Whether you know him from his Bones Brigade days, or the X Games, or via Activision—turn off that console and go skate!—Tony Hawk is pretty unarguably the most influential skateboarder of all time. He is to the sport as Jordan to basketball or Pelé to soccer. Hawk, the king of vert, was in Paris last night to launch himself into a new arena: fashion. The Tony Hawk Signature Line is a tight little collection of tees, hoodies, check-flannel shirting (that broadens into a Rodney Mullen–ishly surprising belted robe coat), carpenter pants, work shirts, and camp-collar bowling shirts. It features some pleasantly nostalgic throwbacks to the days of shocking pink Rib Bones and Psycho Sticks: tie-dye, fluoro green, and some very special photo prints. Hawk kindly signed a Signature Line deck for an up-and-coming skater friend named Nik, and then discussed with this long-lapsed skater his thoughts on the progression of the sport/art, its relationship with fashion, and the perils of soi-disant skatewear—plus, of course, his line.
So, here we are, at a skate apparel launch from Tony Hawk at Paris Fashion Week. Isn’t it interesting how since the ’80s days of “Skateboarding Is Not a Crime” stickers and Ban This and the whole skating-as-antiauthoritarian thing—which was kind of fun—the sport has become so tolerated and celebrated in wider society?
Absolutely. It has changed a lot. And I think the most telling indication is in the success of companies like Supreme and Palace. They reflect street and skate culture through the years and they’ve never really changed their direction. But now it’s become recognized and embraced by a much bigger crowd. People who want to have that look but who don’t necessarily skate.
Doesn’t that always annoy skaters when nonskaters dress up in skater brands?
Kind of! There was definitely a time where that was how it was: like, “Oh, look at these guys dressed as skaters.” But now it has permeated so fully that I don’t think it’s really an issue. The only real issue that I would have with wearing skate clothes is if you wear Thrasher. If you’re wearing a Thrasher shirt you probably should be able to skate, just a little bit! That would be the only thing . . . .
I agree—however I bet the guys at Thrasher are pretty darned pleased with the popularity of the masthead as a fashion statement among people who have never stepped on a skateboard.
Sure! And I don’t care if people want to look like skaters. For me that is just one more piece of cultural validation of what we’ve been doing for most of our lives.
So tell us about this line. You’ve had your name on plenty of apparel in the past, but this one . . . .
This one is more high-quality and in a fashion direction. A little bit more edgy with the colors. And we have incorporated my own signature photos from my own personal archive. So [turns to gesture at shirt behind him] there’s me from Halloween in 1974 wearing a devil suit! And there are some of my original skate photos that my brother shot . . . . So this one he took the first time I ever skated . . . .
Wow! Do you still recall that moment?
I do, yeah! It was in San Diego. In the the alleyway by our home. The sun was going down and I didn’t know how to turn. I ran into a fence and got a splinter in my hand. My brother took the splinters out and then I started working out how to learn to turn. So that’s me barefoot turning for the first time. You know that skateboard I’m on there is in the Smithsonian now.
I remember the ’80s when you broke out in the Bones Brigade the clothes were very different. In the history of skater style, through all of which you’ve been skating, what have been your favorite and least favorite periods?
In the ’80s it was so extreme! So much color that it all got lost among everything else. Now I feel it’s more about wearing one thing that is going to stand out. But I still have a soft spot for what we wore in the mid-’80s because it was so iconic. Somewhat ridiculous, but fun: We were just making it up as we went along. It was innocent, yeah, but also was identifiable as skating. And then, well, there was some stuff in the early ’90s that was pretty regrettable in terms of my personal look! These baggy really flimsy pants, the Limpies . . . and some of the shirts were just too much. But then it started to all get refined through the late ’90s into the early 2000s and that’s when it became really more of a skate look that was timeless. That’s when we really found our stride and our look. And if you look at someone like Dylan Rieder, may he rest in peace, he was not only a really incredible skater but he was doing it in clothes that were very cutting-edge.
And you shot some images for the collection with Anton Corbijn?
Yes, these are all his images here up on the wall. We took them about three weeks ago in San Diego, so they were shot at our home or downtown with a couple of our kids and their friends, who are really good skaters.
What are some of the other pieces that are meaningful to you in the collection?
Well, I really like these bowling-shirt styles. They look cool. And some of them have got these photo collages on them . . . . So my sister shot that, and my brother shot that . . . . [points to photos of himself grabbing air at various pool and ramp competitions in the 1980s] I like this color scheme, too, just like a very subtle peach and cream, and then there is this really bold green . . . . So it is going to be an ongoing line—well, I hope so—but this is going to be a bit of a test.