How The World Got Rad With Skateboarding and BMX's Influence

Skateboarding and BMX have never been just underground pastimes; they were cultural phenomena that infiltrated every aspect of popular culture in the 80s and into the 90s and beyond. From fashion to music videos, these 'action sports' became symbols of rebellion and youth empowerment. The mere reveal of ownership of either a skateboard or a BMX bike signaled to your entire social circle that you embodied freedom and individuality.

Thrashin' and Rad, both released in 1986, lent a significant hand in some serious sales for the likes of Powell Peralta, Vision, Santa Cruz, and Sims in skateboarding, and Dyno, GT, Mongoose, and Haro in BMX. But these movies - including BMX Bandits and Gleaming The Cube - which had plots built around both activities were just the tip of the iceberg. Blockbuster films like Back To The Future undoubtedly fueled an entire generation to pick up skating, while dozens of others like Monster Squad or Pulse had main characters carrying around or riding boards in at least a scene or two. It's hard to conjure a mental picture of E.T. without realizing BMX bikes are burned into most of them. Even Pee Wee's Big Adventure glorified BMX to a fairly large degree, if you were paying enough attention.

It wasn't even uncommon to see rockers posing with skateboards, riding them, featuring them on album covers, or just surrounded by them in music videos. Metallica even had their own run of boards released by Zorlac. Anthrax had one, too. So did Beastie Boys.

The prevalence of the home video rental store throughout the 80s gave many of us our first opportunity to see a more realistic portrayal of what was actually going on in these worlds. This was the introduction to the Bones Brigade for many of us. Search For Animal Chin warranted many repeat rentals, as did Vision's Psycho Skate.

Clothing brands that were synonymous with these cultures, had begun to see adoption in mainstream fashion by the late 1980s. Vision Street Wear was everywhere by 1988 - even if by design. Skate brands were a cultural mark of being 'in the know.'

As we entered the 1990s, both skateboarding and BMX's popularity had started to wane, despite some concerted efforts to prevent that very thing from happening. In 1990, former Z-Boys Stacey Peralta and Nathan Pratt teamed up on Nickelodeon's SK8-TV. The show was hosted by Matthew Lillard and featured pros like Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Christian Hosoi, as well as up-and-coming amateurs like Guy Mariano and Colin McKay.

The huge pants craze came about because of skateboarders in the early 90s. Skater-owned brands like Droors, Blind, and Fuct led that whole charge that would later be dominated by more mainstream brands like JNCO and even Lee.

That same era, now affectionately referred to as 'the big pants era,' was responsible for the innovation and adaptation that led to modern street skating. The evolution in this form of skating was due to an uptick in skateboarding throughout middle-America and the more temperate climates that didn't have unlimited access to giant vert ramps that seemed to be everywhere in Southern California. This eventually resulted in the use of rails, kicker ramps, and grind boxes - all of which would inform the coming proliferation of public skateparks throughout decades to come. And once these parks started popping up, that decreased visibility of skateboarding's influence started to reverse itself.

By the mid 1990s, skateparks and public street skate spots had become popular spots for non-skaters to hang out. New independent films like Kids, as well as major blockbusters such as Clueless, were surely at least partially to blame for this. By the latter half of the decade, once again, we started to see a glorification of skateboarding/BMXing on the silver screen - this time in the form of the grunge-y stoner teen.

Ultimately, the 90s gave us Playstation's Tony Hawk Pro Skater and a whole lot of 'extreme sports' in commercials, used to sell just about everything under the sun to adolescents until well into the early 2000s. The growing popularity of underground skate videos and magazines like Big Brother would eventually result in providing the world with the Jackass legacy, Rob & Big, countless documentaries and feature films, and MTV's now-infamous 24 hour loop of Ridiculousness.

You're welcome, world.
Skaters and BMX-ers

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