Skateboarding is iconic in street fashion. In fact, skateboarding itself has influenced street and casual fashion in incredible ways. Normal people walk around with Vans sneakers. Artists and street performers dress in loose baggy skating-inspired clothes.
But why do skaters dress the way they do? Is there a reason behind the style or is it just fashionable?
Honestly, it’s kind of a mix of both, especially nowadays. Even in the 90s, which was the peak of skateboarding practical clothing, some skaters were shirking the norms and skating with their own unique clothing style. Just look at Ali Boulala imitating Sid Vicious and skating in leather jackets and leather pants.
Anyway, let’s just dive into it. This will be a fun one.
What is Skateboarding Style?
Skateboarding clothing style is a bit hard to pin down but has some generalities. Comfortable and casual wear is king. Thicker materials are popular because they can help with road rash and don’t tear easily. Thick shoes with flat shoes and tough upper soles are worn for shoes. Loose-fitting clothes are usually required as anything else restricts motion.
There are many ways to dress while you skateboard and there is no wrong way to dress. As long as you can still skate in the clothes and some skin is covered you’re good to go. I say covered skin because you don’t want to lose a layer of skin from slamming into the pavement shirtless.
Skateboarding pants are loose-fitting and ideally a bit durable. As you will likely be falling in these pants, they should be thick enough to not rip or tear easily.
Chino pants are a classic business casual look that is also often worn by skaters. These pants are lightweight and made from a cotton blend. They usually have a tapered leg as well. Personally, I think these are the most stylish pants to skate in though you need to be careful and wear one size up from your normal fit.
Chinos also typically are available in almost every color so go crazy and buy a neon green pair.
Jeans are classic pants that come in so many styles and variations that it is ridiculous. What makes a pair of jeans is a material, denim. Denim is a tough and resilient material that can handle so nasty falls and prevents road rash. Bikers also love denim for this reason.
You might be tempted to get a pair of skinny jeans, but again buy something that won’t restrict your motion. A tapered leg is fine as long as the size is big enough. There are tons and tons of companies offering jeans. Personally, I usually don’t skate in jeans, but that’s just my preference. I think they feel heavy.
I almost didn’t include cargo pants because I hate them. You can’t really wear them outside of skateboarding anymore without being considered badly dressed. They have become a symbol of bad taste.
Cargo pants are just khaki pants with large pockets on the sides. I think that they show dirt easily as they are usually lighter colors, but other than that they are fine to skate in.
Slack Cord Pants
I love this style of pants because they are usually extremely comfy and loose. They are sort of like sweatpants that have a built-in belt. These pants simply look and feel comfy and that translates to better skating in my opinion. They go well with other clothes that also have a casual look.
You can find these made of different materials such as corduroy, cotton, or even khaki.
Sweat Pants are the bomb. You can wear them in the house, to the grocery store, and while you skate. They are mega comfy and so stretchy that all motion is unrestricted. They are also pretty warm and this means they are good to wear during cooler months.
You can find a pair of sweats from almost all clothing brands whether they are skateboarding specific or not.
These pants are designed for blue-collar workers and people who get dirty. They are thick so that they can withstand the strains of working in tough environments. They also tend to feel a bit heavy and often the material isn’t so stretchy. So, you will want to buy a loose-fitting pair.
Regardless, these types of pants have been popular with skaters since the 90s. You can’t go wrong with a pair really.
Popular Pants Brands
There are loads of brands for skateboarding pants and many really aren’t skateboarding companies. I just put some of the most common brands below.
Also, keep in mind that a lot of companies that don’t do pants will still have sweats you can buy. These include Girl, Santa Cruz, and Nike SB. I didn’t include brands like these in the list below.
Hats are nonessential and really not possible to wear when you have a helmet on anyway. That being said, most skaters don’t wear helmets so hats are quite possible. Nothing like a nice cotton beanie to protect your head from concrete.
Anyway, there are a few popular styles so let’s go over them.
These are my favorite and aren’t specific to skateboarding. Bucket hats block out the sun, have a very casual vibe to them, and just look cool. They are a nice alternative to the more common caps and beanies that people will wear.
You can buy these anywhere and from a million different brands. I like a nice 100% cotton cap and wear one often. You can skate with these though they don’t really have the same counter-culture vibe that you might associate with skateboarding. Again though, it’s just a hat. If you like it then wear one and go skate.
They typically come in cap and snapback styles. I prefer the more classic cap style.
Beanies are pretty common with skateboarders and are comfortable and warm. They are nice to wear on cool fall days and they have a very casual feel to them. Again, there are loads of beanie brands to choose from and you might know someone who will knit their own.
Popular Hat Brands
There isn’t much to say about skateboarding shorts. Get something with a loose material such as athletic shorts or sweat shorts. Cargo shorts and work shorts are also worn by some skaters though I don’t condone them. You will also find shorts in a wide range of colors and designs. Some are pretty cool and I definitely recommend checking out WKND’s shorts selection.
Personally, I skate in shorts in the summertime because otherwise, I would die from the heat. I usually go with sweat shorts as they are very lightweight, comfortable, and don’t restrict movement.
Popular Shorts Brands
Shoes can and should be their own article. There are so many variations on skate shoes, but the key elements remain. The skateboard shoe should have flat soles, a thick and durable upper, and a padded sole to absorb impact.
High Top Skate Shoes
High-top skate shoes are skate shoes that come up and cover the ankle. There are pretty popular now, especially Converse and Nike SB high tops. These shoes are inspired by old school basketball shoes from the 70s which were actually used by skaters at the time. Basketball shoes were accidentally designed to be pretty good skate shoes.
I love the design of high tops though usually, I skate low-top shoes.
Mid Top Skate Shoes
I started by skating mid-top skate shoes and these are the most common type of skate shoe. The mid-top skate shoe’s top stops right at the ankle and is the standard height for a skate shoe.
I think actually that mid-tops are becoming less popular and when I see them I think of the 90s and 2000s. Low-tops are replacing them for the most popular shoe type.
Low Top Skate Shoes
Low-top skate shoes are very popular among nonskaters and Vans has a popular canvas sneaker that resembles this look, but isn’t a skate shoe at all.
These shoes look very casual and stylish and show the ankle. You can definitely skate these and my current pair is a low-top Vans Old Skool Shoe. Make sure you don’t buy a shoe with a thin upper though, as you may accidentally buy a shoe not meant for skateboarding.
Popular Shoes Brands
If you want to understand in more depth what makes a good skateboard shoe, check out our complete guide here.
There really aren’t skate-specific shirts if I’m being honest. Though it is common for skate company t-shirts to be made from heavy cotton and be thicker than normal t-shirts. This is to make the shirts more robust and able to take some falls.
T-shirts go with skating’s casual look very well and most skaters are wearing a t-shirt even if it’s hidden under a sweater or a jacket. The casual yet versatile look is perfect for skating and pretty much any t-shirt will be fine to skate in. I personally keep my ratty or old t-shirts around just to skate in. Otherwise, I probably would have thrown them away.
As I mentioned already, it is common for skate company t-shirts to be made from heavy cotton and be thicker than normal t-shirts. I suppose this is to make the shirts last longer and not stretch out.
Long sleeves are cozy for cooler weather and are perfect for skating in the Spring or Fall. I like the look of a long sleeve shirt and long sleeves have grown to be associated with streetwear. Most streetwear and skateboard clothing companies will have a long sleeve or two available to purchase.
Popular Shirts Brands
Pretty much every skate company will sell t-shirts and most local skate shops sell their own t-shirts as well. With that in mind, I’ll only put a few companies below. There are too many to list and it would be impossible to create a complete list.
If you’re having trouble finding local spots to skate, check out our guide to spotting great street spots to skate here.
Jackets and Outerwear
Jackets and outwear that skaters wear all follow one basic principle. It’s lightweight and isn’t very bulky. This, of course, is better to skate in.
Let’s look at some common outwear styles skaters wear.
Windbreakers are just lightweight, waterproof, and wind-resistant jackets. They look stylish and usually have a hood to cover your head in the rain. They also usually aren’t very warm so you won’t get so hot while you wear them.
They typically have a polyester exterior and come in almost any color. Not every skate clothing company makes these, but some notable companies like Creature and Santa Cruz do.
I love fleece jackets. These incredibly soft and lightweight jackets are also surprisingly warm. Fleece jackets don’t restrict movement at all and are best for colder months or winter skating.
These are definitely less common from skating companies as I guess fewer people skate in the winter months. You can find a fleece jacket with Volcom and HUF.
Sweaters can be dorky, comfy, obnoxious, and even worn while skating. Sweaters can definitely be considered streetwear if they are lightweight and have certain designs to them.
Personally, I think skating with a sweater is great for chilly days as a sweater isn’t restrictive at all and is super comfy. You also get pretty hot while skating and a sweater usually isn’t too warm so that you need to take it off. Plus I think they just plain look good.
These jackets have an old-school military feel to them. Recently, they’ve become streetwear and quite a few skaters like to wear them. I think they are good for casual wear, but can be hard to skate in if they are too tight. They are usually made to be durable but are not very stretchy.
Hoodies come in pullovers and zip-ups. These are iconic skateboarding jackets and are common for casual wear for many non-skaters too. The zip-up jacket is not my personal favorite as I prefer the clean look of the pull-over hoodie.
Almost every skate clothing brand will have hoodies for sale. Skaters like them. They are comfortable, warm, and generally loose-fitting enough to skate in.
Popular Jackets and Outwear Brands
Why Do Skateboarders Wear Pants?
Personally, I like to wear shorts while I skate, especially during the summer. Though slack cord pants are amazing and skating in sweat pants is so comfy on cool fall days.
Skateboarders often wear pants because they help prevent road rash from slams and offer a little bit of protection from shinners. Shinner refers to when the skateboard hits your shin. Otherwise, skaters wear pants just for stylistic preference. It’s a choice of what makes them most comfortable and for some skaters this is pants.
So there is a bit of a practical reason, but it’s not such a big deal. Your shinner will still hurt whether you’re wearing pants or not.
Again it is just a matter of what you like. Many skaters like to wear pants. That’s cool. What do you like to wear? Pants or Shorts?
What Should I Wear While Skating in the Summer?
Skating in the summer is rough for people who live in humid and hot climates. So what should you wear?
During the summer, try and wear shorts, a t-shirt or tank, and maybe a hat for the sun. Sweat shorts or athletic shorts are perfect for summer skating as they are lightweight and don’t restrict movement. A t-shirt or tank is a great choice for upper wear as these options are lightweight and breathable. If it is a sunny day, a bucket hat or a cap are good choices to keep the sun out of your face.
So just don’t overthink it. No one really cares what you wear while you skate and you shouldn’t try hard to fit in. Just dress comfortably and go for it.
Why Do Skateboarders Wear Baggy Clothes?
The baggy style of skateboarding comes in part from a practical reason but was exaggerated in skateboarding style, especially in the 90s.
Skateboarders started wearing extremely baggy clothes in the 90s. The reason behind this was you couldn’t wear tight clothes while skating as it would restrict your movement. If your movement is restricted, then you can’t pop tricks or land tricks properly. Skateboarding requires flexible and loose motions that are hindered by tight, well-fitting normal clothes.
The extreme baggy clothes from the 90s definitely overdid it though. You don’t need a shirt or pants three sizes too big to skate. Simply a loos fitting and stretchy pair of shorts or pants will do just fine.
What Should Girls Wear While Skateboarding?
This is often asked from a style standpoint, but the question is a bit silly when it comes to skateboarding.
There are no differences in skateboard clothing for men and women or boys and girls. Skateboarding requires the same loose-fitting and tough material no matter the gender doing the skating. Like with most sports, a sports bra would be a wise choice for young women. Otherwise, everything else from skate shoes to pants is not gender-specific.
So really, just dress comfortably and go skate. If you want some inspiration, check out some of the awesome professional women skaters out there and see how they dress. Alexis Sablone is an awesome Olympic skater and artist in New York City, for instance. She dresses often in jeans or work-pants with a beanie. She dresses just like the guys.
If you’re curious about what celebrities are skateboarders, check out the greatest list of celebrity skateboarders here.
So there it is.
Skateboarding fashion is largely inspired by practical reasons, but so many skaters dress in their own unique style as the culture encourages self-expression. There are so many skateboarding street clothing brands out there that it isn’t possible to list them all here.
Honestly, you should just dress in a way that makes you comfortable and doesn’t hinder your skating. Don’t wear anything too tight as it will restrict you from popping and landing smoothly. Thicker materials like work pants and jeans are great for falls and road rash.
Also, if you like a style just go for it and wear it. Don’t get caught up trying to imitate a certain look or wonder if skaters are supposed to dress a certain way. It really doesn’t matter and only very immature people think it does.
Just have fun and express yourself. That’s the most important thing.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and look out for more articles from Board and Wheels.