Skateboarding is rarely associated with luxury fashion, but we wanted to look at how the culture can be influencial in the fashion industry. Skateboarding in Nigeria has been on the rise in recent years, as these skaters cement their place in society, their distinct style also makes a mark. We take a dive into the fashion staples, similarities between skating in Nigeria and Japan, and the mainstream adoption that comes with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
History and Culture of Skateboarding
Skateboarding was born around the early 1950s in California when surfers wanted to do something when the waves were flat. What started out as “Sidewalk surfing” has since gone through many phases of adoption, backlash, commercialization, and repurposing. This way of life expanded itself beyond leisure and sport, and its fashion aspect opened up a new world of skateboarding clothing, shoes and accessories.
Camaraderie is a big part of skateboarding culture, esoteric communities of skaters become a place an individual convenes with similar people who don’t discourage them from skating. Nigeria lacked that camaraderie for a long time; skateboarding was a personal practice for the skateboarders scattered around the country. Moreover, because of the bad reputation it gets, as well as the lack of skateparks, skateboarders would rather practice within their neighborhoods, or just wait till they left the country.
Likewise in Japan, skateboarding is considered “meiwaku-koui” (bothersome behavior) even though skate culture has been alive for a long time, it’s widely discouraged. Skate parks are built in secluded areas like suburbs or on top of buildings to be away from the public view. Skaters in Japan often suffer harassment from police and security guards for carrying a board or dressing like a skater.
New Nigerian Skateboarding Communities
From Lagos to Abuja, skateboarders in Nigeria are now finding themselves and building communities that encourage other skaters to seek a safe haven to exist as a skateboarder. There are no skate parks in Nigeria so skateboarders mostly skate on the streets or improvise materials to practice tricks.
At U.Mi-1 we spent time with skateboarders from Lagos. We talked to them about their passion, their aspirations and why they decided to skate. Stories told by the skaters were very varied. However they all agreed that they take on skateboarding to get away from the constrains of everyday life and society. They enjoy the freedom that skateboarding gives them and really enjoy spending time with their friends and making meaningful connections with people they relate to.
We were inspired by the stories and style of the young skaters, and together we put a range of clothes that blends their edgy style with U.Mi-1’s aesthetics. Skateboarding and U.Mi-1 share the same values of inclusivity and truly global interests. You can shop the pieces here.
Skaters in Nigeria like Japan and the world over wear bucket hats, shorts, graphic tees, cargo pants, but it is likely to see skaters shirtless in the afternoons due to the heat. Converses and Vans are quite popular footwear, however, there’s no loyalty to any brand that makes sticky sole shoes.
Skaters wear loose fitting clothing because they don’t restrict movement; take a longer time to wear out than tight clothes after the many falls; and bigger clothes can absorb some of the impact when a skater falls.
Why is skating becoming popular in Nigeria now?
Social media has been able to bridge the gap between skaters that otherwise would’ve never met each other. As bridges are formed, communities share videos of themselves skating on the streets, doing tricks, etc. These inspire people who find the culture appealing to become a part of it, whether they already skate or would like to learn.
The 21st century Nigerian youth are heavily influenced by what they see on the internet, so even before these communities sprung up, they were able to see skate culture around the world, play skateboarding video games and immerse themselves in a culture they found appealing. Skateboarding clothing is a big part of that shift as people with the same interests can easily recognise each other.
The ultimate draw towards skateboarding is freedom.
Why is Skateboarding good for you?
Physically, skateboarding is a full body workout that improves flexibility, precision, body coordination, and heart function. The average person will burn 150 to 500 calories per hour while skating. It also teaches how to fall to avoid serious injuries while doing other daily activities.
Psychologically, skateboarding is a lesson in consequences, and the importance or practice and patience to achieve a goal. As much as skaters fall, they get back up and try again till they land the trick they were attempting. Some use skateboarding as a practice in being in the present moment, and to appreciate the world around them.
Skateboarding at the Olympics
In 2016, skateboarding was announced to be a part of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the counter-culture lifestyle cemented itself in mainstream athletics. The global reception was mixed due to the existing notions of skateboarding, nevertheless, it will go on a global stage for the first time in a country where skateboarding culture has long lived.
Skateboarding clothing is well in focus for the Olympics, Nike’s designs for skateboarders’ uniforms include cargo pants, basketball jersey tops, a jumpsuit, loose fitting shorts, T-shirts, button down shirts, and caps. The majority of these pieces are embellished with abstract designs, sticking to skateboarders’ affinity for graphic tees. All of the skateboarding jerseys will be made from 100 per cent recycled polyester comprising “water bottles and other things that would go to waste,” according to Nike.
Skateboarding in Nigeria is ushering a new cool wave of stylish young people striving to live outside the boundaries set for them. In some cases, these groups sell merchandise to keep their lifestyle afloat and as a means of identification. The absence of skate parks means that street skating will prevail in the near future, and following mainstream adoption, the culture and fashion of Nigerian skateboarders may yet receive a warmer embrace from the society around them.