Z-Boys Legend Tony Alva Shares His Thoughts On Streetwear and Skateboarding
Originally published for STATUS Magazine, December 2018
Celebrating his golden anniversary as one of skateboarding’s most respected figures, TONY ALVA keeps his head and heart in the same down-to-earth place.
Born and raised in the rough neighborhood of Dogtown in southern Santa Monica, California, Tony began his career as a professionally sponsored skateboarder and athlete in his early teenage years. Joining the Zephyr Skateboard team with childhood friends Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta in the ‘70s, they pushed the perilous craft of skating empty swimming pools into the limelight, creating a new tradition in the culture that would eventually stick forever.
Now in his early 60s, the Z-boys legend and vertical skating pioneer spends his days watching over his brand Alva Skates, making music with G.F.P. and HEHF, and jumping countries to promote his long-time business relationship with Vans. Taking a quick exit from his duties at House of Vans Manila 2018, we snuck away from the enthusiastic energy of the crowd and sat down with Tony to hear his thoughts on modern skate culture and the relationship of streetwear and skateboarding.
Upon arriving in Manila and observing the skate culture, would you say there are distinct differences between Philippine and Western skate culture?
Well, I wouldn’t say that there’s a huge difference. I would say that, if anything, the enthusiasm of skateboarding in the Philippines seems really high. It’s like the kids really love it and they’re non-stop. They’ve been skating all day and it makes me a little jealous because my old, 60-year-old body aches just watching these kids skate all day like that. The energy level is really high and that they seem to be really enjoying themselves, and hopefully with that kind of attitude and dedication, they’ll increase not only the talent and ability in the technical aspect of skateboarding but I think it’s also gonna push skateboarding into a more positive direction in the Philippines.
“The streetcore value of skateboarding is something that I think is really important, that we not lose that connection and value. Let’s let it be as hardcore and real as it can be.”
Talking about moving forward, where do you hope to see skateboarding in the next 10 years?
The streets is really where skateboarding is happening all the time. It’s kinda underground, but at the same time that’s where the most hardcore skateboarding really goes down in most major cities. Most of the kids that are professional skateboarders nowadays, especially the ones doing the most technical stuff, are still out on the streets practicing. The streetcore value of skateboarding is something that I think is really important, that we not lose that connection and value. Let’s let it be as hardcore and real as it can be.
“…but I feel like when it comes to fashion for skateboarders, it’s about form and function. It’s gotta be something that feels good and looks good but at the same time has a quality to it.”
Streetwear and skate culture have been simmering in the same pot for quite a while now. Why do you think these two get along so well?
Fashion has a lot to do with skateboarding because skateboarders are not only very fashion-conscious, but they’re usually one step ahead when it comes to trends in fashion. I wear different things when I’m skating and just going out in a social environment, but I feel like when it comes to fashion for skateboarders, it’s about form and function. It’s gotta be something that feels good and looks good but at the same time has a quality to it.
“Like anything, you have to basically have your head and your heart in the right place and make something that’s truly a good product, as well as the fact that it looks and feels good. If you don’t have those facets in your apparel and stuff…It’s just gonna be another trend, and trends just come and go.”
What do you think of streetwear culture taking aspects of skate fashion but without the form and the functionality that it originally should have?
I don’t think that form and functionality should be neglected. It’s not just about making trendy stuff and hoping that people are gonna make money for it, you know, and trying to exploit it for fashion. Like anything, you have to basically have your head and your heart in the right place and make something that’s truly a good product, as well as the fact that it looks and feels good. If you don’t have those facets in your apparel and stuff, I don’t see it as having a long future. It’s just gonna be another trend, and trends just come and go. I’ve never considered myself a trendy person, but some people get caught up in that stuff. I find that, for me, it’s gotta be more connected to something that’s real but at the same time has a sense of aesthetic.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with French clothing line Serge Blanco?
A friend of mine, Elsa Lauby, has a company in France called Serge Blanco and she’s got stores in Paris, London, and Tokyo. She does men’s fashion and I’m collaborating with her on a line right now, and we’re doing really nice men’s clothes that are cut in a fashion aspect but can be also used for skateboarding. So either next spring or summer, we’re coming out with a line that we both worked on together. We mostly used Italian fabrics and it’s really nice quality, and it’s not cheap ‘cause I don’t think that fashion is cheap if you do something nice and you do it right.
Written by Sophie Caraan
Photographed by Mark Cristino and Maui Hidalgo of Blunt Magazine, courtesy of Vans Philippines