The Man Comes Around

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Beyond physics-challenging hair and a stated disdain for clowns, there may be hazy similarities to be grasped at and drawn between Sideshow Bob’s remarkable mayoral run in Springfield and Donald Trump’s elbows-out steamrolling toward the Republican presidential nomination. Amongst the jittery fretters who sense authoritarian tones in the bouquet of Donald Trump’s bombast, Sideshow Bob’s courtroom declaration seems prescient: ‘[D]eep down you long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king.’

Erik Ellington, bigspinning Pissdrunk of years past and curator of his own famous locks, this week mused whether skateboarding has relinquished control over aspects of its greater, amorphous self. No specifics are called out, but if one were so inclined, signs could be observed all around: Erik Ellington’s onetime sponsor Active turning its fortunes over to a bankruptcy court; the sales of DC Shoe Co, Element and Alien Workshop to various holding companies; private equity’s purchases of Huf clothes and the parent of the Crail Couch itself. It is not difficult to visualize a future in which the ‘skater owned’ trope is quietly replaced with a ‘skater designed’ slogan similar to Apple’s California dreamt, China built taglines.

In one indication of the industry being divvied into ones who are sold and those who are told, Asphalt Yacht Club’s tour diary in the Cole Wilson TWS opens with a lament over Nyjah Huston jumping the tie-dyed landship for Swooshier endeavors (though not before fulfilling various contractual obligations for demos and signings that apparently do not also include skating spots with his erstwhile deckhands) before later fondly reminiscing on endearing tour missteps by Blake Carpenter, who the article highlights as another teammate who absconded for the Portland sneaker conglomerate. While quick to apply that familiar disclaimer of forgoing any hatred towards money-getting bros, the Yacht Club also claims some pride in its stepping-stone status: “One year you’re a controversial upstart who no one thinks is going to last, the next year you’ve got so much juice that you’re suddenly the farm team for the heavyweight champion of the world.” In a recent interview Habitat’s former Floridian bluntslide titlist Ed Selego similarly foregoes any hatred toward Nike Inc payrolled skaters, despite a lengthy passage arguing that company’s alleged policy of requiring shops to carry large quantities of potentially wack shoes in addition to the desirable ones led to the closure of an MIA outlet, and subsequent calls from bill collectors:

“Nike was the biggest problem for us. We had many good years selling their product, but at the same time they pushed tons of product on us that didn’t sell. They used shops like ours for years to establish the Nike SB brand. Then they opened up distribution to all the corporate stores and started selling direct to consumer. Being the number one shoe brand wasn’t enough for them. They had to exploit the brand to appease Wall St. and their shareholders. They did this with no plan in place for all the skate shops that struggled over the years. They loaded everyone up with a ton of debt then dumped us. It’s really irresponsible for such a large brand to do this and harm the very industry that they have come to be a part of. There is no better example of corporate greed.”

Such cautionary tales don’t appear to resonate: Lakai recently ceded two of its longtime Euro promoters, JB Gillet and Nick Jensen, to Nike. Heavy odds are on Danny Brady decamping for Palace-heavy Adidas in the near future, which recently hoovered up DVS honcho Paul Shier and former Lakaiers Na’Kel Smith and Miles Silvas. If it is a two-way street, the inbound legacy ‘skate’ side is peculiarly ill-traveled.

Do Sideshow Bob’s words ring true in skatedom 20 years later, with skaters secretly lusting for a corporate overlord that will tell them when to show up, where to stand and what to do in contractually legal languages? Are pros’ indulgence in vices such as gnarly substances and credit card debt, alternately celebrated and lamented, truly a cry for some grander form of paternal control? Are recent trends in looser trucks, higher speeds and fewer grabs (Homokis aside) reflect a subconscious yearning for stricter oversight under incorporated structures and shareholder-friendly governance practices? Have such forces directed Fred Gall back toward manual labors? How much rides on straighter-laced senior executives, perhaps the grandparents in this elongated and tortured metaphor, either not noticing or not caring about what goes on in the tour van?

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2 Responses to “The Man Comes Around”

  1. michael burnett Says:

    Definitely something to trip on.

  2. Art Hellman Says:

    great think piece!

    whatever happened to the whole American-made movement with skate decks? Seems everyone forgot that whole debate years ago (even after AWS ran that ad proclaiming allegiance to the flag)…

    … I suspect the shoe debate is gonna run out of steam at some point as well. is that good or bad? I dunno.

    the problem with most of the anti-Corpo positions is that are often based on quick, call-to-action type slogans that don’t really have a lot of meat behind them.

    based on the pull-quote alone:

    “Then they opened up distribution to all the corporate stores and started selling direct to consumer”

    – “skater owned” shoe brands did the same thing in the early 2000s with mall stores. plus, there’s probably not any skate company out there that you can’t buy direct

    “loaded everyone up with a ton of debt”

    – don’t run up a tab you can’t settle with the bartender at the end of the night

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