Roller Skating: Who, What, Where

History Pop Culture Sport

With everything from the ‘70s now making a comeback, roller skating is now the edgy sport that the very biggest of hipsters are now enjoying in their spare time. But is it a sport? Is it recreational? Well actually, it’s both. And it’s also incredibly trendy so let’s find out more about it.

Zebra on roller skates

Check out our t-shirt - even zebras like to roller skate 

It all started with a very dramatic entrance.

John Joseph Merlin, originally from Belgium, debuted his metal-wheeled skates at a grand masquerade ball in London in 1760. Why? So he could impress attendees by entering the ball whilst also playing the violin. Of course. Sadly, Merlin hadn’t really practiced much before his grand gesture. His skates were also pretty rigid, and weren’t great with corners or just generally rotating. So, instead of impressing anybody, Merlin crashed straight into a mirror and was left with rather serious injuries.

Velociraptor Blowing Bubbles T-Shirt

This Velociraptor prefers to make an entrance through a burst of bubbles

You thought that was elaborate

In 1863, a man named James Plimpton tried his hand at creating skates which could command the corners. His four-wheeled creation used flexible carriages called trucks, and by leaning in a certain direction, the user could turn. Viola! To celebrate, Plimpton built a roller rink in his New York office (that’s how we celebrate at Koala Chess Art HQ too).

Macaque DJ

Plimpton hired our Macacque DJ for his rink

Life’s a rollercoaster just gotta ride it

The popularity of roller skating goes up and down with time. Sometimes it’s cool and fun, sometimes it’s lame. We guess it depends on whether your parents do it. The ‘70s are often considered the heyday of the skates, but earlier in the century also saw a surge in fame. In 1905, rinks opened in cities across the East Coast, with skating chosen over the likes of dancing. It then spread across the West, and in 1906, roller skating fashion was even a thing. Who knew?

Triceratops Space Hopper T-Shirt

Our Triceratops also remembers the craze of space hoppers

Love on first skates

And if you thought roller skating fashion is extreme, then you will be glad to know that, n 1912, the first marriage on roller skates was officiated. It was in Milwaukee, and you can find out more about it in the National Museum of Roller Skating (yup, that’s an official organisation).

This Pachycephalosaurus dressed his best for the wedding

This Pachycephalosaurus dressed his best for the wedding

Your favourite celebrities were part of the craze

Cher released a single ‘Hell on Wheels’ in 1979 - do you know it? The music video was very tame. It featured truck drivers, bikers and Cher on roller skates. Cher was also wearing a zebra-print jumpsuit. Very plain. Patrick Swayze also starred as Ace in Skatetown USA, where he used his belt to be extra flamboyant in a roller disco contest (we’re pretty sure at Koala Chess Art HQ that this is now the pinnacle of flamboyant).

Triceratops Night Fever

We wonder who would have won the dancing competition - Swayze or our Triceratops?

So what do you think? Is it due a mainstream comeback? Or is it one pastime that has well and truly had its glory day?


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