In skateboarding, the idea of legacy is a funny thing. In many ways there is no more desirable a goal achievable through a career in skateboarding than cementing one’s position in the annals of skate lore. There are of course a number of ways of doing this, the most obvious being through one’s performance on board, through being the first to perform trick variations that have never been seen before or by stepping to a well known spot with a trick that would have been previously considered to be unachievable.
This obviously is the most understandable way to secure one’s name’s position at the forefront of the collective mind of the skateboard community as a whole. Though, it is selling short the particular intricacies of skateboarding culture as a whole to suggest that the only means by which any individual can install themselves in history (wilfully or aside from the skater’s intentions) is through skating alone. It is no secret that marketability and character innate to a pro is if not more important than tricks it is at least as significant in some cases. When considering any single individual who has created a place from themselves within skateboarding history through decisions made and actions performed beyond those made atop urethane four wheels I can’t help but turn to a man who has perhaps been the root of as many running jokes as he has awe stuck gasps of approval, Jim Greco.
Now, this is nothing against Greco’s abilities on board. We are talking about a man who put down one of the most recognised backside noseblunt slides in skateboarding history, certainly in the top 3 anyway, the other two both being courtesy of Eric Koston at Hubba Hideout and Bricktown respectively. And if reports from the recently premiered and much hyped Deathwish video are to believed he is far from slowing down, there are mutterings of the much maligned Darkslide being taken handrails to courtesy of Mr. Greco and switch no less. Though even considering the quality of Greco’s output since his breakthrough part in Zero skateboard’s seminal Misled Youth, the video that launched thousands of gaunt teenage frames down tens of thousands of stairs, one can’t talk about Greco without considering his place in skateboarding wrapped up in concerns other than his skating.
Since I became aware of the man there has been genuinely countless different incarnations of Greco, the man’s passion for the sartorially ridiculous paired with his eminent quoteability over the course of decades worth of interviews have catapulted him into a realm of otherness reserved for skaters that have captured the public imagination through not just their on board achievements but through the power of sheer eccentricity. He ranks amongst your Gonzalezs, your Muskas, your Pennys if arguably not through a comparable level of talent but via a shared capacity for hilarious philosophising and the ability to clad innumerable youths around the world in some truly remarkable get-ups. These are the men that mark out skateboarding culture as so entirely other to that which surrounds other activities, the types of characters that make skateboarding so special.
In reality actually writing anything is the article seems almost a fool’s errand when it is essentially a celebration of one man’s ludicrous outfits. Though these outfits have had no small effect on the formative years of an abundance of twenty something’s worldwide. In fact Greco is directly responsible for me personally lusting over and ultimately attaining some hideously ugly pink and orange runners in the Halcyon days of my early teens. Though I guess there is no better way to consider any given skater’s legacy than the effect they had on skaters in general and in that regard Greco’s significance in the early to mind 00’s can’t be overstated. As somebody who was first exposed to skateboarding culture outside of the little videos you unlocked for completing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 at Greco’s peak his effect on the aesthetic of skateboarding at that time was so plainly apparent.
Of course to many the very notion of appealing to any skater’s ability to influence teenager’s choice of trouser tightness as a mark of their worth is entirely repugnant and symptomatic of a style over substance mentality that is detrimental to skateboarding culture as a whole. But to take this position is almost missing the point. Phases within skateboarding culture and the evolution of the tastes of skateboarders in general is undoubtedly not just informed by the tricks the “hot pro” of the time is doing but also through the character of the pro, the style and tastes that youths choose to emulate even if they go on to deny the influence.
This preoccupation with the appearance of skaters at any point in skate culture’s rich tapestry is apparent even now when people discuss skateboarding of yore. When people discuss the early 90s in skating you are as likely to hear somebody laugh about the big pants small wheels that defined the “look” of the era as you are to hear discussion of the birth of hyper-technical street skating as focal point of the discussion. Even in relation to modern skateboarding you have to suspect that in a decade or so’s time when we cast our minds back over this time in skateboarding we will be talking as much about how Dylan Rieder exposed us to the tanned yet sunken chests of California’s youth courtesy of t-shirts with plunging necklines that would make a “glamorous assistant” blush as much as we will the ins and outs of skateboarding’s development over the last few years in terms of tricks.
Some aspect of what Greco does has always remained at the fore of skateboarding conversation in recent memory. If not due to his skating through his much publicised battles with substance abuse and the phenomenal “Jim Greco is off drugs” Baker ad or his dazzling array of ladies scarves. Greco’s ticks and eccentricities have even come to shape the way skateboarders speak, how often have you heard somebody describe a particularly daring manoeuvre as a “Hammer” or commend the “Mob” style of a kickflip, Greco is everywhere or at least a Greco reference will always land in circles of skateboard discussion. As much as the stream of heavy photos he has been releasing of late is supporting his recent career renaissance he also remains on top his game in terms of hilarity. Despite his embracing a more conventional less piratey look of late he still manages to one up himself in terms of saying ridiculous stuff, case in point his recent “Hammer Report” segment on the Thrasher website. You’d have to be a truly joyless individual to not see the funny side of Greco encouraging a youthful unknown to “Bring it “ as opposed to “Sing it” on some of San Francisco’s most intimidating obstacles.
I suppose my argument for Greco’s continued significance in skateboard is perhaps a little personal and dependent on my own subjective engagement with skateboarding but in a sense that is a reflection of what in essence makes skaters like Greco so vital to the Industry as a whole. Skaters like Greco are men worthy of obsession. They have an effect on young audiences and shape an adolescence the same way hearing a certain record or reading a certain book at the right time in one’s life does. Even through his most ludicrous of phases I could never give up on Greco simply because he was my skateboard eccentric and I’m sure there are countless dudes slowly sliding into their dread mid-twenties that feel the same way. So do it for us Jim, Bring it as opposed to sing it for the new Deathwish flick. Though no matter how the part ends up, the man’s legacy is secure simply off the back of at one time being able to convince teenage boys to wear trousers this ridiculous.