Skateboard stickers: everything you should know

February 2, 2021 | Skateboarding
Skateboard stickers: a symbol of skate and urban youth culture | Photo: Creative Commons

Skateboard stickers are part of the sidewalk surfing culture.

Their fusion of pop art, rebellion, postmodern imagery, controversy, and original typography is a symbol of street art and urban youth expression.

It's not clear when the decal fever started, but stickers have been glued to skateboarding history since its early days.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were a few popular surf-and-skate sticker collections featuring some of the world's most brands and companies.

The trend slowed down a bit in the late 1900s but somehow returned in full force in the 21st century.

So, why do skaters enjoy collecting stickers, and why do they use them on their boards? There are several reasons for that.

Interestingly, skateboarding's older brother does not appreciate stickers and decals that much unless the "sinner" is a professional surfer.

Weekend warriors, who put stickers on the nose of the board, are often regarded as kooks or beginner surfers.

So, who prints skateboard stickers? The answer is relatively simple.

Deck, truck, bearing, and wheel manufacturers and skate clothing brands produce stickers and decals to promote their brands on the streets, skateparks, and media.

Let's take an in-depth look into this alternative skateboarding world.

Should you use them? Why and where? Are they worth it? And how can you get cool skateboard stickers?

The Screaming Hand: Jim Phillips created one of the most popular skateboard graphics of all time

Cool or Not Cool?

One of the great things about skateboarding is that there are no rules for what you want to do.

So, the decision to put a sticker - or not - on your board is entirely yours. If you're a massive fan of a brand and are proud of showing it off, go for it.

There's not a supreme court judging whether it is cool or uncool to put stickers on skateboards.

It's a personal preference, and no one shall judge you for that. If you want to customize your board, just do it.

And if they don't make sense to you anymore, you can always peel them off quickly.

Yes, some stickers are cooler than others, but again, you are the owner of your destiny and, obviously, your board.

Some companies only create and give away stickers with their logo on them; others develop innovative graphics that don't necessarily focus on selling the brand.

One of the most popular skateboard stickers of all time is the famous "Screaming Hand," a 1985 creation by Jim Phillips.

Today, it's a timeless symbol of skate culture.

A Layer of Protection

SkateStickers can be used to repurpose scratched-up boards or even protect old decks.

Most of these colorful patches are printed on premium vinyl and coated with a protective laminate that makes them waterproof, resistant to scratching, tearing, and fading.

They're highly resistant and may increase the lifetime of a deck by months, if not years.

If you're into grind or slide tricks and maneuvers, stickers provide an extra layer of protection between objects and obstacles and the board's bottom surface.

Supporting Local Brands

There are thousands of skate companies worldwide.

Some of them have become global players, developing gear, clothing, and footwear; others are small businesses that support local skateboarding communities.

If you know the owners or rely on local skate shops and nearby manufacturers to get the equipment and apparel you need, it could be interesting to help them grow awareness.

Putting their brands on your skateboard and featuring them in video parts may boost their sales and help them keep afloat.

Skateboard stickers: an extra layer of protection for the deck's bottom | Photo: Creative Commons

Landing a Sponsorship Deal

Whenever a skateboarder reaches a professional level, opportunities become responsibilities.

A professional skater is paid to showcase his or her talent and simultaneously help sell products and endorse companies.

Signing autographs, sharing tips with fans, wearing branded clothes and shoes, doing media interviews, and promoting sponsors is hard work, but it's part of the game.

You should not be surprised to know that pros also get paid to put stickers on their boards. It's actually the norm in professional surfing.

So, if you're a sponsored skater with several successful and highly viewed video clips on YouTube, you might as well slap your sponsors' sticker on the board to maximize their return on investment.

Making Art

Some skaters enjoying doing sticker coats, so you can't see any part of the deck's original graphics. And that's a form of art in itself.

All you need is a few fresh vinyl stickers, and you're ready to create a unique and original collage that pretty much covers the bottom of your board.

Skateboarding has always had an artistic side with colorful, high-impact graphics and subversive catchphrases.

Making art by developing an alternative deck artwork is always a valid and smart use of stickers.

Skateboard stickers: alternative deck artwork | Photo: Creative Commons

A Collector's Item

Some skaters developed an obsession with skateboard stickers.

Throughout the years, they collected thousands of decals, organizing their collection by company or release date.

Believe it or not, renowned designers and artists have been creating unique and rare skateboard stickers.

Stickers that were once given away for free are now selling for more than $100.

The rarest and most valuable stickers are items from the sport's golden ages - the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

They feature provocative graphics and memorable artwork from artists like Jim Phillips, Marc McKee, and Vernon Courtlandt Johnson.

If you're building your private collection, avoid unofficial replicas and reprints, and always look for official versions.

Building a comprehensive new and old school skateboard sticker archive may be time- and cost-intensive, but the result is worth showing.

Skateboard stickers: a very cheap and efficient marketing tool for skate companies | Photo: Creative Commons

Where to Get Skateboard Stickers

Skateboard stickers are a cheap and rather effective marketing tool.

Therefore, you'll find many top skate-related companies and manufacturers printing stickers and giving them away for free.

If you're interested in getting stickers from a few particular brands, check out their website and social media platforms and send them a polite and well-written message.

Most of the largest skate companies will gladly ship you a few samples.

If you're not lucky, visit your local skate shop. Retailers often receive a considerable number of stickers with their equipment and apparel orders.

A returning customer always gets what he or she deserves, so you might end up with a handful of free, official skate stickers.

Finally, try second-hand, online auction, and consumer-to-consumer sales websites, or specialized sticker stores.

You can also find a large assortment of samples in "Stickerbomb Skateboard: 150 Classic Skateboard Stickers," one of the best skateboard books ever published.