What we have here are two members of skateboarding’s favorite inside joke, “Team Handsome”. If you haven’t heard it yet, the term is a random comment turned meme referring to the good looking, attractive, stylish skateboarding most commonly associated with Alex Olson, Dylan Rieder and Austyn Gillette. What started as mental masturbation for message board lurkers and industry folk has evolved into a staple in skate lexicon, joining the ranks of hammers and hubbas. Curious to know how it all started, I hit up the originator of the term in skateboarding, Rob Brink to set the record straight and find out who officially is in this elusive club.
When did you come up with the term and when was the first time you used it publicly?
Right after I moved to Cali. In early 2005 I was dating a girl who grew up around a bunch of skaters and she had a picture of Austin Stephens on her fridge. I think it was kind of a joke that she crushed on him or whatever. It was a black and white portrait and Austin is looking all dashing in it. I’d never really seen a skate photo like that before. It looked like a Calvin Klein ad from Vogue or the cover of Esquire or something—anything but a skate portrait.
I used to look at that photo when I was at her place and get stoked because I’ve always been drawn to people with good sense of style in multiple facets of their lives … a certain level of sophistication and good taste. I’m the first to say when I think a guy is good looking. Not in a gay sense but in the sense of admiring and acknowledging it. I’ll shop and dine and drink tea all day long. People have thought I was gay since the 5th or 6th grade.
Coming out of the 90s which was so hip-hop influenced, full of people trying to act all tough and hood … then into the 2000s which was heavily punk rock and dudes rocking tight black girl’s jeans and trying to look and act like rock stars … I was always excited to see someone who was just tasteful with their skating and their sense of style. Austin Stephens was the first one that struck me as that. But Reese Forbes is definitely one too. He was hooked up by Jaguar. That’s some next level Team Handsome shit … especially back then.
As for it’s first documentation … I mentioned it to Bryce Kanights at the second Maloof Money Cup in Orange County. I was just sitting next to him watching Alex Olson skate … and I usually just think out loud and spew whatever is going through my mind … running commentary, if you will. And I said something like “Check out Team Handsome killing it right now.” And he was laughing. A day or two later he emailed me asking if I minded if he used the term in a Skatedaily blog post. I was like, “Sure!” And so he posted something about it and credited me with the term. That was July 2009.
I think it really got legs after my Free Lunch came out. I had no idea. I thought it was something people wouldn’t even think twice about. Then it popped up on the Slap Forum and there were Photoshops happening and now it’s just worked into the skate lexicon and I smile every single time I see and hear it. I’ve seen Dyrdek use it, Alex Olson post about it, Luan’s new Flip ad mentions it and so on and so forth. I get tagged all the time in Team Handsome shit or kids ask me if they qualify to be on. It’s seriously so awesome. Sometimes I just look up the Team Handsome hashtag on Instagram and it’s so rad to see all the skaters on there. It also seems to be a big thing in the black community, but I’m not sure where it derived from in that context. I’d be interested in seeing what’s up with that.
Who did you have in mind for the original Team Handsome squad? Could you see there being any additions?
Going way back in skate history, Reese and Austin, as mentioned, are kind of the precursors to Team Handsome. Peter Bici and Paul Sharpe could kinda go in there too I think. I’m sure I am leaving a few out from back in the day. People can go wild in the comments and let me know. If I had to pick a lineup right now, on this day … here’s how it would go:
• Dylan Rieder
• Danny Garcia
• Austyn Gillette
• Ben Nordberg
• Alex Olson
• Arto Saari
• Kenny Anderson
• Brian Anderson
• Gino Iannucci
• David Clark
You line up those dudes and the level of handsome is pretty undeniable. But they also all look great on a skateboard, have great sense of style and a great trick selection. They are all iconic in their own ways. And yes, hopefully the tradition will continue and additions will always come. Seems like Tom K., Curren Caples and Donovan Piscopo is being groomed for Team Handsome, and that’s rad. I should also shout out Mark Oblow, Ryan Allan and Bill Strobeck for being chief Team Handsome mentors and documentarians along the way.
What qualities does someone need to be considered Team Handsome? Is it style? Looks? Is there any intellect involved?
Oh all of the above. It’s a complex formula, my friend. There’s a certain level of sophistication that’s inherent in all the members of Team Handsome. They are the gentleman who, not only skate well, have a great trick selection and look amazing while they skate, but they also have a sense of style (on and off the board) and aren’t afraid to break out from the norm of what most skaters look like these days. Easily validated by how many copycats pop up … case in point, Dylan Rieder. One might argue that the small cluster of dudes themselves all look similar, but compared to how the average skate population looks, it’s a bit of a departure for sure, which is also why it’s been so hated on and made fun of over the years as well.
Beyond that, they probably have great taste in wine, read fashion magazines (sometimes end up in them), pull more chicks (often times models) than is reasonable or healthy, make smoking look cool, could offer killer restaurant recommendations as well as fashion, shopping and grooming tips.
It’s hard to pinpoint, but when a dude has other dudes talking about how “handsome” he is … then that’s the pixie dust right? I can’t tell you how many people ask me, “Is so and so on Team Handsome?” and I’m like, “I dunno but it sounds like he’s on YOUR Team Handsome.” Someone recently asked me if Trevor Colden was on Team Handsome. I thought that was hilarious ‘cuz it’s like … “Now I know your taste in men … and clearly you like ‘em young.”
Another funny thing is that people just assume if a guy has a proper hairstyle or something that he’s Team Handsome. People often jump the handsome gun and jump to handsome conclusions. A trip to the barber, cuffed pants or pomade doesn’t get you on the team, bro! It’s not any one thing, but rather, a complex combination of very specific elements in the handsome equation.
In the macho world of skateboarding do you think being a good looking male could ever be a potentially negative quality?
I don’t know that attractiveness is ever a bad thing. I don’t mean that in a shallow way like that’s all that matters, but it seems our society, whether it be skateboarding or beyond, is drawn to attractiveness and most people would prefer to be attractive than not attractive. I don’t think anyone is going out of their way to date people they aren’t attracted to, you know? Who doesn’t want to be more attractive and who doesn’t work to do so? From the clothes we wear to our hair or whatever else we do … it all kind of plays into our desire to be attractive to other people in some way or another. Nothing wrong with that. If it consumes you or you can’t see past attractiveness or lack thereof, then you’ve got some problems. Maybe asking Dylan or someone like that would yield a better answer. I’ve never heard any of them complain that they are deemed “handsome.” Seems to me they’ve all embraced it quite well.
For me it’s really just a tongue in cheek way to play off of how taboo homosexuality still is in skateboarding and society. That’s all it’s ever been for me. A way to normalize it … get people talking about it and not fearing it and so on. Embracing it, making it familiar and ultimately acceptance follows and that’s the goal. People started calling me gay in the 5th grade. And they weren’t being playful … it sucked. And if that’s how much shit I got without being gay I can’t imagine how difficult actually being gay could be for many people at times.
My defense, I suppose, was to eventually accept that people think I’m gay and embrace it, play off it, empower myself … not only to not have my feelings hurt by it, but to spin it into a positive thing. Not pretend to be gay, or disrespect the gay community or appropriate it, but to own the way I am. To not feel insulted or hurt by people thinking I’m gay. It shouldn’t be an insult. And I think the very fact that I’m answering these questions for you and that Team Handsome has become this “thing” in skateboarding is a testament to that it’s possible to flip negatives into positives and change perceptions if you just own how you are and be yourself.