In the introduction to his interview with Zered Bassett, Chris Nieratko details how Zoo York was once a source of pride for east coast skaters. A few buyouts and a decade later, nobody sets up a Zoo board with a geographic bias in mind anymore. Even if the company completely phases out of skating, people will forever nerd out over their first three videos (Mixtape, at this point, is just as much of a hip-hop classic a la Wild Style or Style Wars as a classic skate video), and chances are, most who began skating after Zoo ceased being any sort of an east coast status symbol have seen those videos and cried about how all the spots are gone.
You can’t type “zoo york ads” into a Vimeo search bar and get any results, so a lot of younger kids won’t see the old Zoo ads. (They probably won’t see the new ones either…do kids still look at magazines?) Those ads are just as full of classic nineties east coast iconography as the original videos.
The Zoo ads throughout the nineties were HIP-HOP at a time when that meant more than leaving comments about how Lil’ Wayne sucks on every pre-2000 rap video’s YouTube page. Other companies even jocked their whole hip-hop scrapbook vibe when it was appropriate: Transworld styled article layouts for east coast skaters with Zoo’s look (see here), west coast companies would run Zoo-esque ads for their east coast riders (see here and here), and start-up east coast brands like Illuminati, Metropolitan, and Capital all had a bit of Zoo DNA in their ads. It’s unfortunate that now, even when paired with a sick photo, Zoo ads look pretty generic.
Thanks to the internet’s leading scanner-based skate sites, we gathered a handful of ads from 1994-2000 into one place. The scans are stolen from The Chrome Ball Incident, Police Informer, and Skate.ly.
“Zoo York ads from 1994 and 1995 are amazing. The grimy black and white photos and their classic logo looked cool as hell back then and still look great now, even if the current Zoo York is a very different company. I remember thinking that Zoo boards were the sickest – anyone I saw skating one seemed just a little bit cooler and ‘in the know’- their boards were a bit harder to find back then than the average Birdhouse or whatever. In the mid-nineties Ryan Hickey was one of the sickest New York skaters. For proof refer to the NYC section in Eastern Exposure three, or any of his Zoo or Stereo ads. I heard that he is big time into fishing now, and I’m sure that he’s real good at that too. Here he is in 1994 doing one of his patented frontside flips over the wall at the Brooklyn Banks.” — Police Informer.