how dylan rieder bridged the gap between skateboarding and fashion

No matter what you thought about him, one thing was always clear about Dylan: he didn't care about your opinion on his style. He did what he wanted to do, he skated how he wanted to skate, he dressed how he wanted to dress rather than how a skater...

by Oliver Lunn
24 October 2016, 12:45pm

When news broke of the death of pro skater and model Dylan Rieder, at the age of 28, a torrent of tributes filled Instagram. "You were my favorite, for just being you. I love you and I'll miss you deeply!" said pro skater Alex Olson. "One of the kindest, most down to down, incredible human beings I have ever encountered," said Cara Delevingne, with whom he once modeled. Even Ozzy Osbourne had kind words to share: "One of the most talented and brave men. I feel blessed to have known you."

Rieder's death, following a two year-long battle with leukaemia, is a catastrophic loss for skateboarding. Not just because he was without question one of the best skaters on the planet, or because he looked so goddamn beautiful on a skateboard, with that just-got-out-of-bed effortlessness, but because he was someone who bridged the gap between different cultures: namely, fashion and skateboarding. It added to his uniqueness as a skater — especially since the skate world's thorny relationship with the fashion world was a hot-button issue. And it made him a quiet rebel. Not only did he unashamedly embrace fashion, he made it okay for other skaters to dabble with looks, to take inspiration from other corners of culture.

With his legendary 2010 Gravis video part alone, he arguably inspired a whole generation of skaters to roll up their slim pants and don swanky shirts…

Rieder, whose sponsors included Supreme and HUF, was often shrouded in sartorial controversy. Instantly infamous were his slip-on Gravis loafers that came out in 2010. "I think they got a lot of talk when they came out," he says in his Epicly Later'd episode. "I definitely got some shit for them but I fuckin' dig 'em." 

The loafers weren't your typical skate shoe. They were elegant, like a shoe you might wear to a fancy art show. It presumably took balls of steel to own that look in the skate community. But for Supreme co-rider Jason Dill, that was part of the attraction of Dylan. "Look at this original fucker," he says, "riding around in his cute little rolled-up pants and his fuckin' shirts with the buttons on, little necklace n' shit. He looks great!"

Famed skate filmer Bill Strobeck, in the same episode, weighs in: "The way Dylan dresses reminds me of when I first met Dill. It was like, here are my fancy, fashionable shoes, and here's these pants that nobody's wearing … it had something to do with fashion, and I think Dylan is into that."

That interest in fashion seemed to lead into his model work; notably his appearance alongside Cara Delevingne on a DKNY campaign in 2014. But for Rieder, the fashion world and the skate world were never 1000 miles apart. He blurred the line further when he directed a commercial for his new HUF signature shoe. Shot in Berlin, in classy black and white, it features dreamy shots of Dylan in a room with a naked girl perched on a stool behind him, and of course, some 10/10 skating in sexy slow-mo. Yes, he skates and models in it. And naturally it got everyone talking again. One YouTube user sums up the ensuing debate in the comments section: "People hate cause this isn't what they've been taught to like. Get out of the box and find your own interests. Sheep."

No matter what you thought about him, one thing was always clear about Dylan: he didn't give a fuck about your opinion on his style. He did what he wanted to do, he skated how he wanted to skate, he dressed how he wanted to dress rather than how a skater should dress. He kept being him to the end. 

Yet he did have an impact on skate fashion. Soon after his Gravis part dropped in 2010, skaters in white V-neck tees and slim rolled-up pants would turn up at the skate park, trying desperately to get that Dylan look down. Some even went so far as to tuck in a wife-beater and stand around all day trying Impossibles (Dylan's go-to trick). But they were pale imitators. And though that look had its moment in the spotlight, soon other trends emerged. Skaters wore baggier jeans and dressed like they were Mike Carroll in the 90s. Through all this, Dylan remained Dylan, typically looking as though he had just stepped off the catwalk, a cigarette hung between his lips, the essence of cool. Once again he stuck out like — as Dill puts it — "this original fucker."

Never was that originality more obvious than when he appeared, to the shock of many, at Street League, 'the world's premier street skateboarding competition'. Surrounded by skaters in Monster Energy caps and with corporate sponsors flashing on screens all around him, Dylan stood out immediately. He wore a plain white tee and slim dark jeans. He didn't wear logos. At one event, he infamously flipped a middle finger at the camera, seemingly at the absurdity of the whole thing. His I-don't-give-a-fuck grin said it all.

There's been an undeniable influence of fashion on skateboarding this year — and skating on fashion — whether skaters like it or not. Vogue's 'skate week' set skate forums ablaze with indignant 'wtf' comments, foregrounding a wider debate about cultural appropriation. Some skaters feel like fashion is co-opting skate culture, like you can't wear a Thrasher tee unless you skate. Yet there's always been a back and forth between the two worlds: skating takes from fashion just as fashion takes from skating. Even pro-skater Eric Koston agrees, commenting on the cross-pollination saying, "whether skaters like to think this or not, they're walking lookbooks... the skate scenes take in fashion too! So it's all fair and square to me…" in a recent interview with i-D.

Rieder is someone who epitomized that. He bridged the gap between skating and fashion. And there was something punk in spirit about that — in not conforming to one idea of what skating should be or how it should look. What he would've done next, how he would of challenged the status quo in skate culture, is anyone's guess. But it definitely would have been something we would all be talking about. RIP Dylan Rieder. 


Text Oliver Lunn
Still via YouTube

Dylan Rieder