Style Counselling with Patrick O'Dell
Style Counselling with Patrick O'DellOCTOBER 2023
Why did we interview Patrick O’Dell, former photo editor of Thrasher and creator of the Epicly Later’d skate documentary series? What does he have to do with running? Well, firstly, Patrick runs these days. He's a runner and a hiker. But we wanted to chat with him because he’s been a major contributor to skate culture for decades now, which makes him more than qualified to share his thoughts on this issue’s theme: Style. And more specifically, how style may or may not impact performance.
Unlike most athletic endeavors, skateboarding is about creativity and self-expression, and how you look is as important as what you can do on a skateboard. But then, is it? How important is looking good and feeling cool when it comes to skating your best? And does that carry over into other sporting arenas? We think it does. Patrick helped confirm it.
Photography: Patrick O'Dell Archive
Hey, how are you?
I’m good. You moved to Oakland!
Yeah, up from LA about a year ago.
Yeah, it’s good.
Cool. Okay, I want to talk to you about style in skateboarding.
Because style is a big part of it, whereas in other... I don’t want to say ‘sports’, but in other activities that require, let’s say, a high level of physical effort, there’s not much thought given to style.
Do you mean style of skateboarding or style as in fashion?
To give you a bit of context, the brains behind Satisfy and many of the employees at Satisfy come from a skate background, and as a result, the brand has a sort of skate brand ethos, I guess. So, I wanted to chat with you about the correlation between how you look and how you perform. Let’s start with what you wear when you skate these days.
Oh, I tend to wear baggier clothes nowadays because I’m trying to hide my style. Like, I have bad skate style, and if I have baggier clothes on, it disguises that a little better.
That’s not a thing.
It works for me. I put on baggy clothes and I don’t feel as lanky.
I’m 6’, so you must be... What, like, 6’2”?
'Yeah, Jerry kinda has a thrift store vibe. He got all his clothes from thrift stores...'
Dude, are you really 6’4”?
Yeah, but I slouch and I have weird posture, and I’m lanky. I used to wear really tight clothes when I’d go out at night or whatever, but when I’d skate, I’d feel ridiculous. So, when I’m going skating now, I definitely put on my baggier pants. There are some skaters who wear really tight clothes and their style is kinda bad, and I just think if they relaxed their clothes a little bit they would look better. [Laughter] But it’s weird, the clothes thing in skating, because there’s no uniform. So, you’re watching somebody’s video part, and you can tell they’ve chosen to wear different clothes for every clip... Like, I have clips of me skating where I’m wearing stuff that I really regret, so I think that professional skaters really think about what they’re going to wear if it’s for a video part.
Let me run through some skaters that I think have great style.
Jerry. I always thought Jerry was one of the best-dressed guys in skateboarding.
Yeah. He has a sort of lazy, thrown-together look, but he always looks cool, and everything seems to fit him really well.
Yeah, Jerry kinda has a thrift store vibe. He got all his clothes from thrift stores.
Right, which a lot of people do, but Jerry puts it together well. What about Jason Jessee? He’s always done his own thing fashion-wise.
Yeah, you know, in those old videos, he looked a little surf.
But him and Eric Dressen have that California biker style, you know? They’re a little bit Latino and a little bit biker.
I know exactly what you mean. What about accessorizing in skate fashion: As far as I can remember, the only time a skater accessorized it was Muska with the ghetto blaster.
'Muska is interesting. I was just looking at his Instagram... Have you seen his Instagram? He’s farming.'
No one has done anything like that since.
The boom box.
What was that all about?
I don’t know, man. Muska is interesting. I was just looking at his Instagram and he’s farming in Ohio. Have you seen his Instagram? He’s farming.
He’s from Ohio, right?
Yeah. He was born in Loraine, Ohio, which is northern Ohio. I don’t know, maybe he had a midlife crisis, or maybe he wanted to get back to his roots. Anyway, he bought a farm in Loraine, Ohio.
That’s great! The last time I saw him was in New York, and he had a loft near Canal Street and he was painting. Is he still doing art?
I’m sure he is.
Anyway, back to ‘Style’: do you think looking cool and being stoked with your appearance has an effect on your performance?
Well... I think it does. I mean, it does in running. I think there is some psychology behind it. Like, when I run, I’m superstitious about what socks I wear—
'I think [Corey] has grown into his style in some ways because, at one point, it felt a little inauthentic, like, here’s this kid dressed like the Ramones... But I feel like gradually, over time, he really grew into the look... Now Corey feels really authentic...'
Yeah, I kinda have to have these certain socks, but lately, I’ve chilled out with it.
How do you mean?
Just, like, having everything be right, I guess. Like with skating, I think if I had green wheels I would skate really bad.
What do you mean?
Like, they could be the same type of wheels I always use, but if they’re green, I’d skate really bad. One time I had a board where every wheel was a different color, and I just could not skate it.
It just felt bad. And I think that extends to the clothes, especially with shoes. If my shoes are screwed up, that’s going to affect my skating.
So, it is a thing.
Yeah, but a lot of it’s just psychological.
Totally, but that’s the point. If you were a professional trail runner, you’d be the same way. The shoe, shorts, top, and hat combo you’re happiest with is the one that’s going to make you run better. What about that Corey Duffel—he brought some style to the game back in the late ‘90s with his whole Ramones vibe. That was an interesting time.
I was skating with him recently, and he had baggier clothes on, and he was ripping. But with Corey, I think he’s grown into his style in some ways because, at one point, it felt a little inauthentic, like, here’s this kid dressed like the Ramones—
'Like, there’s people doing bert slides in driveways and people wearing short-shorts, and then Gonz appears in the video and does a kickflip, a half-cab ollie, and he’s wearing a janitor’s jacket and normal pants. He looks timeless.'
Right, he was like a mini-Ramone.
Yeah, but it was tough for him to own it, in a way, because, you know, it looked a little like a costume. But I feel like gradually, over time, he really grew into the look, and it didn’t feel like a gimmick. Now Corey feels really authentic, the way he dresses and skates and stuff.
Yeah, he’s rad. Now, what about Gonz’s style? There’s someone who has made some very interesting style choices.
Yeah, you know, there’s one thing I noticed about Gonz... There’s this original Thrasher video, the first Thrasher video—I think it’s called Skate Rock, maybe—and all of the skaters look dated, you know? Like, there’s people doing bert slides in driveways and people wearing short-shorts, and then Gonz appears in the video and does a kickflip, a half-cab ollie, and he’s wearing a janitor’s jacket and normal pants. He looks timeless.
Mark has always done his own thing, though, right? Like, fashion-wise, he’s on his own mission, but I don’t think he’s kicked off any fashion trends.
No, no one copies his clothes, but they copy his tricks. People like Tony Hawk or Rodney Mullen are credited with inventing the most tricks, but skaters don’t wake up in the morning and try to go skate like Rodney Mullen, but they do emulate Mark Gonzales.
In terms of fashion, though, you’d have to agree Dylan [Rieder] has had the biggest influence on not just skateboarding but style in general.
'Dylan opened the door for skaters to be less fearful of doing fashion... He was just out there doing his thing unapologetically, but I think that had a lot to do with his skill on a skateboard—he could just pull anything off, he could do anything.'
I mean. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure he was the first dude to start tucking his t-shirts in with a belt and those stovepipe pants with three inches of ankle showing. No one was doing that. He made that shit cool.
Yeah, I think Dylan opened the door for skaters to be less fearful of doing fashion or doing... I don’t know. He was just out there doing his thing unapologetically, but I think that had a lot to do with his skill on a skateboard—he could just pull anything off, he could do anything.
Like, if I wore a Dylan Rieder outfit and went skating, I’d get laughed at. [Laughter] But Dylan, I mean, he really was the best of his time. Like, that Gravis part is just unparalleled.
He was a magician.
And you know, I think when you skate that good, you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing—you’re going to look good regardless.
Spanky has great style.
Yeah, he’s got great style. Spanky would buy tons of clothes at the thrift store. And Jerry was like that, Andrew Reynolds was like that...
'One thing I will say about fashion, though, is... Like, if you were rich and you just bought Gucci every couple of months, would that be stylish or did you just spend a lot of money?'
But Jerry and Spanky are pretty short, right? I feel like clothes look better on shorter people.
Spanky’s short. Jerry’s, like, average, but he’s not tall. Ethan Fowler was pretty short and he had great style, and sometimes I attributed it to his height. He could pull things off.
That’s what I’m saying.
I have weird body proportions, being tall. Like, I couldn’t pull my pants up over my hip bones and then tuck in my shirt. I’d look like Ed Grimley.
Do you have a short trunk and long legs?
I have really long legs, yeah. But Ethan Fowler, I always liked the way he dressed, especially in that first Stereo video. He was someone I wanted to copy. Like, I think I went shopping a couple of times just to try to look like Ethan Fowler. But Ethan has this James Dean thing that’s pretty tough to copy, y’know?
Speaking of aping people’s style, I remember years ago seeing Spanky at Max Fish, and he was carrying all his stuff around in a plastic bag from a corner deli, and I was so impressed with how blasé that was—having your phone, keys, and whatever else in a plastic bag—I started doing it.
Oh, I did that too. [Laughter]
Did you really?
Yeah, but it was back when everyone was wearing really tight jeans, and cell phones had kind of just came out.
That’s exactly right! There was no room in your pockets.
Right? So, it was like, cell phone, wallet, keys, camera.
Yeah, all in a shitty plastic bag.
One thing I will say about fashion, though, is... Like, if you were rich and you just bought Gucci every couple of months, would that be stylish or did you just spend a lot of money? The people we’ve been talking about—Spanky, Andrew, Jerry—they thrifted and kinda curated their style, whereas now it’s kinda easy to just go and buy the latest fashion drop.
Right. I don’t think you can take credit for any personal style if you’re just wearing the latest ‘cool’ thing. That’s just lazy and playing it safe.
You know who is interesting? Even Mock. He skates, but he does, like, Louis Vuitton campaigns and stuff, right?
Yeah, and television shows... That’s the door that Dylan opened up. I think that without Dylan, skaters would still be too self-conscious to do stuff like that. Did you see on Evan’s Instagram he had a makeup tutorial video?
Yeah! That was interesting.
Yeah, I liked that he did that. It was a real never-been-done in skating moment, you know?
'I liked that [Evan] did that. It was a real never-been-done in skating moment, you know? ...I didn’t watch the whole thing, but I liked that he made it.'
Totally. He was promoting some product that reduced wrinkles around the eyes, I think?
Something. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but I liked that he made it.
I watched it, and all I could think was, dude, you are the last person who needs to worry about wrinkles. How’s your personal style going these days?
My fashion now—and I hate to say it—is just things that I can get for free or at a discount from companies. So, my entire wardrobe is based on financial incentive.
Are you sure it’s financial incentive, or do you just not like shopping anymore? Because I hate shopping nowadays.
I don’t like shopping either. I used to, but I don’t like it anymore. Like, I moved recently, and I threw out a bunch of old shoes. So, I hit up a guy I know at Nike and said, ‘Hey, can I get some shoes?’ and then I hit up somebody at Vans, too, and I traded a photo for some Adidas shoes—
Like, Adidas paid me in shoes for a photo. And my wife works for various retail brands, so I’d get 50% off these brands, and the same with some of the skate stuff. So, I’m just like, ‘Oh, cool. I’m just gonna wear this then.’ So, really, my fashion has turned into me not wanting to spend money anymore. [Laughter] Sometimes, I will go out and buy some nice new button-up shirts, though. Do you ever listen to Guided by Voices?
Yeah, you actually turned me on to them years ago when I interviewed you for something else.
Right, well, I guess twenty years ago, when I was really listening to Guided by Voices, I liked how Bob Pollard dressed, and to this day, I try to find shirts that look like ones Bob Pollard would wear. It’s never gone away. My shirt style is Bob Pollard or, like, Arthur Miller or Jasper Johns. You know those kinda shirts?
I do, yeah. Vertical stripes etcetera. You look good in a collared shirt. I struggle with them. I’m so used to wearing t-shirts; when I put on a collared shirt it looks wrong.
I feel stupid wearing t-shirts. I wear t-shirts when I walk my dog, but when I work, I have to wear a collared shirt. And I feel like that’s out of respect for the job or something. I would almost start wearing a suit jacket if I thought I could get away with it... Maybe I could, but I still have to wear a collared shirt on workdays. I have to make sure I look somewhat formal.
'I try to dress smart because nothing smart is going to come out of my mouth. It’s like those kids at the skatepark, you know the ones that dress so legit skate but then sit on the hubba all day? I'm like that.'
In fact, in the next couple of weeks, I have to do a bunch of shoots, and I might go shopping to make sure I look professional—even though I’m just interviewing skaters.
And that brings us back full circle: what you wear affects your performance.
Yeah. I try to dress smart because nothing smart is going to come out of my mouth. [Laughter] It’s like those kids at the skatepark, you know the ones that dress so legit skate but then sit on the hubba all day?
I’m like that. If you can’t pull it off, you gotta at least try and look the part.