‘All Part Of The Show’ — The Politics of Pants in Skateboarding

Intro + Interviews by Frozen in Carbonite
Top Collage by Requiem For A Screen
Illustrations by Charles Rivard

Pants, as an article of clothing and a philosophical entity, dominate the skate zeitgeist. They consume the daily banter on #skatetwitter, inspired an Instagram account dedicated to IDing them, and have the potential to become the most controversial item of one’s kit. Pants factions line up like the gangs at the beginning of The Warriors — Dickies disciples, nineties enthusiasts, Polar people, and so on.

So began our quest to investigate — not so much the what of pants — but the why. To accomplish this goal, we interviewed four skaters over a generational spectrum and asked the same set of questions.

As we stitched together the interviews, one common thread stood out: Like everything else in 2020, one’s choice of pants is a political act.

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Gilbert Crockett, Founder of Cee Blues

What are the main things you look for in a pair of skate pants?

The biggest issue is the thigh measurement. I kinda have bigger thighs, so that area has to be a certain measurement for me, especially if I’m going to skate in them. I need to be able to lift my legs up without there being any pinching.

If I’m just going to rock a pair of pants, then I don’t care as much. Everybody does the thing where you throw pants on and lift your legs up to see how easy it is to move your legs around.

Do you have any OCD about pants?

For sure. I should have mentioned the inseam, because the inseam is super important as far as what you’re talking about. Like, I want my pants to go over my shoes, but I don’t want them bunching up at the bottom. I like for them to be able to touch some of my shoe, at least, when I’m chilling. Of course, when you skate, they ride up and kinda look like highwaters, but I like the way that looks sometimes.

“I can’t really expect there to be brands out there that are making exactly what I’m looking for. So, I’m like ‘Alright, well I guess I’m gonna try to make some shit.'”

What led you to start designing your own pants?

The obsessiveness, I guess — just always looking for the right pant. It’s a moving target. I’m into something right now, and I’m chasing that down, but a year ago, I was chasing something else down, and the year before I was chasing something else. I can’t really expect there to be brands out there that are making exactly what I’m looking for. So, I’m like “Alright, I guess I’m gonna try to make some shit, hope that it works and other people are into it, too.”

True waist size or size up?

I wear a 32 in most brands, and I wear a 32 in my brand. It’s not usually snug on my waist; I’m probably like a 30 or 31. Sometimes, if a pant fits really well on the waist and the legs go out from there, it’s uncomfortable. But, like I said, it’s got to be the right thigh measurement, and as long as that’s working, then I’m down.

What’s the ideal leg opening?

In between 9 ½” and 10″. That’s on a 32 at least.

Any “deal-breakers” with pants?

There are too many no-no’s for me to list. I can’t deal with too much taper. I don’t like the look where it’s really loose in the thigh and the butt, then it tapers down to a small leg opening; you look like a spinning top or something. I know the exact opposite is out there, too; like, I’m sure a lot of people hate the way my pants are super wide at the opening, but I like the way that looks.

Honestly, a lot of the look that I’m into comes from women’s clothing. Like, check out a girl’s pair of pants walking down the street in New York City or in LA right now. If it’s a guy and a girl, most likely the dude is wearing skinny jeans and the girl has high-waisted, super-wide pants on. I love the way that looks, and I think it’s awesome how many girls are skating nowadays because they’re rocking sick looks. Most of the time, if I go to a park or a spot and there are girl skaters there, they’re rocking way sicker gear than any of the guys. I love it because girls aren’t afraid to be fashionable, and dudes are terrified of it.

Why do you think skaters care so much about pants?

That’s the make-or-break for skaters. I mean, that’s for anything, as far as dressing yourself. If you got a sick-ass shirt on and your pants look dumb as hell, then you’re just wack-looking. You can’t come back from it.

Think about shoes — you can spray-paint a shitty pair of shoes black, go skating, and people wouldn’t be like “what shoes are those?!” But if you had some bogus-ass pants on and you filmed a clip, people would be like “what the fuck is wrong with this guy?” I feel like that’s the main thing, especially because — fisheye clip, long lens clip, whatever — your head might get cut off, your shirt might not be in the clip. It might just be your feet, your pants and your board. It’s the closest article of clothing to your board, so of course people are going obsess over it.

Genesis Evans, Co-Founder of Humble

What are the main things you look for in a pair of skate pants?

I got to always be able to look down and feel comfortable, but I like so many different types of fits. I also think that it has to do with my favorite skaters that I watch in videos — sometimes it makes you feel like them, and I feel like it makes you skate better. It’s not necessarily the fit that they have, but a lot of the time, I put on stuff and I’m like “Fuck — I don’t feel good skating in this.” It’s hard to really know, honestly.

Do you have any OCD about pants?

I feel weird when it’s under the heel. That I can’t do; I don’t know how people used to do that.

I don’t like my whole shoe to be covered. I like it to be a perfect balance between nice taper and going over. I definitely like the tuck under the tongue. Otherwise, if it’s looking really intentional — I guess I’d have OCD about that, too.

You have your own brand, Humble. Have you ever designed any pants for that?

I feel like we’ve mentioned it once before, but never really looked into it that much. But I think down the line, sure — I’d love to do that.

“Pre-ripped? Can’t do that; you gotta make your own rips.”

True waist size or size up?

I size up. I think my true waist size is probably 34. I came up wearing a lot of hand-me-downs from my older brother. My father would always wear bigger stuff, even to this day. That was always a normal thing. I don’t really know my size because I switch around all the time and always have done that. I’m wearing like a 36 or 38; I used to wear even bigger ones.

Actually, I have an OCD: you know when you wear really big pants and on your hip there’s a crease that goes down both legs, like a weird ripple? I hate that. Now, I get my pants tailored. Sometimes, I get a bigger pant and then tailor them to what they think is right: where it still has that fit but doesn’t do that on the waist. I have so many pairs, but when I’m skating, I usually grab the same one or two.

What’s the ideal leg opening?

I like a little, barely noticeable taper, probably. But it also depends on the size.

Any “deal-breakers” with pants?

I don’t really like the crease down the middle of the leg. I don’t really like it on me, but other people make it look cool. Skinnies? No. Pre-ripped? Can’t do that; you gotta make your own rips.

Why do you think skaters care so much about pants?

When you’re looking down at your feet, you want to feel how it feels when you’re watching someone skating and doing something that inspires you. You want to be able to make yourself feel that way. I think for most skaters, fashion is a big part of skating — I mean, that’s why we’re doing this interview right now.

90% of the day, you’re looking down at your feet. You got to make sure that’s the one thing you’re comfortable with. If you have that fucked up, you’re not going to have a good day skating.

Philly Santosuosso, Owner of Humidity Skateshop

What are the main things you look for in a pair of skate pants?

Shit has got to feel good. I used to wear super-baggy pants when I was a kid. I definitely had my Dickies era [after that] for sure. Once everyone was wearing Dickies pants, I put on some baggy-ass pants and felt like myself again. For me, I wear a size 12 [shoe], so finding the right fit is extremely hard. It’s hard to find a pair of pants that’s extremely baggy in the upper by the knees and in the crotch that doesn’t eat your shoe. I’m too grown and don’t want to look like a bum by my pants getting eaten. It’s about finding that pant that looks like old Chico [Brenes] footage.

Do you have any OCD about pants?

One-hundred percent. Everyone was getting Rothcos, but I was getting relaxed fit in the XL. Insanely big in the waist; huge, dog. They’re insane, but the knee and the bottom is where it fit right, because the knees gotta be big enough to where it doesn’t restrict you. In pants, I wear 38s and 40s in everything. I’m about to drop signature pants on Butter [Goods] this holiday. It’s a denim that’s super baggy in the knee, but you can wear Sk8-His with it and it won’t eat your shoe.

What were the main factors that went into designing your pants?

A lot of measurements. Way, way more than I thought.

For me, every skate brand, every time they do something, you can get the biggest size, and lowkey — like, I love Palace — and I bought their quote-unquote baggy denim, and that shit was garbage. You can quote that — I fuck with Palace, I love them boys. They looked like some Dillard’s [a department store chain in the South] pants.

So when I designed the pants, the main thing was extremely big in the knee. Ridiculously big. Polar is pretty much on point, but the problem — and you can ask anyone that rocks the super-baggy ones — is that the bottom is too big. It eats your shoe. For me, it was all about getting it super big up in the knee and making sure that you can put one cuff.

“It’s about finding that pant that looks like old Chico footage.”

True waist size or size up?

Fuck no; I rock like 40. If you’re rocking your true waist, your shit’s too slim — for me.

With the pants you designed, what leg opening did you end up with?

I wanna say it’s like 7 ½” maybe. It’s a little smaller than people are used to because I don’t want the shit to eat your shoes. You can get a good cuff.

Any “deal-breakers” with pants?

If they don’t look right, they don’t go, dog. Straight up. Nine times out of ten, they’re all too skinny. What ends up happening is that if a pant is marketed as relaxed or baggy, either they’re not baggy enough or the leg opening is way too big. Then, you have to go get them hemmed.

The Polar joints are hard, don’t get me wrong. That’s the closest one, but I had to go get them hemmed up. I fuck with Pontus; I love Pontus. I love everybody doing their thing, so me saying this shit is just personal opinions — it’s not a diss. If you look at them, they fit too straight, and bunch at the bottom. It’s not like the weight isn’t there; it’s like they’re already too broken in. You want your shit to stack right, so if it’s too soft, it looks like sweatpants at the bottom — like you got some baby jeans on or something.

Why do you think skaters care so much about pants?

When you see a photo, aesthetically, it has to look good — no matter what your preference is. I miss the days when Black Label kids were wearing skin-tight pants and studded belts; you’d just be like, “Oh word, that’s their thing.” Nowadays, I think people are truly looking for something to stand out. That’s why people are like “Yo why do your pants fit so good? Why are yours so different?” Because everybody’s tired of the Nike SB cut or the Dickies cut.

I had this conversation with Karl Watson. I was just like “Yo, this whirlybird shit in those tight denims, you’re lookin’ like a ballerina.” He was like “What?!” and I was like “I’m just being honest, yo! If you’re doing those, like, 270 to manny to 270 out, and the pants are flowing and everything’s looking fluid, it naturally looks good.”

I think the industry is starting to be so cookie-cutter to where you have people that’s like “Oh, you’re sponsored by Nike SB head to toe, Vans — head to toe.” [Sean] Malto ruined it for everyone; everybody was dressing like Malto. [When] I started skating, you were, like, an outcast, and nowadays you’re like, “Oh, Malto’s this pretty-looking dude. He looks like he got all A’s in school, and he wears this clean cut.” I think some people are starting to get away from that. The industry is trying to mold us, you know?

And then you got the best skateboarder in the world wearing boxers with leggings, and you’re like “Damn, you’re wearing a double XL tee and shorts that are the size of my boxers and then leggings underneath, and you’re the best.” Yo, he is — dude’s a beast, don’t get me wrong. But it don’t look good. The people that care about denim, or just pants in general, are starting to realize that a front noseslide photo that looks amazing [is better than] some sequence where you forgot where he started.

Pontus Alv, Founder of Polar Skate Co.

What are the main things you look for in a pair of skate pants?

The first pant that I designed that I was really happy with was our surf pants. I hate it when you skate, sweat and the pants get sticky on your legs. I’m not a big fan of skating in shorts; you want to skate in pants. The first thing was a lightweight pant [that is] super loose, so it has a lot of air flow and doesn’t feel like pants. The more free you feel, the better.

I don’t know if that’s an answer, but loose fits, light fabric, and of course, lots of freedom and quite baggy. Loose over the ass area, loose over the crotch area and slightly tapered down to the shoe.

“Everybody’s competing on that whole trick level, spice level, clothing level, fashion level.”

Do you have any OCD about pants?

Fabric is important; I like soft fabrics. Corduroy is a great fabric to skate in because it’s soft, it has a lot of flow, and it has a bit of a stretch. Lightweight twills are great. The leg opening shouldn’t be too wide, but that can be cool if you have more of a straight leg. Everybody has to find their own way. That’s why it’s so interesting, because we all have different legs. It’s a puzzle for all of us to find good pants, basically.

True waist size or size up?

It’s such a hard question. We try to keep a system that if you buy a 32 in one silhouette [it’s consistent]. In our Big Boy pants, we only sell them as small, medium, large, XL, and extra small. We only have five sizes; we don’t have waist and the length like normal sizing. They’re baggy pants, they’re big and either they work or they don’t.

Something that people are not aware of is on each roll of denim that gets delivered to your factory, there is shrinkage. One roll can have 7% shrinkage, and the other can have 3% shrinkage. You have to adjust the patterns according to the shrinkage. You have different patterns for different rolls to match the final measurements that you want. All the denim comes in raw, and you wash it out — like a bleaching process — to get the light blue, the stonewash, the medium blue. Each of those processes has different shrinkage as well. It’s a lot of calculation and a lot of patterns to print out and adjust. It’s fabric; it’s cut and it’s alive.

Sorry, that was complicated — but it’s not easy to make pants. I think that’s why a lot of people do them and they don’t come out well. A lot of people buy pants online, and they expect, like, “I bought these pants last year and I expect them to be exactly the same [sizing].” Yes, in theory — we are trying. In reality, it’s just impossible to make that happen.

What’s the ideal leg opening?

I normally aim for 19 centimeters flat. 21 is pushing it, but it works for some styles. I definitely don’t like it too tapered; some guys are into [a taper] down there where they see a lot of shoe. I like it maybe up to the second or third lace hole, counting from the top.

The gear is so important nowadays; people are experimenting with coloring their pants, cutting them off, sewing patches on them, baggy pants, all kinds of pants, and all kinds of tops to match. I’ve skated since ‘87, and was part of that nineties madness with the baggy stuff when everyone else in the world was wearing tight Levi’s or whatever. It was more like a [revolutionary] punk statement to come with super baggy pants, and everybody laughed at you. It’s cool to see all of that kind of stuff is back today — that “fuck you” attitude. That whole statement is rad that kids are going to school with super baggy pants. Nowadays it’s more accepted, but for sure people are giving them shit, to some extent.

Now, everyone’s an amazing skater, and everybody’s competing on that whole trick level, spice level, clothing level, fashion level. They’re expressing themselves on so many levels. It’s rad how skateboarding communicates like that.

What led you to start designing pants for Polar?

I never really planned on doing clothing when I started my company. My focus at the beginning was “I’m gonna do decks.” I’m all about the graphics, the decks, designing shapes. For the clothing, yeah some of the board graphics become a hoody, a t-shirt. Maybe you do a cap, a beanie. The old school mentality.

Then we just started experimenting, going into factories, and people hit you up, like “Hey, we got caps. We got bags. Oh, we got jackets.” Oh really? Let me fly out and see what it’s about. And then “Oh you want do pants? We got these factories.” All of a sudden you have these things, and you start playing with them.

In the beginning, we tried to do chinos and couldn’t really nail it. The first pants that were a success were the 90s Jeans, which are basically like the Seinfeld jeans, the dad jeans. From there, it went more baggy and more baggy, and then different fabrics and so on.

When I started, I was listening to stores and partners. Like “Yeah, what should we do?” “Oh, we like regular chinos, tapered, this and that.” Those Big Boys, I had them for two or three years, and they weren’t selling. People were laughing at them. Then I’m like “These things are sick; I love ‘em and some of my riders love ‘em, and other skaters like Heitor [Da Silva] love ’em.”

Now, people are catching up, but for a long time there were not many good pants on the market.

Any “deal-breakers” with pants?

A “no-no” would be anything slim or tight — like that whole trend that was in skating when it was super-slim pants, those spandex denim. It’s disgusting for skating. Maybe some of those old glam rock dudes could pull it off, but that shit is a big no-no.

“Everybody has to find their own way. It’s a puzzle for all of us to find good pants, basically.”

Why do you think skaters care so much about pants?

We really care a lot about all our gear. We are straight up nerds. It’s equipment, and we care a lot about how it looks, how it feels. In the end, we are all painting a painting.

We are all watching each other a lot. Like, the homies go out and film each other, then we all go home and get hyped on it. The whole thing, like smoking blunts and watching the footy at night. We’re all vibing. It’s our culture. Like, there was a standout moment in that Bronze video [Trust]. That guy that did a little line at that bridge in New York and he’s wearing some fucked up trainers?

I think they were Nike Foamposites.

Yeah, exactly. The shit just stands out. You’re like, “Whoa, what the fuck’s happening here?” The guy’s doing a 5050 or something. It’s nothing crazy, but I remember it so well. It’s funny how, for whatever reason, it sticks in your mind. It’s all part of the show. Everything matters.

But, of course, that’s just the extreme side of it; I’m not saying all skaters are like that. There’s a lot of skaters that don’t give a shit. They wear whatever, and they’re just out there ripping, never thinking about what outfit they’re wearing. To each their own, you know?

Previously: Need To Know Basis — Three Skate Media Voices on the Economy of Sharing Spots, ‘You’re Ruining The Aesthetic’ — Five Videographers On Skate Video Music Supervision In 2019

24 Comments

  1. idk if i’m high as fuck but i been staring at that pants circle for 10 min, it’s like a pants zodiac

    gucci joggers are compatible with jncos in some sort of chaotic demon way and all that

  2. to be honest, i fall into the tighter fitting category, but i only wear pants with good stretch, so i don’t have to deal with the pinching issue they described. i guess my pants look like Suciu’s fit. pretty normal, not really baggy.

    I really don’t like the way baggy pants look and i’ll put it plainly, so maybe someone will agree… you look like a fridge. your whole bottom half looks like a washed out square. any movement within the pants is being covered up, and it’s doing more to hide your style than accentuate it.

    I just can’t believe people will film a full part looking like https://i.redd.it/o3fp16798g3y.jpg

  3. Everything mentioned here is goofy….I wear Stussy Big ol jeans , Dickie’s and some Volcoms….they seem to move the best for me while skating pools and vert….SKATE LIKE A MAN !!!

  4. Serious question? Why does no one fw Ben Davis pants? I used to fw them heavy and it’s like nobody but me has ever even heard of them. The only downside for me and that I can think of it there are buttons on the back pockets that you can fall on. But, they’re on the soft part of the butt for the most part. They’re solid pants (to me) and different than dickies or carhart.

  5. Ben Davis regular fit, get em narrowed a bit so they don’t absorb yr shoe. Plenty tough.

  6. I fw these pants called Levi’s Signature Carpenter jeans, they have just the right amount of bagginess and they’re only like $20 on amazon. Just wish they had a pair in a lighter wash and one in black.

  7. I think this is pretty funny, the only person I agree with is Philly. I love what Pontus is doing, but to imagine someone saying tight pants is a “no-no” is pretty contradictory to what skating stands for, which is freedom of expression. Personally I’ve never worn tight pants but to say that Reynolds, Spanky, Kirchart, Duffel, Romero and other countless skaters never looked good skating in tight pants? Come on. If everyone ends up doing the baggy look they’re all going to look the same and that trend will eventually die out too. Just put on what you feel comfortable in and skate, this article is just telling kids to wear baggy pants lol.

  8. Of course, which is why it’s kind of funny to have as a snapshot in time. This exact article would look so much different if we did it in 2015, and will look way different if we do it in 2025. Who knows, maybe by then that Emerica 2008 vibe will have the same sort of resurgence that Blind Jeans and “pants from old Chico footage” are now. These things going in circles is the oldest, truest cliche there is.

  9. Amen to that, just thought I had to point that out. I guess it’s different from my perspective after skating for twenty years I’ve seen a couple trends come and go, and that’s not to say I don’t like the baggy trend. I rock the pants too. Just saying from personal experience you’ll skate the best in what you feel the most comfortable in.

  10. Hey There Everyone,

    It’s Prop Joe again, back to shed some light on a topic that I have some experience with. Back some years ago, I had some business that took me out West for a parlay. I agreed to pick up some pants for Avon and String (long story, don’t ask). Anyways, I went to buy some Dickies pants, but the store only had the Ben Davis. I had never seen them, and the store owner advised me that they were mostly not available in the East. Ben Davis is mostly a Cali thing, I do enjoy the snap on the rear left pocket, the plain weave (as opposed to Dickies diagonal weave), and the heft. I could do without the jean style pocket with the flaired top, it’s not a smooth look for a gentleman of sizely proportions like myself. Anyways, you’ll find most of East Side with the Ben Davis line, now that I started importing them into the repair shop. As always, be well, be kind, and don’t lose your mind.

    -Prop Joe

  11. it’s funny reading this the day after sean pablo literally has a full gq profile about him. sean is someone who has by and large kept the same slim kit throughout the past 6-7 years of us knowing who he is. so its a reminder to the kids out there to do what works for you. not everybody got to be a big boys boy.

  12. my favorite pant of all time is the carhart loose fit carpenter pant 42x 30. they are baggy and barely taper. another contender is the ben davis gorilla cut

  13. This article is bound to be a watershed QS moment, so let me just hop in this comments section now.
    Stellar insights all around, on the most important aspect of our subculture. I appreciate Phil’s in-depth technical analysis. Gilbert brings up something that you don’t often hear about but we all do – the constant evolving of the look we’re all after. It’s sort of like how – I’ll speak for myself here — I feel that I’ve never set up for a kickflip the same way twice, which is not a good thing at all. I should come up with more of a consistent plan with that.

  14. Sweatpants are the most functional skate pants, keeps you warm, wont obstruct knees, can absorb the heinous stench of ballsweat

  15. I think the article makes an excellent snapsnot of the time. The fact it could look so different five years ago, or five years from now, is one of its virtues. It really captures a piece of our current moment in skateboarding. So stoked there’s places in skateboarding to publish this work. Good shit.

  16. My pants are so baggy they wear me. I also have a pair of pants that wear a pair of pants.

  17. Some other people mentioned ben davis regular fit in the comments and I have to agree they are kickass.

  18. This is one hell of a dope little article, I laughed a couple of times. The whole stupidity of it almost, we’re such fashion queens on the board. The coolest part was about the girls nailing their fashion and I totally get that. In a weird way it’s easier to explain to my girlfriend what skateboarding truly is (the whole fashion thing and all) than it is to explain to a non skater male friend, they just recognize the varial flip they once landed 15 years ago.

  19. This is such a dope read. I like Crockett said, finding the right pair of pants is a moving target, since my taste changes slightly from year to year. My go to pair right now are the surf pants, true to size in the waist. The legs fit perfectly with just the right amount of taper. I do wish Polar made them in heavier fabrics for the winter time.


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