Fashions love affair with skateboarding is somewhat old news now. They look set to be intertwined for the foreseeable future. Here are my thoughts on why I think this is a good thing…
As a person who loves to participate in sports, I would scathe at being called a ‘Tom Boy’ as a child, I would think, “I am a girl… Why do they have to label me some sort of boy just for wanting to have fun?” Why is masculinity attributed to anything interesting I want to do?
For this reason, the seemingly clueless inclusion of skateboarding in shows at London Fashion Week, and in magazines such as Vogue and Marie Claire, (which I imagine had most skateboarders rolling their eyes in disgust), has brought a sideways smile to my face.
Narrow and socially constructed ideas about what a girl ‘should be’ are one of the many reasons that some young females have low confidence and self esteem, and the problem is that a lot of people are also led to believe them.
It is true that almost half as many girls aged 14-25yrs play sport than men of the same age, this is the same across all sport, but in skateboarding, that gender gap is clearly larger.
It is even more of a shame that many women might feel like they do not possess these ‘masculine’ qualities, thus left to feel there is no place for them within the activities and roles considered to be classically masculine. Careers such as Engineering, Mathematics and Science have always seen a predominately male workforce.
The negative experiences women have faced throughout history, and still face today, has somewhat led to a rejection of feminine symbols and ultimately to a rejection of femininity itself within male dominated areas.
Women have felt a strong drive towards ‘proving themselves’, showing that they have attributes to rival their male counterparts,
This is something which I feel is the main culprit of low participation in sports amongst females, but in regards to skateboarding in particular, masculinity seems to be prized above femininity. Where there have been female skateboarders in the past, many have often tended to dress/act like their male counterparts, (I have no problem with this as people can do as they wish), but I do feel that the rejection of feminine symbols, especially by female role models themselves, is the very thing that has helped skateboarding maintain its stature as a male dominated sport.
Skateboarding has become a multi billion dollar industry and a huge global social commodity, therefore it is no surprise that its recent use in mainstream fashion, including female and more importantly ‘feminine imagery’, was going to impact it to some degree.
I feel that the recent inclusion of skateboarding into shows like Kenzo and Ashish has ‘de-masculinised’ the skateboard, opened up peoples minds and made skateboarding more appealing to girls and women in the masses.
Advertisements like this ambiguous Celine one may seem (to some skateboarders) to be ignorant of subcultural signifiers and an inaccurate portrayal , but to a young female viewer it can symbolise being undefinable and transcend ideas about what a female can be.
I believe young girls who may be lacking in confidence feel like they need these masculine attributes to be able to succeed or even to participate. You could argue that Skateboarding has always been a cultural symbol of masculinity.
Coupled with this, we are seeing professional female skateboarders such as Leticia Bufoni being met with adversity from both fans and peers simply for being what is considered to be ‘feminine’, this public criticism against femininity still only serves the ‘Boys Club’ mentality. Bufoni made history by becoming the first female skater signed by Nike.
This quote by Lacey Baker illustrates the constant judgements women have to face, “The skate industry is a bunch of dudes making decisions and judgements. If I don’t have long hair, wear tight pants and a push up bra then they decide I look too much like a boy. They don’t care about how well I skate or my skill level. It’s about how I look. It’s about how we all look. It’s catering to all these dudes in the skate industry. “Who’s the prettiest? We choose you…”, this highlights the continued social struggles people face simply with how they choose to dress.
Alana Smith, another prolific professional skateboarder, in the past has curled her long blonde hair before a contest, which speaks to me as being a stand against being masculine, for reclaiming femininity and giving it a space. This may seem vacuous to you…but why is it you think that?
The crossover of the fashion world and skateboarding away from the usual constraints of the skateboard industry has in my mind had a positive effect on female participation in the sport as we see something classically marketed to young boys projected into a new domain received by predominantly females.
I for one feel that nobody, male or female should be sold an idea about how to exactly dress or be and that shaking things up will be a positive for everyone, except maybe the people trying to separate us all into market segments!
(I am not accrediting all the increased female participation of skateboarding to the fashion industry and massively respect the efforts of every female in the industry , MAHFIA, Skate Like a Girl, Girl Skate UK, Girl is Not a 4 Letter Word, Don’t Quit Your Day Job to name just a few, it is simply a look at how things are changing)