From posers to skaters to people who had literally no idea what it even was, we’ve all worn a Thrasher tee at some point. Immediately recognisable by its iconic flaming logo on an oversized black t-shirt, the Thrasher tee remains a reminder of how skate culture so quickly seeped into mainstream fashion over the past decade, becoming basically inescapable whether you were a skater or not.
However, when Thrasher went mainstream not everyone was happy about it. In fact, backlash against the Thrasher tee’s popularity came from the very community that made it big in the first place. Let’s take a kickflip down memory lane and find out how the Thrasher tee became a fashion icon that both brought skaters into the limelight and pissed them the f*** off.
If you are into skate culture and its history, then you probably know where the “Thrasher” symbol came from, but for the posers we’ll delve into the brand’s history and how its simple logo t-shirt came to be that iconic. The Thrasher logo tee was actually produced by Thrasher the magazine, a skateboarding publication first founded in 1981. The magazine was – and is – a guide to skating for everyone from beginners to experts, featuring everything the avid skater would want to know, including tricks, music, photography, interviews, and skatepark reviews.
After Jake Phelps took over as editor of Thrasher in 1991, the magazine’s new angle effectively changed the subculture of skateboarding forever. Thrasher came to be associated with holding a finger to society, daring to be different, and going against the grain. After it released a line of apparel in 1988, including t-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the magazine’s iconic logo designs, the skateboarding community showed their dedication to the brand by proudly buying and wearing its logo.
Wearing a “Thrasher” tee became a symbol of the magazine’s personality – it communicated a message between every wearer that they had the same anti-social, anti-authoritarian, anti-society attitudes, and became a uniform for skaters around the US. But this was only in the 1980s: the Thrasher tee boom hadn’t even begun. It wasn’t until the early 2010s that the Thrasher tee would make its resurgence, surpassing even its original popularity and becoming the mainstream fashion staple we know it as today.
Tyler the Creator and A$AP ROCKY are actually credited with pouring gasoline on to the spark that Thrasher’s initial popularity had left behind, by wearing the logo to South by Southwest in 2012, where they actually started a riot and ended up arrested. After a photo was taken of A$AP apparently hitting someone at the event, the pic and by default his tie dye Thrasher hoodie went viral. It reignited the association between Thrasher and this “f*** you” mentality, but this time on a whole other level and the public went mad for it.
This time around fans of Thrasher apparel weren’t limited to the skateboarding community. Celebrities including the likes of Ryan Gosling, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber were photographed by paparazzi in Thrasher branded clothing and – as usually happens when celebs adopt a trend – it was suddenly everywhere. Then Vogue wrote an article about the Thrasher tee making the perfect “model off-duty” fit, and before you knew it high street stores were creating fast fashion replicas that were everywhere overnight.
The skateboarding subculture wasn’t too thrilled by this, though. Because they associated Thrasher and its merch with more than just a “popular fashion trend”, they felt that the people adopting it as a fad didn’t understand the meaning behind the logo. Even Jake Phelps, the man behind Thrasher’s iconic status, was far from on-board the logo’s rise to highstreet fame. In 2016 he was quoted saying, “We don’t send boxes to Justin Bieber or Rihanna or those f***ing clowns, the pavement is where the real shit is. Blood and scabs, does it get realer than that?”
It seems that shortly after this, the skateboarding community got what it wanted. Like every other major trend in the fast fashion cycle today, the Thrasher tee went from viral to dated in a matter of months and was discarded by the majority of people. However, despite many of us remembering the Thrasher symbol as an icon of the 2010s – a symbol of a “worser dressed” time we’d probably like to forget – Thrasher and its tees will always stand for the anarchical and antisocial attitude of the skateboarding subculture. You can make an item viral, drag it through the mainstream, but its roots will always stay the same.
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