i have been buying clothes at skate shops for over 2 decades. Since, now i own a skate shop i get to see the other side of the counter and wanted to discuss why i myself have chosen to buy not just my hardgoods but my softgoods from skate shops all over the world for all these years. i now also have a bit more knowledge from the other side of the business so i will pepper in some of that insight as well. On the website for my friend's tattoo shop he says "become who you already are". i really like that sentiment. Very few people "just" skateboard. Skateboarding becomes a part of you. It takes root in your soul and seems to merge with your DNA. It becomes a part of who you are.
i know i have waxed intellectual many times about how skateboarding is a form of self expression but i want to take that to a slightly different place. How you dress is also a form of self expression. Our wardrobe selections are like little flags we fly to send subtle (and sometimes un-subtle) hints of who we are to the people around us. When skate shoes first started coming out i made quite a few friends just with that flag. If you saw someone else wearing skate shoes you knew how much they loved skating because they threw down the $70 or $80 to get those Airwalks or Visions. You knew you instantly had something in common and a great ice breaker for starting up a conversation.
Although many skate companies have moved into the "lifestyle market", skate company clothing still is a great way to ID fellow skaters and even what their skate style may be like. i'm still amazed how in my lifetime i've gone from having difficulty finding stores that sell skateboards to seeing clothing made by skate companies reach into mainstream America.
As both a shopper and now a seller of skate clothes i do realize that their prices can seem higher than the clothing i'd say the average American might wear. There are many reasons for this and i will touch on a few. First and formost is QUALITY. In my experience skate clothing is usually constructed of higher quality materials and designed with better features. Because skate companies know what you're doing in their clothing they can design items specifically for our needs. Wether that be thicker materials in blow-out spots, extra stretch where we need it, unique pocket placement, or just a bit of ventilation, those subtle features just make them more comfortable for us and longer lasting.
The "Work Pant" style chino's i've been wearing from Enjoi are super comfortable, allow me a greater range of motion than my other favorite "work pants", and all the seams are stiched and covered just adding to their great comfortable feel. The flannels i've been wearing from Mystery, Fallen, and Innes are the softest i have ever worn. Skate t-shirts are made with heftier and more durable material than you find at the Old Navy, Targets, and Gap's of the world. Same with hoodies. The skate clothing may cost a little more but they will last you more than a season. Make the investment and you will save in the long run when you are not buying new clothes all the time.
Second comes the idea of businesses standing for something. i love my Fallen jeans so much i practiacally need an intervention when it comes time to throw them in the laundry. But what's even more impressive is that they are actually MADE IN THE USA! It is so difficult to find anything, especially clothing, that is made in this country. It may cause their price to be slightly higher (but still not too high) but you are supporting reasonable wages. You are supporting work environments with conditions better for the employee, compared to the unfortunate situations we see all too frequently in outsourced clothing manufacturing. Many of these smaller skate companies (compared to the huge, global corporations they are competing with in the clothing market) are taking stands beyond just the quality but towards strong ideals.
Lastly, who do you want to support? Every day we vote with our wallets. Do you want to support these skate companies that are developing great products for our enjoyment, supporting the pro skaters that we get inspired by, and support the activity that we love. By shopping for these goods, as well, you are supporting your local skate shop. That part of your community that provides a place to meet up before a session, a place to stock up on parts after the session, a place to watch the latest skate videos with friends, and the supporters of local skaters through sponsorships, events, and fundraising help for skateparks.
Having viewed it from 2 sides i realize now, more than ever, that in order to maintain this beautiful and inspiring counter culture that we've all created we must support one another. Support skateboarding.