Skater Fashion Essentials: Creating The Vibe

person's torso with beige underwear and bra

The skatewear subculture is not only for skaters these days. People from all walks of life have been rocking the skater look — baggy jeans, long-sleeve flannels, skate shoes, and other essentials — as far back as the 1970s.

Maybe you’re a skateboarding pro –– or maybe you’re someone who likes a cool and comfortable look. You may not be doing kickflips or ollies outside your local skate shop, but you can still use these skateboarding-inspired looks to incorporate into your wardrobe.

Let’s take a look at what makes the skater vibe and how you can make it a part of your everyday outfits.

A Look Back At the Evolution of Skater Fashion

The 70s and the Start of Skateboarding Culture

Skater fashion did not always look quite like what we see today from popular skate brands. After a brief stint in the 50s, skate culture began to kick off around the 70s.

Today, we’d consider the 1970s skate style to be pretty retro. Fitted t-shirts and tank tops tucked into short shorts or chinos were a common look for people hanging at the skatepark. Tall, striped socks in tennis shoes were pretty much a staple.

This began to shift with the emergence of a skating group known as the Z-boys, aka the Zephyr boys. This California crew from the Dogtown area found renown through their aggressive, unconventional moves, improved skateboards, and punk rock attitude. They sported ripped jeans, baggy tees, backpacks, and shoulder-length hair.

At the same time, a Southern California drought made now-empty swimming pools ideal occasions for skaters to gather and redefine the sport. As the decade progressed, famous skaters like Stacey Peralta and Tony Alva sported some of the effortlessly cool skate styles we know today.

The 80s and 90s: Streetwear and Skate Style Begins To Merge

In the 1980s, high-top casual sneakers became the staple in skating footwear. Flat-soled shoes were necessary to keep balanced on the board. As demand rose for more freedom in the ankles, these brands developed low-topped sneakers as well.

We also saw teenagers skating around movies, like Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in Back to the Future, further cementing skateboarding popularity. In the 80s, a lot of skaters were drawn to the punk rock movement. This was reflected in their style –– lots of ripped black tees and graphic clothing. It was all about subverting the norm and enjoying freedom.

By the 1990s, street skating became more established –– so did doing tricks on stairs and handrails. Street styles mixed with skate styles around this time; large shirts, denim, and durable shoes were preferred by many, as they were more protective when you wiped out. Because this was the 90s, flannel shirts were also incorporated into these trends.

Skater Style Spreads

Because of the popularity of baggy shirts amongst skaters, stores began carrying “oversized clothes” in the 90s. Skating apparel became more prevalent in stores, thereby seeping into the mainstream.

To deliberately go against this new trend, a ton of skaters actually rejected the baggy clothing look. However, even nonconformists rocked the large pocketed cargo pants and sneakers they saw their idols, like Tony Hawk, wearing.

This skateboarding street style took off again in the early 2000s. Through the influence of shopping malls and MTV, all these trends were easily accessible. Music played some role here. While some veered more into the baggy hip-hop style, others opted for a more punk look that involved skinny jeans.

Staples of Skater Fashion

To help you put together the perfect outfit, here are some of the basic elements that make up skatewear and streetwear:


Flannels are a classic element of skater fashion and have been since the early 90s. Layering is a crucial part of any street style, so the flannel shouldn’t be missing from your wardrobe. You can wear it when it gets chilly or tie it around your hips for that effortless look.


This is one of the essential pieces of headwear for a skater. For chillier months, you can throw on a beanie for extra warmth while maintaining that chill skater vibe.

Comfy Waistband

Comfort is of utmost importance when creating a skater vibe. Any clothing that is overly structured or restrictive has no place here. That’s why looking for relaxed pants with stretchy, flexible waistbands is your way to go. Think loose jeans or comfy joggers, for example.

Baggy Shirt

Whether it’s just a slightly relaxed fit or an oversized tee, baggy shirts are a must-have for any skater style. Oversized shirts, in general, have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Whether you pair them with baggy pants or form-fitting bottoms, this item is both comfortable and stylish.


Next to flannels, the hoodie is a majorly important layer of skater style. Slung across your shoulders or wrapped around your waist, a hoodie always comes in handy.

Graphic T-Shirt

Graphic tees are a major element of both street style and skater style. Whether you’re sporting a brand logo, band name, personal slogan, or pop-culture reference, a graphic tee adds personality to any outfit. It’s a way to tell people what you’re into, and, frankly, it looks pretty cool.

Baseball or Trucker Cap

Baseball caps, or trucker caps, are a look that’s floated in and out of skating circles over the years. Some wear them frontwards, others backward, some sideways, and some not at all.

Nevertheless, on a sunny day, a baseball cap is a handy accessory that you can easily throw on to tie an outfit together.


Especially in the days of the mid-2000s, ripped jeans were all the rage amongst skaters. While skinny jeans had their time, relaxed and high-rise styles are more in trend currently.

Love low-rise pants? Who doesn't? You can even let your boy shorts peep out from below low-rise jeans.

You can’t go wrong with a well-worn pair of denim trousers.

Cargo Pants

Anybody who’s seen an Avril Lavigne music video from the early 2000s knows that loose-fitting cargo pants are a skater staple. They have made quite a trendy resurgence in recent years. This style lets your legs breathe and also looks totally effortless. Matched with a more form-fitting top, cargo pants are a go-to.

Tips To Create the Ultimate Skater Aesthetic

  • Don’t stress! Above all else, you should keep things simple and comfortable.

  • Don’t be afraid to try something different –– skate culture used to revel in subverting the norm.

  • Protective footwear is a must; wear practical shoes and sneakers that will hold up over time.

  • Don’t be afraid to scuff it up. Skater fashion is a street style and isn’t meant to be kept in pristine condition, so go ahead and live in your clothes.

  • Androgyny is a big part of skater style –– there are no gender lines drawn when it comes to this look. It’s all about being confident in who you are.

Summary of the Skater Vibe

Functionality and comfort have always been at the forefront of skater fashion. Though the style has evolved over the years to favor form-fitting tees one minute and the baggiest shorts you’ve ever seen the next, it’s all about finding freedom and comfort in your personal style.

Skater chic has merged with other elements of street style over the years; both of these now dip into mainstream fashion, but that doesn’t mean your skater outfits can’t still be unique. Whether it’s through graphic T-shirts or accessories, incorporate your personality into your skater style!


The Z-Boys: The Skateboarding Pioneers of Dogtown | LiveAbout

FASHION REBELS : Skateboarders try to stand out. : When they set a trend, they roll out new ideas. | Los Angeles Times

Santa Monica News Skaters Fill the Cove | Santa Monica Lookout