Why Skate Brands Can’t Go Mainstream

by MR Magazine Staff

n October, beloved skating brand Illegal Civilization officially announced it would be available in stores like Zumiez and Urban Outfitters. What the brand failed to recognize is that if skate culture is Fight Club, the number one rule is: Never support the corporate entity known as Zumiez. “Authenticity is huge,” Massachusetts skater Kevin Centeio says. “Don’t support anything that tries to appeal to skateboarding and the skateboarding demographic but doesn’t care about skateboarding.” To Centeio, and lots of skaters around the world, skater mall brand Zumiez is the enemy. All the skaters that I spoke to were explicit about directing their hatred and distaste solely toward the corporate entity that is Zumiez. People in the skating world just don’t believe the store cares about them; it’s just a brand trying to make a profit. In fact, last year the store made $811.55 million in net sales. For individuals, caring about skate culture goes beyond wearing a pair of black Sk8-Hi Vans and watching every episode of MTV’s Life of Ryan. On the corporate level, critics say, it also has to mean more — otherwise companies risk appearing as if they’re ripping off the culture for profit. Corporations need to do things like help build skateparks, attempt to help skaters tackle the rampant sexism and racism in skateboarding, look out for all up-and-coming skate brands, support skate teams, and have more of a focus than just appealing to the aesthetic and demographic of skateboarders. Or how about actually care about skating. It sounds like an easy fix, but Zumiez, and stores like it, have been ignoring this responsibility for decades, leaving unsatisfied skateboarders to brand their stores uncool and inauthentic. It’s why skaters get mad when people who don’t skate, like Rihanna, wear Thrasher, or when Saint Laurent completely rips off Vans with its own shoe, or even when Vogue decides to do a reviled “skate week” on its online digital platforms. Read more at Racked.