California Chrome

West Coast skate-style, circa 1970-cool


A friend once offered to give me “cool lessons.” I was in 4th grade and lukewarm. Her instructions outlined how to talk, what to listen to, what to watch, but it wasn’t until the following year when I saw a skateboarder do a flip (after school in the courtyard with a neon green deck) that I said to myself, now that…that is cool.

I grew up in San Francisco where these skateboarders rode hills like waves. They leaned against gravity like it was an invisible wall with a No Loitering sign, blowing past stop signs because they could — the cars knew their rank out West. But the true blue originals were those Dogtown kids: the 1970s Zephyr team competitors from a run down beach town in Southern California who made the most out of a drought, skating empty pools when the ocean’s tide proved too mellow.

They were known as the Z-Boys, and they changed the game. They were the first to ride low, knees bent like surfers, palms skimming the ground along turns as one might run her fingers across a textured rack of hanging dresses. They were famous, after all, because they had style.

But where their focus was on technical style, mine always comes back to what they wore: the navy Vans, the cutoff denim. The faded t-shirts that were no doubt picked up off the floor in a rush to be the first one to land a new trick.

They were laid back and just a bit groovy thanks to the surfer-roots-runoff and the influence of nearby Venice Beach. Surely there were peasant tops, bell bottoms and huaraches amid the lived-in swimsuits and well-worn shorts.

I never ended up learning how to skate.

My coordination was off. The board moved faster than my brain. But one time last spring I had my arm outstretched, palm open in an attempt to hail a 9 AM cab, when a kid on a skateboard flew right by me and landed the perfect high-five against my hand.

He was down the block before I realized what had happened, but man, was that cool.

Shout out to Charlotte for the killer $lideshow

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  • Emily

    I saw this video the other day of a nine year old girl finally landing some hard trick on her skateboard and this post reminded me of it.
    Bad A$$.

    • Amelia Diamond

      oh wow that video just made my day, she’s so badass

  • Christina Storm

    Love this!

    The Style Storm
    <3, Christina

  • Amelia, thank you for making my morning!

    I have always been fascinated by 70s California. I always say that it would have been the ideal era and location for me. Could easily have bummed around Golden Gate Park for a few years or lived with a cult in Bolinas, or even lived in 70s L.A. Something about the long, wispy hair, the impeccable denim (despite it being an afterthought), the attitude.

    Actually, the Hollywood Hills and/or Laurel Canyon would have been prime in the 70s. There, the sort of live-with-the-earth had an interesting relationship with the relative materialism of Hollywood. I love the aesthetic qualities that were birthed by that push-pull, and honestly, I feel like it has a lot to do with my current dilemma: environmentalism vs. fashion.

    It is interesting to see how the skate culture changes throughout the state. There are distinct differences between North and South, but one constant is the way in which the skaters *need* to skate. Perhaps for different reasons, but it has become such a fundamental and monumental part of these kids’ own development and sense of self.

    I’m heading east for college next year, and a friend I were lamenting about how we would miss California skate-surf boys. While our interests are totally different (I do zero board sports), there’s always been something alluring about those boys. Maybe it’s the beat-up Vans shoes and the surprisingly-wide-yet-nonchalant knowledge of art, or even the way they ruminate when they are really and frequently high. I don’t know, really, what attracts me, I just know that I am going to really miss this state next year. Skater dudes included.

    And now two songs about this great state in two different genres:

    • Charlotte Fassler

      Emma! My love for 70’s LA Laurel Canyon runs DEEP. The street I grew up on turns into Laurel Canyon boulevard 3 miles north of me and I always had such an affinity for it, but in high school I became possessed by it’s history. I wrote essays, read books, and am somewhat of a nerd when it comes the history of that concentrated area. It is such a special place!!

      I recommend he following books:

      Also- this groupie memoir is a really fun summer read:

      • Charlotte! While my knowledge of 70s Laurel Canyon must be rudimentary compared to yours, I can say that I am entirely fascinated. 70s LA just seemed like such a weird dichotomy between two extremes, and I love that. I’m also obsessed with Father Yod and the Source Family restaurant, etc. I have yet to see the documentary on it, though. I just wish I could travel back in time to 70s LA.

        Next time you’re in town you’ll have to give a driving tour of yesteryear’s wonders. Between men and geographic fascination we have much in common, Fassler.

    • Amelia Diamond

      such a good song combo e$

      • Thanks, AMilli

      • So typically when you guys do style posts, I get really inspired and recreate the looks with my own wardrobe. Not unlike the other times, I did this today because I was just totally vibing this whole California Chrome thing. So I threw on my trusty Drug Rug, some old denim cutoffs and Converse, and pretended to be able to do gnarly tricks on my brother’s long board.

        The attached is me squinting intensely into the sun, equipped with a filter I found on the internet under ‘vintage filters.’ It’s entirely pathetic, but then again this is a safe place.

        • Amelia Diamond

          Love this Emma! I want a Drug Rug. A Drug FREE Rug, I mean, dad.

          • Get a drug rug! They are super comfy! Mine’s a little too big but I used to have one that looked great with a pair of white jeans and Converse. Also, SORRY POPS ONLY PURE THINGS HERE

  • dogtalk

    great photos

    • Amelia Diamond

      I want to illegally print them all out and frame them

      • Same! Actually, do you know where exactly the aerial-ish view one of the girl is from?

  • Jenny Westerhoff

    love dis, girl!

    • Amelia Diamond

      !!!!!! thank you hi!!!

  • ee_by_cc

    Aw man, taking me back to youth of crushes on skater kids. Swoon…

  • Charlotte Fassler

    Amelia- You have infiltrated my sartorial consciousness because this AM I wore high socks, vans, navy running shorts, a tee & distressed denim jacket to the grocery store….. I almost brought my board as an accessory but didn’t think I could manage holding it in addition to my breakfast….

  • GapToothedGirl

    Cool photo, for a cool post!!

    XOX, Gap.

  • Tali

    This article is heaven. I was obsessed with skater boys and the 70s after watching Lords of Dogtown! And in my exam period procrastination enduced polyvore obsession last year I made a few sets inspired by it all…perfectly effortless, perfectly cool.

    • Amelia Diamond

      ugh that movieeeee i know i’m so in love with every guy in it

  • …awww, and I was a midwest skater girl (with California roots–Oakland), now living in the hot valleys of Arizona, having recently moved here from Maryland. The Western vibe is, if nothing else, cool and casual. It has to be.–btw, shoutout to Charlotte! the slide show is totally killer!

    • Amelia Diamond



  • zoe_whip

    This is one of my favorite posts — and one of my favorite looks! Love it!

  • Amazing moodboard! Wishing it was summer in Brazil right now so I could wear my cut offs and feel as bad a** as these kids.

    • Amelia Diamond


      • but Amelia, is summer in the US! Wear your cut offs!!

        • Amelia Diamond

          i know i just keep forgetting to do lunges and shave!

  • mknoun

    whoa weird I just watched Dogtown and Z-boys yesterday

  • this reminds me that i still haven’t seen the “lords of dogtown”

    • Amelia Diamond

      watch itttttt

  • Ali

    Great post, but you forgot to name Peggy Oki’s photo! (Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta both got their names in the caption) The only female member of the Z-boys, a true lady skater legend, and a personal hero of mine

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hey! Updating now!!! She’s awesome I just googled the crap out of her.

      • Ali

        Yay! Yes, Peggy Oki is the bomb-diggity!

  • Alex


    • Amelia Diamond

      Ok I know. The bellbottoms in that movie. All the fashion. And Posie Parker. And the guy who will later appear in the movie version of Rent. It’s so good. Brewing on this.

  • Kelly’s Gross-o

    Heartthrobs. They don’t make ’em like that anymore

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Belina

    found these girls, seem to fit the bill

    • Amelia Diamond

      i love them

  • charlotte

    wow this is my favorite post yet. i’ve always wanted to be a 70s california skater chick but being a pale, brunette clumsy girl from NY …. not only will i never be that but i doubt i will never dress the part either

  • john
  • Chelsey
  • earlyholo_scene

    Should definitely feature more of the awesome female skaters from California like Ellen O’Neal, Robin Alaway, Laura Thornhill and Vicki Vickers

  • earlyholo_scene

    Laura Thornhill killing it in vintage shortalls