So you know and love a skater. You’ve probably purchased some Vans shoes, and maybe a Thrasher hoodie. But do you know your Huf from your Diamond Supply or your Santa Cruz? Don't worry! Today we’re breaking down the very best in skateboarding brands and taking you on a guided tour. We’re taking you from “noob” to knowledge – let’s roll!
One of the most ubiquitous skate brands, it has stood the test of time, remaining incredibly popular from its founding in 1966 to this day. Vans produces just about everything related to skating including shoes, boards, clothing, accessories, and gear. Plus, the Vans Park Series sponsors pro skateboarding tours all over the world featuring some of the biggest names in skating. If you’re looking for a guaranteed homerun on skate brands, Vans has you covered. Uniquely, Vans has a particularly attractive market for vintage supplies. With over a half-century of product out there, some of the most legit gear is sometimes the oldest! Looking in vintage shops or on eBay is a great way to find retro Vans gear. Whether a vintage T-shirt or a new pair of kicks, your skater will love anything Vans has to offer.
The magazine came first, but now the Thrasher name has come to mean much more than a printed periodical. Featured on everything from skate socks, to skateboard decks, to hoodies, and bikinis, its iconic flaming logo has become synonymous with hardcore skating. Thrasher has found its niche in apparel and accessories, not delving too deeply into the world of gear (meaning don’t look for an actual skateboard here). But if you’re in the market for skater clothing, look no further. And it almost goes without saying that they are the number one, head honchos when it comes to skate magazines. Their magazine bestows perhaps skating’s highest honor: Thrasher’s Skater of the Year (won in the past by the likes of Tony Hawk). Their King of the Road tour is a live skating event featuring teams of pros competing against one another to land the craziest of skate tricks. This brand even launched its line of video games, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy to critical acclaim (read more about that here). When it comes to clothing or magazines – this is a sure bet for your skater!
If Thrasher is heavy on the apparel and light on the gear, then Santa Cruz is its opposite. With an insanely robust catalog of items from trucks and decks to stickers and wheels, Santa Cruz can outfit your skater with the best the sport has to offer. While this brand is newer than Vans (founded in the 80’s rather than the 60’s), its staying power is just as proven. Based out of Santa Cruz, California (go figure), this brand rides the line between surf and skate, leaning more toward color and vibrant art than the hip-hop influence. That might be why Santa Cruz has an incredibly popular collection of skate deck stickers featuring award-winning art. If your skater is into loudly decorated wheels and boards, or just loves an awesome skate sticker, Santa Cruz is a slam-dunk!
One of the most significant and best-known brands among skaters has to be Huf. Started by Keith Hufnagel over a decade ago and headquartered in San Fransisco, this brand not only has a skilled touring team but enormous lines of apparel, footwear, and accessories. Marketing itself as a skateboarding lifestyle brand, Huf can outfit a skater with everything they need, from the board to clothing to gear. Indeed a one-stop shop for skate brands, the goods are synonymous with quality. While it stays true to the “chill” skate ethos, Huf isn’t blasé about their products. Designed by skaters for skaters, their products carry a reputation for longevity. Their gear can be pricey, but with a healthy shelf life, we think it’s worth the investment.
Ah, Nike. You know your sport is legit if Nike has dedicated an entire division to it. NikeSB (short for “skateboarding” and "snowboarding") certainly doesn’t want to miss out on a piece of the skateboarding pie. Some skaters view this brand as less authentic, and it’s a valid point, considering skateboarding’s history of being disregarded by mainstream athletics and the associated brands. But as they say, time heals all wounds, and Nike is no exception. As you might expect, the Nike SB brand is more focused toward the “sporty” end of the skateboarding spectrum, focusing less on the hardcore skateboard streetwear. Their look is a middle ground between standard sportswear and the “hardcore” look of brands like Thrasher. NikeSB is an excellent bet for casual skaters; it combines the skateboard look with a more mainstream fashion sense.
Everybody loves a feel-good brand, and JHF is precisely that. Started after an incident where its founder, Lumbo, lost his cool over not landing a trick, JHF stands for, “Just Have Fun.” Lumbo wanted to encourage his crew to skate for the fun of it, and when one of the skaters decided to start a hat company and brand “JHF,” they knew they were on to something. Now a full line of apparel, you can Just Have Fun with a hat, pins, duffels, shirts, and pants. Their positive spin on skateboarding is a great reason to get behind this brand!
Diamond Supply Co.
Started by Nicky Diamonds and initially headquartered in San Francisco, he moved his shop to the now iconic Fairfax street in 2006. Since then, Fairfax has become to street and hip-hop fashion what Rodeo Dr. is to haute couture. Diamond Supply is the Prada of Skateboarding and hip-hop culture. DSC and other skate stores on Fairfax (think: Supreme) has set the standard in street skate-wear since their inception. If you’re looking for a stylish choice, look no further. Even Jay-Z is known to love this brand and rock it (pun intended) on the regular. Diamond Supply is also one of the only brands that offers a one-stop skating shop, making everything from grip tape to trucks to hats to pins. If you want to give your skater the trendy and expensive look of this brand, consider their ultra-popular grip tape. It will provide your skater the chance to look the part without breaking the bank.
Like any sport or industry, brands ebb and flow, coming and going with relative ease. However, the seven we have outlined above have proven to have a particular staying power amongst skaters. A pick from any of these brands would be a solid choice for either a personal investment (treat yo self!) or a thoughtful gift for your skater. Now that we have cleared the fog surrounding skating brands, run out and choose the gear that fits your shred perfectly!
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