Lacing up a pair evokes memories of roller skating’s heyday, when Boomboxes: the microphones of hip-hop’s arrival, impossibly short shorts, neon, and Prince & the Revolution records reigned supreme in roller rinks.
Roller skating’s revolution is reintroducing generations to an effortlessly cool genre and reminding us that is never really left.
Rolling skating is experiencing a renaissance. And like anything re-injected into popular culture’s bloodstream—no single event sparked its revival. Meanwhile, the energy around “shoes with four wheels” is stirring.
Still, that doesn’t answer the hanging “why” behind is ascension that leaves us wanting. To that end . . .
Did the age of the hipster—the subcultural movement emerging in the 90s and blooming in the 2000s and 2010s—create the conditions for the genre to reinsert itself?
True, it gave new rise to graphic tees, vinyl, and bodacious beards. Even truer, reviving roller skating feels right “on-brand” with the kneeless jeans, Tom Selleck-esque staches’, and suspenders synonymous with the hipster modus operandi.
But there’s more depth to this story. And, we might look to its deep-cut influences on Black culture to unearth the revival’s origins.
Following Black skaters' fight to desegregate roller rinks at the height of the Modern Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s, roller skating remained imprinted on Black consciousness and continues to flourish as a subculture. And, as demonstrated by the diverse group of protesters who stood skate to skate in Boston to support the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2020, it’s actively a part of history’s drumbeat.
And, in recent years, the nuances of roller skating’s cultural impact are rising from the fringes: the 2018 documentary Soul Skate invites viewers into a bi-annual roller disco party at the heart of Detroit’s cultural legacy; and the 2019 documentary United Skates tells the story of the “underground culture of African-American rolling skating.”
But, those documentaries only represent a slice of a larger narrative; there’s something universally sublime about its rebirth as a pastime.
Lacing up a pair evokes memories of roller skating’s heyday, when Boomboxes: the microphones of hip-hop’s arrival, impossibly short shorts, neon, and Prince & the Revolution records reigned supreme in roller rinks. It’s never been uncool, unless you’re a “square,” to transform a sidewalk into a glorious dance floor.
There’s stories like that of sisters Kelly and Megan Walsh who revitalized their late father’s Los Angeles-based hot dog stand—Cupid’s Hot Dogs—by using their love of roller skating to give the business an added nostalgic flair that went viral.
This begs the question: “Did roller skating ever really go anywhere or was it spinning, gliding, and grooving right below the surface all along?"