic. The uniting factor amongst all the brands above is their distance from the mainstream. We might dig some of Nike's skate shoes, but we don't have any illusions that they're really in it for the kid on the street hopping on a hand-me-down skateboard for the first time. For the staying power of these brands, the kids are important, but so are the big kids, the kids we used to be. Skateboarding is nostalgic and nostalgia is a great way to sell artsy decks and expensive hoodies to the dudes who can actually afford them. I'm not ashamed to give into it. Though, I wish there were a neighborhood skate shop with a grimy couch, an Xbox on top of a grainy TV and a rack of Palace. Either way, I'm still stoked to get back to my roots as the weather warms. Catch me blunted in your city, cruising at a casual pace in some rare Vans, a pair of thrashed khakis and an oversized Dime tee.
Angelo Spagnolo is a writer living in New York. You can follow him on Twitter here.