The Resurgence of Retro Roller Skating: An Emerging Fashion Trend

Roller skating was a major phenomenon in the 1970s, with disco nights at roller rinks, movies about the sport, and even a song by Cher becoming part of popular culture. 

But while gliding around on classic skates might bring to mind images of vintage fashion — think bellbottoms, paisley prints, and high-waisted jeans — this retro sport is now making a very modern comeback. 

This is despite the introduction of the more streamlined rollerblade, in which the wheels are fixed in a row, rather than four disparate corners of the skate, which led to the art of roller skating fading from public consciousness in recent decades.

Today, thanks, in part, to a boost from social networking site, TikTok, more and more people around the US are lacing up their skates and hitting the pavement once again.

With anxiety surging during the pandemic, many people turned to physical activity to relieve stress. And as an outdoor sport, roller skating was a perfect solution for those looking for a safe, socially-distanced activity. Cheryl Meier, a southern California local, told the Orange County Register that skating had become something of a mindfulness practice for her.

“It’s this relaxed thing, this flow state,” she said. “I get in that relaxed place and that flow place and you’re not stuck in your thoughts. You’re concentrating on your balance and you’re present. If you’re not present, you’re going to fall.”

Meier told OCR that her favorite spot for skating is on Newport Beach’s beachfront promenade.

“It helps me let go of my problems and see this vast, expansive ocean and connect with people who are like-minded and have good vibes,” she said.

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Toni Edwards, who owns a roller skating shop in Newport Beach, told OCR that the pandemic had been a major boon for her business.
Upon opening her business, Edwards said she “was feeling the enthusiasm instantly, but I noticed after the shutdown [California stay-at-home order], it’s finally hitting. My dream of roller skates in every household [was] coming true…there were lines out of the door every day thereafter.”

Across the country in Detroit, Michigan, the third-generation owners of legendary skating rink Rollercade came up with a creative solution to provide a pandemic-friendly space for skaters. Kyle Black and Janine Folks, whose grandparents founded Rollercade, partnered with a local real estate company to transform a vacant lot in downtown Detroit into an outdoor roller rink.

Black and Folks, who’d been forced to close their business for eight months in 2020, were thrilled at the immediate public interest. They told Fast Company that some 8,500 people had come to the outdoor rink in its first month alone.

The social aspect of skating is another major draw to the sport. Tiffany Mason, the founder of Seattle, Washington-based roller skating collective Roll Around Seatown, told a local news site that the sport is inseparable from the community.

“It’s about the relationships; it’s about the fellowship. It’s about just vibing and learning from each other and just having pure fun,” she told the South Seattle Emerald.

From the opportunity to connect with like-minded enthusiasts, to the endorphin-boosting benefits of physical activity done in a safe outdoor setting, it’s clear why roller skating is enjoying a sudden resurgence in popularity. The sport may have gone underground in recent years, but its appeal remains as relevant as ever.

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