Subcultures thrive on insider knowledge. You either know the right code words, the right music, the right culture or you don’t. That holds particularly true in skate culture, where there’s always been a constant tension in skating’s status as a commercial industry, an athletic activity (dare I say a sport) and a cloistered subculture that appeals to outsiders. That tension resulted in some amazing creativity in the '80s and '90s, when people pushed the boundaries of what was possible on a skateboard and took it from pools to ramps to the street. Meanwhile, an entire school of graphic design matured and a film and photo aesthetic developed to document (and sell) the personalities of a growing cadre of pro skaters, most of them under 20-years-old. Brands regularly and recklessly stole and flipped logos regardless of cease and desists, and skate and mainstream culture co-opted each other, resulting in ridiculous movies and Air Jordan-biting skate shoes.

Before you could decode all this stuff with the help of the Internet, the only resources to find out what was cool were word of mouth and a couple of magazines. Your sources were older brothers, rat-tailed kids outside 7-11 and Thrasher or Transworld. Tons of brands made their marks in the '90s and faded away. But skaters’ memories are deep and today many designers and artists, from Noah to Gosha Rubchinskiy, are looking to the first decade of street skating for inspiration.

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Tags: skateboarding