Hair has been having quite a moment in skateboarding. Mid-line hair flips are now acceptable skate video etiquette, and even encouraged in some circles. Skaters show up to their barbers with magazine cut-outs of their favorite handsome pros. Some people have entirely supplanted the act of skateboarding with doing their hair. And when spring hits, at least one-third of your friends are getting their heads bleached.
Yup, we’re just comfortable being open about how our hair looks…but aren’t we avoiding the elephant in the room? Skateboarding remains a blonde and brown-haired activity. Redheads are shunned by our superficial skateboard society.
A 2010 viral video revealed that “gingers have souls.” It turns out that they have tricks, too. However, the closed-minded skateboard industry treats even the most talented redheads with with a degree of disinterest otherwise reserved for flow riders wearing Flex-Fits and skating handrails in former Soviet Bloc countries without adequate mail systems. It is time that we acknowledge how redheaded skateboarders are unforgivably underrated. The ignorance must end.
Exhibit A: Wieger van Wageningen
Let us begin this study of oppression with perhaps the most visible red-haired skateboarder working today. Wieger has a longstanding Nike contract, tenure at a respected board company, and even a pretty cool haircut, which is essential for relevance in a post-#menswear skateboard industry. Except it seems like the spotlight on Wieger does not burn as fervently as his fire red hair.
Wieger is not some middle-of-the-road pro. The dude has one of the only still-revisited parts in the forgotten Nike video, the best part in either Chronicles video, and was the main reason why Enjoi got $11.99 from the Quartersnacks company card via iTunes this week. He does all the right tech tricks, is tall thus aesthetically glorious on a skateboard, singlehandedly brought the backside 180 nosegrind (one of skateboarding’s most photogenic tricks) to new heights, and even makes inward heel flips look cool.
He should be at the very *least* on the cusp of Literally Everyone’s Favorite Skater™ (L.E.F.S.)-status, if not completely adored by every snob who thinks Torey Pudwill’s tricks are too confusing. Yet because his hair is something that we are less accustomed to seeing in a blonde and brunette-biased skateboard industry, he is never brought up in that conversation. Prejudiced skateboarders do not allow themselves to be dazzled by the Wieger experience, and that is a shame.
Exhibit B: Aidan Mackey
Allow us to further break down Charles Rivard Ph.D’s graph:
If ninety-percent of skateboarding is shooting the shit, then sixty-percent of skateboarding is taking about “cherry”. You could fill an entire evening of TED Talks with people pontificating on Sean, Sage, Chuck Taylors, high waters, no complys and beanplants. People have a mental rolodex of each trick T.J. learns in every new bit of footage he puts out. Na-kel overrode any previous mental image of how a nollie hardflip should look in skateboarding’s collective consciousness. Mention something about “cherry” to a bunch of skaters mid-session in 2014, and they stop trying to slappy some rock so they could talk about it until their bodies physically cannot talk anymore. Except there’s one subject less conducive to chunks of skate nerd word vomit…
“Oh, the redhead kid? He’s chill, I guess.”
Anyone who has seen Aidan skate in real life could attest that he absolutely rips, and is as talented as any of the “cherry” kids in his owned redheaded way. See, Aidan was born with a capillus far brighter than mine and yours, or Sean and Sage’s for that matter, so he unfairly gets glossed over by people who would otherwise never dare to to gloss over anything “cherry”-related. Ironic, seeing as how cherries are red and all.
Exhibit C: Brian Brown
The following three parts came out within the same calendar year.
Releasing three parts in twelve months would be a big deal by Californian standards in 2007, but for a guy hailing from just north of New York City, it was unheard of. Before Ishod et al. rolled around and increased the productivity expectations for east coast-residing pros, the bar was far, far lower. You could spend three years at the Fish and not lose your sponsors, as long as you turned in two minutes of footage by year four. Sponsors knew the deal, “He’s our raw, east coast ‘lifestyle’ guy. He’ll get some shitty model to wear our gear or something.”
Not Brian Brown. He put expectations on himself five or six years before skate companies put any expectations on their east coast pros whose names didn’t begin with a Z whatsoever. Yet, said companies did not rush to give him millions of dollars (“Yes, we finally found a guy in New York who does something!”) and his name is not brought up nearly as quick as it deserves to be when discussing the greatest — not even east coast talents — but skateboard talents ever. Could it be…the hair?
Exhibit D: Casey Rigney
Casey Rigney is one of the best skateboarders ever.
“Who? Casey Rigby?”
“Doesn’t that guy skate for Cirque du Soleil or something?”
“Oh, didn’t he switch backside noseblunt the BAM 2 ledge? I never saw the footage.”
“Yo, who nollie heel nose wheelied the Santa Monica stage? Biebel? Or wait, it was that Brazilian kid, right?”
Watch this part:
Casey Rigney is one of the best skateboarders ever. He also has red hair.
The name is typically brought up when you’re stuck watching your friend try some ABD at BAM 2. And even then, his accomplishment on one of the best ledge/worst set-up combos in the city is appreciated in diminutive terms: “Yeah, it’s basically just a switch ollie into a front blunt.” No, it’s a switch backside noseblunt on a curved ledge that has a bench to dodge three feet after you land.
Rigney could have had a part in any major blockbuster video of the 2000s, and if his hair was a tad less vibrant, we’d still be talking about it today. Instead, he wallowed in obscurity on a company we otherwise associate with Tyrone Olson and Rodney Torres’ noseslide down the Hooters rail. The skate industry is all politics, but trying to make it with red hair is like running as an independent. The machine isn’t there to help you win when you’re different.
“I have a dream that the [hypothetical] four little children of these four red-haired skateboarders will one day live in a skate industry where they will not be judged by the color of their hair, but by the content of their footage tape.” — Anonymous
Have a good weekend :)