‘Why Is Every Skater On Earth In Paris?’ — Tagging Along With the Vans Crew During [Men’s] Fashion Week

If you follow skateboarders on social media, there must have been a thought of “what the actual hell” when you scrolled through your Instagram feed last week. Every single skateboarder on the planet was in Paris. Along with their corresponding filmers and photographers. And their entourages, love interests, and a gyrating cast of stragglers.

We were invited to tag along on a series of Vans events, not in full grasp that those events were a part of a gigantic event ecosystem called “men’s fashion week.” If we’re being real, I didn’t even know men’s fashion week was a “thing,” compared to, yaknow, the two regular fashion weeks that produce womenswear — an annual $820 billion global industry compared to the measly $465 billion reigned in by the menswear industry.

Well, it is very clearly a thing.

The first sign that something was afoot was at a skate jam at Bastille last Tuesday, hosted by A.V.E. to celebrate his new pro model. Bastille, perhaps the second-most common Parisian meet-up spot (think of it as the Blue Park to Republique’s Tompkins), has seen its share of skate events in recent times — the left-behind obstacles have put it in that liminal state between skate spot and skatepark. But last week, we’re talking about a Vans event on Tuesday at 6 P.M., with an Adidas event at 2 P.M. on Wednesday at the very same spot, and a Cons event a five-minute bike ride away on Friday.

It was hard not to wonder: if you’re a normal person living in Paris, do these cavalries of skaters at every possible corner come off as something out of the ordinary, or do they not even register?

On Wednesday, Atiba had a retrospective show for his entire career, which really drove home the fact that if you’ve been skating long enough, you’ve probably known Atiba’s name for as long as you’ve known Kobe Bryant’s. I remember opening my first Transworld in November 1798, and seeing those ten-point fonts in every corner: ATIBA, SWIFT, ATIBA, BRITTAIN, ATIBA, ATIBA. Took a while to figure out what they meant, which is bittersweet given the access-to-all moment we currently inhabit.

The walls were covered with photos that are emblematic of skateboarding’s past three decades, but it was the smaller prints that were laid down on tables that were extra fun to dive into. These were quieter moments: supplementary lifestyle shots and portraits that were printed as filler between the A-roll tricks in magazines, full of the supporting characters that give skateboarding its vitality.

Between all of that, there was skating. Mind you, it rained enough to jam up every day to some effect, but when you’re dealing with so many moving parts, and a squad of people all on the same team, there are only really three things you can do: follow the main crew session orchestrated by the TM (which typically means watching Elijah Berle do insane shit while you skate the nearest curb), treat Republique or Bastille like Tompkins and lurk all day, or go off-script with a few select homies and see where you end up. We had a healthy diet of all three.

Beyond mens fashion week, most of us had no idea that Paris chooses a Friday in June to do an all-city street festival called La Fête de la Musique. So the more, let’s say, “fashion-y” Vans OTW imprint carved a bowl out of marble and put it at the base of Sacré-Cœur, which the city of Paris officially renamed as The Church of John Wick earlier this year. Then Justice played. I haven’t thought about Justice in a long time, but people were losing their shit over them, and it seems to track with the internet’s still-reigning obsession with “indie sleaze.” Everything happens at least twice, and it’s Justice’s second moment.

So yeah, if you had been wondering why every skateboarder you follow was in Paris, there you go. And lastly, I will never, ever complain about biking in New York again, which — compared to biking through the Mario Kart-ass streets of Paris — feels like the suburbs. No wonder the bike assault on T.J. made international news.

If there was one lesson learned that week, it’s that travel advice should be taken on a case-by-case basis. They always tell you don’t be a loud, belligerent American when visiting Paris, but we all watched Shealy get seventeen people through the door of some party that none of them had any business being in (while a line of ~200 people waited in frustration) by doing just that. Legend 🫡

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