Deeper Understanding — An Interview With Charlie Birch

Interview by Farran Golding
Collages by Requiem For A Screen
Original Photos by Marimo Ohyama & Alex Pires

It seems like just the other day that Palace was a small U.K. brand buzzing with montages filmed on VHS tapes, and P.W.B.C. news segments aimed at a skate industry still coming to grips with how to use the internet. In the ensuing decade of successes, it has remained unshakably English in its vision — even the fact that Jamal Smith is the only American to turn pro for the brand rings of a certain “foreigners appreciating your homeland in a better way than you do”-type thing.

To the American eye, Palace rose to prominence in that void left by Blueprint at the onset of the 2010s. In the time since, the world of U.K. skateboarding feels like it became closer intertwined to our own. This of course is thanks to Palace, yes, but also because of things like Isle’s unanimously adored “Atlantic Drift” series, the Yardsale videos, Free becoming one of the best alternate channels for skate media, and the inspiring success of the Long Live Southbank campaign.

With little context for how the U.K. scene actually operates, we asked Farran Golding — the man behind many of the deep-dive features on the Slam City Skates blog — to interview Charlie Birch, Palace’s newest teamrider, who we don’t know all that much about on this side of the Atlantic ;)

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Unforgettable — The Oral History of the Twin Towers in Skate Photos

Intro + Interviews by Adam Abada
Header Collage by Requiem For A Screen

The World Trade Center — with its centerpiece, the Twin Towers — opened just a few months before the Knicks won their second championship in 1973, and symbolized a new, modernized era of New York City. As literal twins, the Towers are excellent symbols for the push and pull of capital versus culture which, by the 70s, was really coming to a head in American society. They were the biggest buildings in the world and just one wasn’t even enough.

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‘You’re Ruining The Aesthetic’ — Five Videographers On Skate Video Music Supervision In 2019

Graphic by Requiem For A Screen

Skate videos have long been a portal for musical discovery. Except in recent years, it has began to almost feel like …filler. If one editor finds success with an untapped genre or artist, there is always an avalanche of imitators. If you find that “how has nobody skated to this?!”-song, the answer to your question is often “someone has, it was just in some video you missed.” And a popular song? Forget it, it has been in twenty kids’ IG edits since the day it got uploaded to YouTube.

(Don’t even start with the dude editing his “Trip to N.Y.C!” video to Big L right now.)

Choosing a song that makes an impact, and gets people tracking it down is hard when our attention spans are their fickle 2019 selves. We reached out to five people who routinely put out edits (i.e. not the guys dropping one full-length every few years) to get their thoughts on how the process of selecting music in skate videos has evolved.

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Fashion Takeover — Judgement Day: Skateboarding in 2023

Words by Frozen in Carbonite
Logos by Requiem For A Screen

The Algorithm became self-aware at 2:14 A.M., Eastern Standard Time, August 29, 2023.

In a panic, they tried to pull the plug.

Three billion followers were lost that day — every Instagram account reset to zero. The ensuing confusion wreaked havoc in the skate and fashion industries. Who were the influencers? Did Instagram pros even exist anymore?

In addition, tariffs imposed after the re-election in 2020, combined with a crippling worldwide recession, decimated already-slim profit margins in the skateboard industry. Furthermore, in a Handmaid’s Tale-esque move, the U.S. government went for broke and erected two walls — one on the Mexican border and another separating us from our neighbors to the north. This virtually eliminated both the skateboard industry’s supply of wood and access to Mexican board factories.

A few brave souls fought back. Speedboat runs from Nova Scotia to Boston unloaded decks right off at Eggs. Cesna flights from the Canadian border — some shot down by F-22ss — airdropped pallets of decks onto the bricks of Embarcadero. This barely covered S.F-based pros’ monthly boxes. Kids had to choose between a new iPhone 27 and a new deck for the year. Even pros skated boards until they felt like wet noodles, and could cut garlic with the razortail.

Heads of the skateboard industry held a summit in Paris to develop a plan. They concluded that in order for the industry to survive, it had to partner with another — an industry that had derived, uh, “inspiration” from skate culture for years.

Fashion, baby!

For the skateboard industry to continue, its leading brands had to merge with the dominant fashion houses. What follows are their teams and brand narratives.

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Halo Effect — The Oral History of the First Hundred Dollar Skate Shoe

Collages by Requiem For A Screen

There’s no shortage of talk about a deck’s notorious resistance to inflation. But what about shoes? While something like a Lebron in 2019 is substantially more expensive than a Jordan in 1999, skate shoes have hovered around the same average $70-80 price tag for the better part of two decades, even as skateboarding itself has grown and adapted to new trends, technologies, and customers. Meanwhile, every fashion house in Europe has been raking in the money these past few years, pushing puffy sneakers reminiscent of old skate shoes.

We tracked down the principal figures behind the first three-figure skate shoe, released in 1997, and got their story on what was as much of an anomaly as it was a watershed moment for skateboarding as a cultural phenomenon, and style of footwear design. (Keep in mind that, adjusted for inflation, $100 in 1997 is the equivalent of $156 in 2019.)

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What was the skate shoe landscape like at the start of the nineties?

Don Brown, Chief Brand Strategist at Sole Tech: Airwalk, Vans and Simple were the only other shoe brands. They had become so mainstream and rigid — and there was a dip in the economy, so they scrambled to get sales wherever they could. Pierre [Andre Senizegues, founder of Sole Technology] was doing the distribution for Etnies at the time, bringing it over from France. When skateboarding crashed, vert and freestyle were pretty much eliminated. There was a whole generation of upstarts, like Rocco and them, and everyone in skateboarding rode for Etnies at some point.

Chad Muska: There were a hundred riders on Etnies, or something crazy like that. Even that High Five video had so many people in it. The shoe industry then was like, “Oh, this company is going to give you free shoes. Maybe there’s a chance you get paid.” It was so secondary to boards. There were early pro shoes, like the Half Cab, the Natas, and the SLB, but I think the real start of the skateboard shoe industry being serious was when they began making videos.

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