If you suffered and survived skateboarding’s “big pants, little wheels” era, you would be rewarded, but that didn’t mean it was all high fives, from ‘95ish on. We were still in the highly critical hate zone, where styles were being dissected and Big Brother was ripping anyone they deemed a kook and ruining careers, but we all agree Simon Woodstock asked for it.
Jocks and norms weren’t cheering on the Birdman and Flying Tomato, but rather still thinking it was childish that we were playing skateboards and it would still be a minute before pros were more than “skate rich” aka having enough money to not have a part time job and actually being able to afford what they were buying without the government eventually fleecing you for not paying taxes.
Nope, a lot of shit needed to happen in order to make it OK to do smith grinds again, allow corporations to lace everyone up, and open up skateboarding enough to allow it to be as wide as it is. Some of said stuff is awesome, like the entire existence of 101, and other things aren’t that fantastic. Peep this list and tell me what I an asshole I am for leaving out how gnar the advent of Anti-Hero was (yes, it was!) or whatever was important for you, and discuss five years of skating that will have decades of influence.
YOU FOUND ZOO YORK ADS CONFUSING
I wasn’t the only one a bit miffed by Zoo York ads right? Subliminal messages, high design, map coordinates, lifestyle shots, SAT words, and Free Masonry references. I read Behold a Pale Horse and shit, but man whatever Eli Gesner and the Zoo Crew were into seemed so next level–I felt sheltered. Criminology, The Zoo York Institute, expensive soccer looking jerseys that never got dirty, Zoo was entirely on aw secret society trip. Ocular??? Huh?
The whole aesthetic and concept was so advanced, that it completely changed the industry and people are still catching up to the genius. Don’t even get me started on the Illuminati ads, my brain can’t handle it. Sometimes I even forgot to look at the actual tricks, because I was too busy reading some vertically printed text/inside joke that I’d never comprehend anyway.
DREADS, YOGA, AND 60MM WHEELS
In the wake of The Sub Zero video, Eastern Exposure 3, and with Zoo York in full world domination mode, raw East Coast skating grabbed the skate world and started strangling it. Did anything look cooler than watching a high speed line go down in traffic on a city street? Way better than a school yard in direct sunlight right? Now watch this to prepare for the rest of this mentally. But no one expected things to evolve from that gritty street vibe, to something more placid and well… crunchy.
Speed, precision, and cruising, were a natural reaction to what we’ll call the “Slow Mystery Flip” era aka the early ‘90s. The big wheels and wide boards made sense with the way people were skating, but the yoga revolution was a huge curve ball. Suddenly people were doing sun salutations before a session, so they could extend a wallride nollie out to elastic levels. Wheatgrass shots, reggae soundtracks, white boys attempting to grow dreads only to stuff them into a floppy cap that smelled like sweat. I guess that demographic never really went away, but for a while it felt like everyone was irie as fuck.
YOU EMBRACED WINDGEAR OF ALL VARIETIES
When people were tired of finding new natural landscapes to wallride or bending over poles to jam off, tech skating fell back into favor. A lot of dreads ended up on the floor, and hemp pants gave way to swishy wind gear. All things windproof became popular–especially in the North East and in San Francisco, as it’s functional and relative to the weather–with the post-rasta. Doper and more expensive gear started to really creep in during the mid-‘90s.
Did you think Mike Carroll looked even more stylish ripping up Pier 7 in some windbreaker you could never find? I sure as fuck did. Polo, Nautica, North Face, even Helly Hansen was thrown in the mix, and the skating reflected that clean crisp look. Fuck a crooked grind, stand up on that front truck and nosegrind pop out an entire block like Kalis. Of course shorts are always semi-illegal, but don’t be afraid to hike up the legs of your Nike windpants and have people ask if you’re a drug dealer. Bonus points if you drove a tricked out whip… most of us couldn’t afford that shit.
YOU OWNED CHILL SHOES AND SKATED IN THE PUFFIEST OUT
If you skated in the mid-late ‘90s, you definitely saw someone roll up to a spot with Tims, some technical Nike hiking shoes, or some other pair of chill shoes, only to zip open a backpack revealing a pair of equally puffy and seemingly non-skateable DCs or other scientifically advanced footwear. That seems tedious right? Well, that was the price of looking fly and avoiding comments from people that noticed that your shoes were ripped and you looked borderline homeless.
Those Sal 23s, Jamie Thomas Emericas, and other simple shoes made sense before the vulc revolution, but then things really got out of control. There’s no need to bring up Dave Mayhew’s shoe right? (I’m hoping none of you are eating while you read this) When every shoe started looking like some Air Jordan that someone in the mall who wanted to kill me would wear, skate shoe selection became laborious. Just give me some fucking Half Cabs please.
Did anyone really stash weed in the secret compartment in those Circa Chad Muskas? Why did we all decide feeling your board was less important than being seen wearing skiboots? Did anyone really think having “chill footwear” would give them a better chance at getting laid? Thank god we have choices again.
YOU HAVE A SOMEWHAT IRRATIONAL LOVE OF TOM PENNY AND CHAD MUSKA
Penny and Muska will always be connected in my somewhat damaged brain, partially because they both blew up in the mid-late ’90s and also because they both weren’t shy about being white dudes who ripped that REALLY liked weed and rap music. The baggiest of baggy, boom boxes, gold chains, illusioning uncontrollably, and throwing haymakers at skateboarding, before going off the rails in completely different ways.
Muska Hosoied the hell out of himself, almost becoming the mayor of LA, rocking a spotlight sunburn, and Tom… well did the opposite: he disappeared. I’m not hating, dipping out and being mysterious, as well as juicing opportunities as hard as possible are both cool, it’s just a drag that we didn’t see these guys skate more, because selfishly that’s why we loved them. Right?
Also, you know that beanie with the brim they both ran for so long. What was up with that shit? It wasn’t the worst look and Penny managed to look cool having one stuck on his dome for the majority of the ‘90s, but why was the bill so fucking short? If you really wanted to jock the Muskas and Pennys of the world, you had to pair this one up with some obnoxious headphones too and completely avoid talking.
411VM WAS YOUR INTERNET
411 was the equivalent of the internet for three quarters of the ’90s. That’s a big deal. Who didn’t like how random the 60/40 commercials were, or fast forward some spot check on a clunky park in Germany, or losing it anytime Sal Barbier addressed us via “The Grapevine”? For real, when he announced that Goodtimes Intelligence Agency was giving away a trip to Hawaii, he was genuinely puzzled–you can’t script that. By the way, who won that trip and what did it entail? Did you get to hang out with Carl Carpenter?
Having a steady stream of video showing up at your local shop made you feel connected and let more scenes shine, instead of exclusively seeing more footage of “some guy with a backwards fitted” somewhere in California. Being able to see what was going on in Love, Pulaski, or New York, in what felt like realtime completely changed the world’s view of the East Coast, inspiring people from everywhere to check out the spots. Ultimately that was a good look for everyone.
There was one small, tiny, well.. I’m being kind, the music could be terrible at times. For the unaware, understand for a second that music licensing is tricky and was much more dangerous back in the ’90s when labels and artists had more at stake dollar wise. Steve Rocco set a precedent by using whatever songs he wanted in all of World’s videos, but it was stealing and the only reason they didn’t get sued was that skate videos were largely under the mainstream’s radar. That’s probably why a legit operation like 411VM had to use some questionable songs. By questionable I mean Weird euro rap soul fusion, C-level grunge, and a steady diet of those crappy Jazzamatzz albums that were as exciting as watching a friends section in a shop video. RIP Guru, but that live instrument, adult contemporary concept was garbage.
YOU HATED ROLLERBLADERS
The hate has been shifted to kids on dangerous metal scooters, but nothing was more toxic in the second half of the ’90s than seeing a rollerblader show up to a spot and proceed to bum everyone out. Flamboyant spins, weird “grinds” where you cross your legs, and those ridiculous grabs that served no purpose other than looking like a kook. The only thing worse than seeing a blader, was getting beaten up by one when you talked shit to them. I’ve seen it happen and will protect the identity of this person to preserve their dignity, but it went down and even worse, homeboy was still wearing blades during the fight. That has to be an unfair advantage right?
YOU WITNESSED THE IMPACT OF THE MOVIE KIDS
Regardless of whether or not Kids was a good movie, it’s negative implications were a pus filled pimple on the skate world ready to burst. While it made a lot of people rich and famous and set a lot of careers in motion, having to watch everyone with a skateboard suddenly become “tough,” was brutal. Aping the slang, hitting people you could probably knock out with one punch with skate decks, ridiculous pant sags, and just acting like you’re a downtown thug when you’re really a dude from the burbs that worked at a supermarket, Kids emulation resulted in regular humans hating us for years.
Still, the actual movie was honest and real and it was a trip to see all the NYC heads on the big screen, but it also paved the way for riveting cinema like Grind and most recently the modern masterpiece Street Dreams. Thank you Mr. Clark for opening up the gates so that could happen.
SURPRISE RETIREMENT PARTS BUMMED YOU OUT
This one should technically be in the last installment since Matt Hensley’s retirement part in Questionable shocked most of us regular, not connected groms and set us into a summer long depression. That was 1993, but it instilled fear in many throughout the decade and for some to this day. Knowing that the promise of a sick new video could also result in your favorite skater’s number getting hoisted to the rafters–That shit is too depressing, especially when you’re a kid and the worst thing you’ve dealt with was the passing of a pet or a good ass kicking.
As the ‘90s motored on, the importance of “big” videos grew, and their impact could flip the industry around, even if they didn’t have some big Hollywood premier or two-year marketing build up. Imagine being a young Pat Duffy, going from a regular dude to “The Terminator” in such a tiny period of time, knowing every little shit in skating expects your next part’s ender to be a backside 50-50 down a fourple kink rail, while your body is aflame, blindfolded? Jesus. It was only a year between Heavy Metal and Welcome to Hell, but I remember sitting in a theatre in Boston, antsy and amped on coffee, waiting to see what the Toy Machine crew had in store for us, and most importantly what The Chief was going to throw himself off, hoping there wouldn’t be some sappy montage sending off Mr. Templeton.
Older and wiser? Check out signs you were an early 90s skater.
Words: Anthony Pappalardo
Follow him on Twitter/Instagram: @anthonypops
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January 2, 2014 12:41 pm
I’m a grown man and I still despise the fruit boots.
November 9, 2014 1:43 pm
“I’m a grown man and I’m still insecure.”
July 6, 2021 5:01 pm
My brother was a pro skater boarder and i was a pro inliner we loved each but had our bad times. In NYC inliners and Boarders got along. it was the freaks that live outside the realm that cant deal with puberty whom cant deal with them selves so they hate everyone else… nice pic of Jay Dick doing a royale
January 2, 2014 2:11 pm
I’m with you Manna..
January 2, 2014 5:36 pm
Fuck yea.., Tom Penny, 411, swish pants and chunky shoes – spot on!
January 2, 2014 6:26 pm
Yet another great read. I didn’t start skating until 2004 but I have so much respect for how skateboarding was back then. Seemed alot more raw, innovative and pure. I wish I could have been a skateboarder in the early 90s. To me that was the best era for skateboarding
January 7, 2014 10:00 am
I’m with you, fully agree. Though I stepped on the skateboard for the first time at the late 90’s, I never realized how great 90’s were until they were past. I would give anything to be able to skate and be a part of skateboarding scene the whole 90’s decade. Golden era for life! Well at least how it is for me, the skateboarding I love existed in that period of time and I want to stuck with it.
April 7, 2015 2:49 am
I didn’t start skating till 2011, and i don’t get it. These guys dressed like total weirdos, they all wore shoes
kind a like my grandpa who has one leg shorter than the other. I don’t get people’s appreciation for the
past when Nyjah is putting out part-to-end-all-parts like Fade to Black.
August 3, 2016 4:04 pm
Little Jimmy, you started skating at the wrong time. I started in 2003 and stuff was changing then but something about the 90s is just so cool. Then again, you’re just a dumb kid who thinks the lame shit going on today is cool… I’d be happy if things went back to the way they were in like ’05.