How Skateboarders Learned to Stop Worrying + Get Comfortable in Shorts | + the skate mags that had a “No shorts, no shirts” photo policy
There was a long time there where skateboarding in shorts just wasn’t done. Now we got dudes like Lucas Puig and Blondey McCoy and some of other of skateboardings most stylish making it look pretty damn good. So what happened? What mags had a “no shorts, no beaters, no shirts” rule? VICE did the serious “skate journalism” behind the bending of the pants rules. Snicker all you want but this is another prime example of how historically skateboarders love following self-imposed rules and conformity.
By my best estimate, there’s been about 25 years of skating-in-pants hegemony. Using Thrasher Magazine’s cover index as a skate fashion chronicle, the inflection point is 1993, when not a single skater in shorts appeared on the cover. The covers from the years immediately prior feature a noisy and democratic mix of skate fashion. After 1993, shorts tended to appear on the cover once a year at most, often involving unusual circumstances, like John Cardiel skating a Frankenstein ramp in the rain, Danny Way backside noseblunt-sliding a car, Jamie Thomas on the cover of a “King of the Road” issue grinding a rail in shorts, barefoot too.
What happened in 1993 likely had something to do with skateboarding’s distillation at the time—street skating had finally strangled vert. The burgeoning pastime became dominated by a standard look that would eventually coalesce into “the uniform,” a stock blank tee paired with baggy khakis or jeans.
In the early years of this century, there were also social controls at work. Real Skateboards pro Davis Torgerson, 29, told me photographer Eric “Rodent” Cheslak once shot a photo of him doing a switch backside 50-50. He intended to get it published in the now-defunct The Skateboard Mag, only to have it rejected because he’d failed to properly cover his legs. “It was 100-plus that day and in the Valley,” Torgerson said in his defense.
I emailed Cheslak, a former TSM staff photographer, for confirmation, and while he didn’t remember the specific situation with Torgerson, he said gear standards were kept at the magazine. “They were not into shorts unless you were [photographers Dave] Swift or Atiba [Jefferson], they could do whatever they wanted,” Cheslak said. “They also weren’t into beater tank tops either. I had an amazing photo of Eli Reed and they wouldn’t use it because he had a beater on.”