If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you have a Thrasher shirt and/or a pair of Vans Old Skools and are hoping to get put onto the next “hot, underground brand” to rep that your homies have yet to get their hands on. And that’s fine. We are all well aware of fashion’s ongoing obsession with skateboarding (which has been going on for longer than anyone had anticipated), and there’s no use in anyone fighting it anymore. Alexander Wang has included a “skate shoe” in a recent collection, Dior Homme has turned a runway into a “skate park”, and Gucci forever tainted a song that was used in one of the best skate parts of all time.
That being said, there is a lot more to know about some of these independent skateboard brands beyond the fact that Travis Scott or Frank Ocean has worn a piece of their clothing in an Instagram photo or in a music video. Treat this list as a little crash course in some of the skate brands that are offering something new and fresh in today’s heavily saturated market.
The first time I came across an Alltimers board, I was stunned and came to a standstill. As I walked into Supreme New York, I locked eyes with a board shaped like a cutout of Rihanna, which was hanging right next to another board shaped like a cutout of a yellow Lamborghini. Combined, these were the dumbest, yet most genius skateboard products I had seen in a long time. It was only a few months later that I saw their Marissa Tomei-shaped board featured on Conan O’Brien, which fully convinced me that Alltimers had found its lane in the industry.
Since gaining a cult following after releasing a variety of other odd-shaped boards, Alltimers has slowly become more than just a brand pressing silly decks and has grown into a legitimate skateboard brand that’s home to the likes of OG East Coast skater Zered Basset and a slew of up and coming rippers from Canada. Alltimers has a unique presence in skateboarding that constantly changes up with each new edit and product release, and has yet to be easily pinned down.
Playing off a party boy image, a lot of Alltimers T-shirt graphics and videos manage to tap into the all-too familiar feeling of going out skating with your friends and then getting really, really hammered afterwards. Admittedly, the image could come across as really corny if it wasn’t such an accurate representation of a fraction of modern skate culture.
Call Me 917
Alex Olson’s first brand—Bianca Chandon—has occupied uncharted territory since its founding, toeing the line between a high-end fashion brand and a traditional skateboard company. It was always clear his business model would be unlike other skate brands that had come before it, but now Olson has taken a step back from trying to run Bianca as a skate brand at all; Bianca Chandon’s last offering featured Olson’s first foray into cut and sew, marketed as a unisex line of minimalist staple pieces, and there hasn’t really been any sort of “traditional” output as far as skate videos or hard goods go since.
Call Me 917 was introduced to complement Bianca Chandon, aiming to create the direct tie to skateboarding that many people—including Olson himself—felt was absent from Bianca Chandon. 917 brings the same minimal, vintage ’80s and ’90s-inspired flavor of its sister company, but focuses primarily on supporting a full team of skaters and supplying a steady stream of both hard and soft goods to skate shops. And much like the skaters on the team, the brand’s gear has a classic, stylish, no frills feel to it that’s easy to throw on for daily wear.
Canal New York
By running with a spoof of the classic Chanel logo, Canal has managed to become one of the most easily-recognizable skate brands out there, just based on their logo alone. What started off as a fledgling wheel company has slowly turned into a full-blown clothing brand, offering everything from cozy fleece quarter-zips to convenient shoulder packs, all tied together under a sharp and minimal aesthetic.
As more and more independent skate brands enter the market seemingly every day, Canal has really managed to stand out amongst the crowd via its social media presence. Much like Dime, the brand’s Instagram stories usually show off the crew’s weekly missions throughout New York City, featuring silly antics with lurkers and security guards, as well as actually filming some serious skating. For a crew of younger kids making their first venture into skateboarding on their own, these guys are doing pretty well for themselves thus far.
Clubgear’s designs are generally meant to be attention grabbing; Reflective 3M is a staple for the brand, often thrown onto sleeve prints, hat straps, and just about anywhere else it can go. And in an era where logos are making a retreat and downsizing, Clubgear has recently opted for full sized chest prints on safety orange tees.
Aside from the functional clothing offerings (3M and safety orange are pretty clutch during night skate sessions), the brand’s biggest contribution to date has been changing the soundscape of skateboarding. Antosh Cimoszko’s Clubgear edits have used a number of spacey, moody tracks (often by local Canadian musicians/producers who are friends of the brand), and although people may contest the claim, I feel these edits are responsible for the recent surge in the use of electronic/house music in everything from random YouTube homie edits to big budget full-lengths from established companies.
Clubgear also release a “Mixxxtapes” series on their site, introducing skaters to the less-familiar musical worlds of Industrial and Acid House. Despite being a newer brand, it’s safe to say they have done a good amount to shift the culture’s sensibilities thus far.
Omar Salazar has been releasing Doomsayers gear for almost half a decade now, but after suffering a severe injury in 2015 and seeing his board sponsor Alien Workshop exit the scene due to financial troubles, he has refocused on developing Doomsayers’ presence in skating with a clear anti-corporate message.
Doomsayers graphics reflect that anti-corporate and anti-authority mentality, continually playing off snake and businessman imagery, and bringing a workwear feel to their drops, including their collaboration with Hong Kong brand Know1edge. As an added plus to the cool and unique feel of the brand, the items come in a simple color palette consisting of mostly black, browns, greys, and white, making the gear easy to incorporate into everyday wear.
Much like Call Me 917 to Bianca Chandon, Hockey is the sister company and complement to Jason Dill’s brainchild, Fucking Awesome. Current Fucking Awesome pro and 2015’s Thrasher Skater of The Year Anthony Van Engelen founded the brand a few years back, and it has quickly become recognizable due to its imagery highlighting motifs of destruction and chaos. The brand’s identity is truly an accurate representation of the styles of the skateboarders behind the brand, which is often a difficult task to achieve, making Hockey one of the strongest independent skateboard brands today.
AVE himself is known for his aggressive style on the board, often going into full-on attack mode at spots; Similarly, John Fitzgerald, Donovon Piscopo and Ben Kadow are all known for their full speed lines featuring the perfect mix of finesse and power. Throw some rare Black Metal and horror movie soundtracks into that mix and you have a recipe for a killer team video. If you haven’t seen it, throw on “Hockey II” and see for yourself.
One of the younger kids of the Supreme and Fucking Awesome bunch, Sean Pablo, has picked up a lot from his mentors Jason Dill and AVE, but has also shown his own ability to create a cohesive brand with his new project PARADIS3. Pulling from a wide variety of influences, whether it’s through music references—the webstore currently has a live version of “She’s Lost Control” by Joy Division on loop—or flipping iconic ’90s logos you may have seen as bumper stickers growing up, PARADIS3 is a difficult brand to pin down or duplicate.
While PARADIS3 seems less like a traditional “skate brand” and more like a pet project for Sean Pablo, it will be interesting to see where he takes it in the future. He’s already had Kim Kardashian cozying up in his hoodies, so we’re curious to see what the next big leap for his brand could be.
Born from the ashes of Alien Workshop—before it was recently reincarnated—Quasi has quickly become a favorite for many skaters across the world. It’s surprising to see how many skaters swear by their boards and the level of brand loyalty they have built up after just a few short years in business.
Founder Chad Bowers managed to bring along a few riders from his old Alien Workshop team and has shaped the brand around an aesthetic that I (jokingly) refer to as “post-Tumblr”. Vaporwave-esque, bright neon graphics are their standard, which is a departure from a lot of what you see in the market today, where giant brand logos plastered across the whole deck are the norm. There’s a real art focus surrounding the brand, also making it appealing to a number of people outside of skateboarding.
And when you do see Quasi goods on the racks in shops, the attention to detail really helps their products stand out, whether it’s the brand’s use of puff prints on graphic tees or their peculiar, minimal logo placements on their accessories.
Quartersnacks serves double duty as New York skaters’ unofficial online skate bible and a clothing line that’s now stocked across the globe in skate shops as well as elite retailers like Dover Street Market. Offering a unique and honest voice within skateboarding media today, it’s no surprise Quartersnacks has built and maintained the following that it has across the world. That influence has reached a new high point with the introduction of regular clothing capsules.
The publication’s deep connection to the city shines through in all of the product releases, with their tees, fleeces, and accessories always managing to appeal to the needs and sensibilities of skaters in NYC. Who ever knew they wanted a “Leave-A-Penny, Take-A-Penny” tray to hold all the random shit on their dresser, or a Goldman Sachs logo ripoff hat, until Quartersnacks made those a reality?
At times, Dime feels like an inside joke that you’re not in on, but is somehow still funny whenever it’s mentioned. The marketing surrounding the skate brand’s first Vans collaboration, featuring some weird banana stomping went way over my head, but of course people rushed to get a pair anyway. There are also constant references to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, both of which are weird in their own way and have nothing to do with skateboarding directly, but somehow still manage to work within the scope and framework of Dime.
The fact that I sometimes don’t get it, yet still find Dime’s products cool, is a testament to the company’s strong suits. Co-founder Phil Lavoie has previously expressed the he feels surprised and stoked that he somehow turned skating with his friends and making gear they like into a full-time job, and it definitely comes across that way. Dime is a fun brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and still manages to come out with items and videos that hit the mark every time, leaving everyone eager for more.
Theories of Atlantis
Theories of Atlantis founder Josh Stewart is truly an underground skateboarding legend. As a revered filmer, he’s put together the Static series and contributed to numerous other classic skateboarding videos, and he is in part responsible for the dissemination of the “small board brand” ethos that’s so popular today by supporting a slew of them since the beginning.
Theories is possibly best known as the American distributor for a number of small skate brands, like Polar, Hopps and Magenta, but as of late is venturing into making its own clothing as well. As the name suggests, Stewart’s designs play heavily off of conspiracy theories and the occult, which makes for unique graphics featured on cool everyday pieces like printed socks and coach’s jackets.
One major plus that Stewart’s brand has going for it is that you won’t break the bank when shopping for Theories goods. As of right now, the most expensive item on the Theories site is currently a windbreaker coming in at $60, whereas some other skateboard brands will price a similar item at almost double that price. You gotta appreciate that Stewart is conscious enough to not price out his most loyal customers.
As a UK-based brand, Skateboard Cafe have done a good job building a cult following locally, and are well on their way to putting together a brand offering something different than their other English counterparts. As their name suggests, Skateboard Café has a tendency to lean towards food-related imagery and graphics, but does so in a way that is still sharp and clean.
Whereas companies like Palace Skateboards and Thames have quickly locked down both a mainstream and core skateboarding following, Skateboard Café doesn’t seem to be looking to make the jump towards ubiquity. Instead, by supporting hometown heroes like Korahn Gayle and Mike Arnold who hail from outside the highly concentrated and visible London scene, they’re looking to show that the UK can be home for brands that cater to skaters who care less about penny loafers and printed joggers and more about impressive and inventive skating.
So much about Yardsale screams ’80s Miami, whether it’s their use of hits of pink and teal, the palm tree motifs, or grainy film footage giving all their videos a retro look. Their board graphics are reminiscent of sunny days at the country club or sitting back on the beach with a cold cocktail, but despite all that, you’d probably be surprised to hear the brand actually comes out of the (usually) grey and cloudy city of London.
Yardsale is one of the more fashion-conscious skateboard brands on this list, releasing gear that shows a unique sense of design that goes beyond screen printing logos on blank tees and hoodies. Not very many skateboard brands (if any) are out there making French terry track tops or taking inspiration from Yves Saint Laurent. And of course, there’s a lot to be said about their riders’ level of skating. It’s still surprising to see Julian Kimura’s ability to casually throw down full speed lines on cobblestone London streets.
The first time I came across Pizza, I saw a kid pushing through SoMA skate park in San Francisco wearing a crewneck with a Palace Skateboards Tri-Ferg logo flip that read “Pizza” instead. Unsure of whether the kid knowingly bought a bootleg, or this was some brand I hadn’t heard of, I sat down and Googled what Pizza Skateboards was. On their web shop, I saw a variety of other logo parodies that had that good spirited, funny attitude of something reminiscent of ’90s-era World Industries, and a time when skateboarding wasn’t so focused on portraying an image of cool.
Polo Sport, NASCAR, and Chuck E. Cheeze’s logos have all gone through the spin cycle for Pizza, and the brand has gotten so good at these parodies that I’m sure some have gone over my head. I’d honestly love to find out how many cease-and-desist letters Pizza has received since it started up.
Also, as an added bonus, all you Kanye West Stans out there will be hyped as soon as you start up their “Southwest Side Story” edit.
Blondey McCoy has taken much of what he’s learned from Lev Tanju and the Palace Skateboards team and veered off on his own to start Thames, drawing the name from the river running through the city he calls home. Much like the case of Sean Pablo and his company PARADIS3, Thames seems like a side project for Blondey to explore ideas and play around with imagery and styles not typically seen in Palace releases.
To date, the brand’s offerings have been limited and have generally only been available via the official web store or at the Palace brick-and-mortar location in London. Given that Blondey is an official team rider for Palace Skateboards, it seems like there is no plan for him to build it up as an official board company and spread distribution widely to other skate shops and retailers. For now, we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled and see where he takes the brand, as it is still in its infancy.
In a time when most trends have come full circle, it’s unclear which ones are back for real, and which are back for a touch of irony. Lewis Cruise has added to the confusion, bringing back the peak of swagless, bummy skater style with a Shorty’s rip off beanie cap in dirt brown. Couple that with a Craigslist logo flip and a number of other playful graphics, and we have another example of a brand in it for the fun and not the hype. Gotta respect the brand’s approach in a time where mainstream appeal is the only thing keeping certain skateboard brands alive today.
Polar Skate Co.
Polar is another heavyweight, hailing from Malmö, Sweden and captained by Pontus Alv, founder, art director, illustrator, filmmaker, editor, skater and DIY innovator. The guy is a creative force unlike any other in the contemporary skate scene. And with the help of co-founder and artist Stefan Narancic, the brand has quickly become known for their always impressive graphics – each deck could very well be a wall hanger. Alv’s modernist illustrations almost seem sculpturally inspired, while Narancic’s surreal, disjointed and occasionally haunting illustrations are original and intriguing in their own way. It’s more fine art than skateboard graphic. Though that may be the point – who’s to say there’s a difference? Now add in the crude, cartoonish graphics by Jacob Ovgren and you have opposing styles that somehow feel cohesive.
Across the board, Polar produces far and away the most exciting, interesting graphics currently on shop walls. And when paired with a stacked team of international rippers, the small company holds a large presence in returning skateboarding to its arts-driven, DIY roots. The more no complies, wallrides and shuvits the better, we say.
As the son of a skateboarder, Alex Olson has rebellion in his blood. And Bianca Chandôn is hell bent on doing things differently. Products are done in short runs and made available only through an exclusive, small number of stockists. There’s no team, or any immediate plans to have one. It’s just Olson and fellow creative Steven Kay steering the ship, which is currently floating in rather uncharted territory, drawing inspiration from Studio 54 era disco and drag culture, and ’80s and ’90s fashion.
Though some are quick to question Olson’s interests in the LGBTQ community, many more, ourselves included, back his efforts in bringing attention to a subject conventionally considered taboo in skateboarding. Whether or not they continue down this path though, we’ll have to wait and seen. Either way, the socially conscious agenda and simple, fun art direction is refreshing to say the least.
Founded in 2011 by Japanese skater Katsumi Minami, Evisen Skateboards hopes to put some shine on Japanese cities beyond Tokyo with thriving skate scenes, like Sendai and Osaka. Mixing modern graphics with ancient Japanese motifs, there’s also a cheeky appeal added through icons like an embroidered sushi roll with chopsticks. Beyond the expected hoodies, tees, and caps, Evisen also makes pieces like all-over print camp shirts and lightweight military jackets.
The Evisen team includes Akira Imamura, MARU, Shinpei Ueno, and Minami himself, and their boards are made in the USA. Recently, Evisen made its stateside debut, by way of North American distributor PERMANENT.
In some shape or another, Jason Dill’s Fucking Awesome has been around for 13 years now. Though it wasn’t until Dill and Anthony Van Engelen left a floundering Alien Workshop that FA saw its full potential come to fruition. There isn’t much driving FA, aside from a total disregard for anyone’s feelings or opinions. It’s exactly what one would expect from such an enigmatic character as Jason Dill. And that’s exactly what makes it so great.
Further proving California is no longer the absolute center of skateboarding, Nick Jensen and Paul Shier’s UK-based Isle Skateboards was born when the two bailed on the once-legendary but now-busted Blueprint program. Isle feels very contemporary, with photo heavy, design-y graphics that could easily find their way onto your favorite aesthete’s Tumblr.
The art direction extends beyond graphics to the brand’s overall identity, keeping Isle very much in line with current trends in blending subject-heavy photography and sculpture, reminiscent of the studio work of Stephanie Gonot and Charlie White’s “Self Portriat” series. But as a brand cannot survive on visuals alone, Isle’s team is growing stronger as well. As a relatively young brand, like many of the others on this list, we’re curious to see how Jensen and Shier continue to evolve with Isle.
For lack of a better word, Welcome is weird, in the best of ways. At it’s heart, Welcome is about having fun, and not taking oneself too seriously. In direct opposition to the norm, they offer 22 different board shapes with fantastical graphics on both top and bottom plies (encouraging grip tape art). The unique shapes encourage a more creative way of skating, as each trick feels different on a wide, blunt-nosed board versus a traditional popsicle shape, for example.
The overall brand aesthetic seems to fall somewhere between the brain child of Timothy Leery and Doctor Moreau, with an illuminati-esque logo and graphics featuring wicked sorcerers and bizarre animal creations in wild neon colorways. Every thing about the brand is different, as their about page states, “others take themselves seriously and not their products, we take our products seriously and not ourselves.” Skateboarding needs Welcome.
A video franchise, a hardware brand, apparel and deck maker – whatever the hell Bronze 56k wants to be, we’re okay with it. The overall brand concept draws heavy inspiration from (err, rips off) a myriad of ’90s lo-fi and low-brow iconography, from the perfectly pixelated Windows ’95 logo and PBS silhouette to Pissin’ Calvin and the No Fear muscle guy. The appropriation of dated corporate logos corny computer graphics for use by a comically small, Internet-driven brand is too on point.
In an era of mega HD videos and arena run contests, Bronze’s late 2013 video release “Solo Jazz” and more recent “Enron” come ready with a disclaimer: “for maximum viewing pleasure switch quality to 240p.” Both deliver pure raw NYC skating mixed with amazing video overlays and interludes. Even if the lo-fi shtick is harsh on the eyes, we back the brand’s effort to keep skateboarding in the streets where it belongs. Either way, how can you not love a brand that makes a “404 Error” board graphic?
Born in Paris in 2010, Magenta is in essence a little bit of everything already mentioned. It’s completely independent, skater-owned and operated with all branding and graphics done in house by founder Soy Panday. Though the identity is entirely its own. Magenta’s team boasts individuals from the U.S., Europe and even Japan, with each bringing their own unique flavor of skating to the table through spot selection and truly creative trick combinations – check any clip of quick feet king Kolchiro Uehara skating his hometown of Osaka and you’ll know exactly what we mean.
By way of Brooklyn, Mood exists to take the best parts of the art and design worlds and connect it to those in skateboarding. By working with established and emerging artists and designers from around the globe, founders Grandison Tabor (formerly of Rhode Island’s Fountain of Youth skateshop) and Calvin Waterman have successfully introduced a handful of genuinely interesting artist collaborations in the two years since Mood’s founding.
Each collection uses specially commissioned work as apparel and deck graphics – the most recent collection delivers ’90s streetwear-inspired apparel and graphics adapted from photo-realistic paintings. While the concept may sound stuffy, the two graphic designer’s are far from pretentious. Smart brand videos, “short stack” Instagram edits and playful product shots keep their project light without losing sight of the artistic end goal. To the adult design nerd that never stopped skating, Mood is just what you’re after.