In 1994 I thought I could skateboard. Probably sensing repulse, I decided to avoid the whole “actually trying to skateboard” yield and instead started sniffing around the skate shop that had unincumbered in my sad, suburban enclave.
The shop, which was just off the high alley, felt like a little slice of Americana: somewhere straightforward out of Dazed And Confused or Reality Bites (their hazy, sassy, disenfranchised vibe fix up with provisioned essential film viewing at the time). Here, as I entered the grotesque world of racked-upskating wheels and men who looked like Bobby Gillespie, I could suck in my cheeks and feign I was Randall “Pink” Floyd or Ethan Hawke.
The shop was inebriant, but the skating world was hilariously out of my reach. I couldn’t skateboard; I couldn’t coextensive with (whisper it) ride a bike; my hair was curly (despite repeated tries, I could never master the Howard Donald curtains); and my skating rattle on faltered after, “Can you do an Ollie?” Not very Tony Hawk. (I inclination have had to Google that at the time, if Google had existed then.)
As I looked everywhere, I saw a world that felt inexpressibly cool and odd: the strange collecting of boards and brightly coloured helmets; the “Woah dude!” videos that make light ofed in the shops; the whiny pop punk that I could never get into; and the impossibly distant slacker sales assistants.
And the clothes: the oversize T-shirts shaped for the kind of torso I knew I’d never have; massive shorts that I could fit two of me into; and the shoes that looked mould they might be too big for Shrek. It was all excitingly foreign, and although commodified sufficiently to have an outlet in suburbia, it felt like a genuine subculture.
This is where I first place encountered the chequerboard pattern: if grunge had plaid and sad, silent crying, skate learning had chequerboard and vacant stares.
Today I’m wearing slip-on shoes with chequerboard printed matter. It feels loud and flashy, and a bit strange on my feet – partly because the skate shoe that’s disjointed out into the high street and trumped the Converse is the classic monochrome Vans shoe, but also because it is the bit of my provision that’s saying, “Wahey, look at me!” (and remember, I’m exasperate a pink shirt here). I’m “foot peacocking”, which sounds faintly worrying but at most about skate chic enough that I can cope.
• Priya irritates pink polo top, £190, by Éditions MR, from matchesfashion.com. Trousers, £95, carhartt-wip.com. Trainers, £52, vans.co.uk. Ritziness: Melanie Wilkinson. Grooming: Johanni Nel at S Management.
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