These days when we’re staring at our iPhone 6S with Retina display to watch some of the latest low-res VX1000 footage that looks like someone went over the celluloid strip with a rusty weeder, we can’t help but wonder whether history repeats itself after all. While it may feel as though the crappy video aesthetic has been dealt with ad nauseam, done to death by every brand in the industry that wants to achieve that raw, street-cred rep, its original appeal replaced by smartphone apps allowing you to downscale 1080p to 240p (including artificial tape jams, dirt and overexposure), one brand is so adorably stuck in the late 90s and early 2000s that we just can’t help but love it. We’re talking, of course, about NYC local Peter Sidlauskas’ anachronistic brainchild BRONZE 56k.
BRONZE is probably the only skateboarding brand fully determined to that special time when both the Internet and (especially NYC-based) skateboarding were unregulated and potentially dangerous spaces packed to the brim with outlaws and weirdos, places where anything could happen, where your appetite for crazy stuff was only restrained by slow-ass 56k dial-up connections and the inveterate lack of dough to spend, respectively. Sidlauskas himself stated in an interview that he was heavily influenced by the things you could get online: skate videos, porn, weird stuff. The whole Internet experience back then was tied together by the dry aesthetic of Microsoft’s omnipresent operating systems Windows 95 and 98 – thus Bronze’s blatant rip-off of the Windows logo. Skateboarding was no paradise either, since none of that high-performance equipment of today existed and you had to make do with crappy, undeveloped stuff. If you had told anyone back then that skateboarding was one day going to become an Olympic discipline, they would’ve put your crazy ass in a straight jacket and drove you off to lobotomy right away.
Anyway, the untamed spirit of pre-Millennium skateboarding lives on in BRONZE 56k’s overall aesthetic. The first video released by Sidlauskas’ company, Solo Jazz, even begins with a title screen recommending you switch the quality to 240p for the “best viewing experience.” What follows is a montage of NYC street skating accompanied by Seapunk and VaporWave and it feels as if you’ve stepped into a time machine and set the thing on 1998. Sure, you can dismiss the 90s references – complete with PS1 logo rip-offs and campy PowerPoint title card animations – as mere nostalgia. But that would be oversimplifying Sidlauskas’ efforts to create a brand driven by the sense of freedom that informed skateboarding in the late 90s and early 2000s. The technological limitations and lack of institutionalized places to skate fueled any skateboarders’ creativity back in the day, as no one could just go out, film and edit a 2 minute YouTube clip on their phones on the fly. Of course, skateboarding today is convenient: you can just go to one of the many skate plazas that were created in response to skateboarding’s increased popularity. You can drive to any mall and grab a board and some high-performance shoes and you’re ready to go. But at the same time, you’d only practice skateboarding the way the industry wants you to practice it. Bronze 56k reminds us, however, of skateboarding’s inherent ferocity. It reminds us that even in times of its near-total sell-out there’s a residue opposing the high polished skateboarding forced into line by relentless commodification. So step up into BRONZE’s time machine and get shreddin’, for Chrissakes.