The sound of scraping wood fills the air. Wheels turn, methodically and unconstrained, whirling the rider balancing on the deck around a full 360 degrees. The skateboarders seem to defy gravity, as they twist and bank along Arguello Field’s basketball courts. Adaptation and failure are key to their learning, as the skateboarders must fall and pick themselves up daily. The result is a singularly laid back, yet defiant fashion culture.
Last Saturday, FashionX – Stanford’s only preprofessional fashion organization – and Stanford’s unoffical Skate Club hosted a Spring Kickback at Arguello Field. Skateboarders of all skill levels were invited to socialize and try out a few tricks on the quarter pipe and rails, among other obstacles. Half-way through the event, almost twenty members of the Berkeley Skate club came to join the festivities, bonding with their rival school. Students enjoyed the chill, judgment-free environment, and the first four-hundred attendees were treated to free tacos and Red Bull.
As part of their joint effort to foster community and highlight skater fashion, the Stanford clubs also featured two pop-up stations of students’ fashion brands. Racks of clothing from two student-owned brands, Crenshaw Skate Club (Toby McIntosh ’25) and FORTYTWO (Milo Rivas ’24), stood tall at the edge of the half-line, inviting event attendees to explore and support the unique phenomenon that is skateboarding fashion.
Invented in California during the 1950s, skateboarding rose to popularity in the ’60s and’ 70s. Later in the ’80s, a unique subculture associated with the activity blossomed, taking elements from the grunge, punk and anti-authoritarian cultures popular at the time. With the success of skater-rock inspired bands like Blink 182 and Avril Lavigne’s pop hit “Sk8ter Boi,” the 2000s launched skater fashion into a frenzy.
As the sport rose in success, skater fashion emerged from the need for functional, practical and semi-protective clothing as means to combat the scrapes and bruises that accompany the activity. Versatile items like graphic tees, cargo pants, baggy jeans and Vans endure as staples to the skater brand. Today’s skater fashion remains unapologetically casual and continues to favor a baggy silhouette, while also paving the way for brighter colorways and the occasional tighter fit. Nostalgic influences of ’80s suede kicks, voluminous pants and XXXL tees remain core elements of the subculture.
Milo Rivas founded FORTYTWO in 2017 as a skater, street-wear-inspired brand with a mission to tell a story with every piece of clothing. At the kickback, Rivas displayed a “42 athletic collegiate design” on four different colored shirts: black, orange, navy blue and white. As both a skater and member of FashionX, Rivas found the event to be the perfect spring celebration of skating and fashion. He also saw it as a great opportunity to bring more attention to the skating community at Stanford.
“Everyone sees us skating on the courts anyway. It’s like putting names to our faces. We’re people that skate, but we’re also part of other organizations, we’re not just skating around, ”Rivas said.
Opposite of the FORTYTWO racks of clothing were an array of designs from Crenshaw Skate Club, featuring cool-tone t-shirts and hoodies available for purchase. Found in 2017, Crenshaw Skate Club is a dynamic project inspired by McIntosh’s passion for skating and his experiences growing up in South Central Los Angeles with a lack of Black, Indigenous and person of color (BIPOC) representation in the skate industry.
“Whenever I would look at skate videos and magazines, I never saw people that looked like me and my friends, so I wanted to start this to represent people like us in the industry,” McIntosh said.
Jon Napolis, a junior mathematics major at Berkeley, is the co-founder and co-president of Berkeley Skate Club. According to Napolis, Berkeley Skate Club was in town for a skate retreat. This year the destination was Palo Alto, and the weekend of their retreat happened to be the same as the Spring Kickback.
“I heard from one of my great friends that a skate event was going on at Stanford. Next thing you know, we mob here with the whole group, ”Napolis said.
For some like Napolis, skating has been instrumental in their personal style development. Moving forward, the skate club Co-president hopes to increase emphasis on the role of fashion in the Berkeley skate scene.
“Through skating itself, I got into fashion and found my own personal style. I love the intersection between fashion and skateboarding, but we don’t really have that at Berkeley, ”Napolis said. “What we really try to focus on is filming and skating. But we are thinking of exploring that more, we’re always open to new ideas. ”
President and co-founder of Stanford Skate Club Wen Zhang, a third-year Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering, recognized all the hard work put in by undergraduates in the club, including McIntosh and Rivas. To Zhang, this event was just the tip of the iceberg.
With skateboarding joining the Olympic permanent event schedule starting in 2028, Zheng hopes to bring skateboarding to a new level at Stanford. This would mean the creation of a varsity team and maybe even University-supported access to facilities and equipment. Zhang and Napolis discussed the future of collegiate skating at the event and hope to bring together more university skate communities some day.