There’s thousands of skate companies out there in the world, and all of them need graphics for their decks, ads, and clothes. Most companies make graphics that simply look cool, or at very least will sell. However, sometimes skaters, artists, or whole companies want graphics that have much deeper meaning than simply appropriating pop culture or bloodstained swords and skulls. Here is a list of some of the best and most intense political board graphics.
1. Jim Thiebaud “Hanging Klansmen” Series by Real Skateboards
Few skateboard graphics in history have been as intense or iconic as the Hanging Klansmen series. Starting Real Skateboards gave Thiebaud more creative control over his graphics than he had been afforded at Powell. This graphic is so powerful and biting in it’s criticism. Though the KKK may seem irrelevant in modern America, they have gone through various resurgence periods in this country and remain a real threat today. Thiebaud makes huge statements with these boards, going places in terms of ideology that no one else has touched since with board graphics. The graphic in the center depicts our government being allies with the most despicable organization in America, and calls for people to throw a wrench in the gears of the system. The Hanging Klansmen series forces us to think about racism and urges to fight and destroy it.
2. Pigs Series by Enjoi
While most big skate companies tend to release more “safe” graphics that don’t offend to widen their audience and therefore their profit margins, this is not enjoi’s prerogative. Despite being a company managed by business-minded, non-skateboarder “Dark Men” enjoi isn’t afraid to make socio-political graphics. They use their classic brand of humor to critique big business, communist dictators, America and it’s two-party system; nothing is safe from their art direction. Using the pig imagery as a common theme, enjoi associates each of these topics with the same negative connotation.
3. Alien Workshop’s Art Direction
From day one, Alien Workshop (RIP) made iconic socio-political graphics criticizing government and media/ big business. Using science fiction imagery, Workshop made clever, poignant, and often funny graphics to make points about, or draw attention to political corruption, apathy, misinformation, the power of media, and society’s lust for entertainment rather than information. Later on, after Alien’s fall from grace they did a collaboration board with Alex Jones’ asinine conspiracy theory perpetuating libertarian website InfoWars. *shudder* How the mighty have fallen.
4. Jason Lee “American Icons” Board by Blind
The only company that rivaled World Industries’ social and political commentary graphics in the 1990’s was Blind (both of which were part of Steve Rocco’s World Industries Distribution). This deck is without a doubt their most iconic socio-political graphic with Keenan Milton’s “Kid in Dump” being a contentious honorable mention. Between the name of the graphic and the accompanying imagery, this one is pretty self-explanatory.
5. Mike Vallely “Barnyard” Board by World Industries
Another World board. This graphic critiques animal cruelty, slaughterhouses, and the immense pollution they produce. This board, with it’s pro vegan message calls for animal liberation. Mike was Vegetarian when this board was released (is he still? We’re not sure!) But he’s the new singer for “Black Flag” so anything is possible. As animal rights lovers here at CTS, we recommend you click the image of the board below this text to check out The Vegan Skate Blog. The perfect combination of skateboarding and plant based goodness!
6. “Bury the Hatchet” board by Toy Machine
A little more “socio-” and not as “political” but, Ed Templeton is a visionary and this graphic belongs on this list. This graphic satirizes people that take religion so seriously, by suggesting the notion that the Devil and Jesus: the pinnacle of mortal enemies in all of existence, put aside their differences to become friends. If Jesus can befriend Satan, maybe those that fear him can too.
7. “Liberty and Justice for Some” board by Powell Peralta
This graphic was originally designed as a pro model for Ray Barbee, but was ultimately scrapped to a team model because Ray didn’t want his name on anything controversial. Powell Peralta generally shied away from tendentious imagery, making this board rather unique. The graphic gives voice to how institutional racism in America perpetuates judicial (and by extention financial) inequality among it’s citizens.
8. Chico Brenes “Run for the Border” Board by World Industries
Always willing to push the limit or do something totally different, 90’s era World Industries really needs no introduction. Chico originally immigrated to the U.S. illegally in 1985 with his family from Nicaragua, to escape the violence occurring between the Contras and the country’s government. This board came out exactly ten years later in 1995. This graphic shows how terrifying and dangerous illegal immigration is. The board is scary to even look at. Depicting the teddy bear twice on the board visually portrays that people have to sacrifice things that are beloved, treasured, or meaningful to find a better life or even just to stay alive. In 1999 World did another illegal immigration themed pro board for Mike Crum, paying tribute to this graphic by reusing some of the same imagery. But this one will always be the classic.