Cinema Style: ‘Lords Of Dogtown’

Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) and Rony Alva (Victor Rasuk) in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s summer outside. Specifically, that so-hot-my-face-is-melting scenario when you’re dreaming about running sans swimsuit through an arctic tundra. We’ve been searching for relief in various ways (ice cubes down tube socks, hand-held fan misters propped up on desks) but can’t think of anything better than a box full of popsicles and the ultimate summer movie—Lords of Dogtown. If there’s any film that epitomizes “locals only” LA living—from breezy interludes and super cute surfer dudes to seriously gnarly skate style—it’s this one. Did we mention it’s directed by Catherine Hardwicke (she of Twilight part uno) and stars Emile Hirsch and Heath Ledger? And it’s based on the true story of the birth of skateboarding? Nikki Reed dances in moccasins all over it, too. But besides all of that goodness, it’s a seriously fantastic film with the sweetest of SoCal style.

The crew hangs out at the Zephyr Skate Shop in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Lords of Dogtown arose out of the documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, which was directed by former pro-surfer and skateboarder Stacy Peralta. Not only did Peralta write the semi-autobiographical Lords, he put himself in it—albeit the younger version of himself played by John Robinson. The film follows three very different surfers, Peralta and his sometime-pals Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) and Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk). All from different backgrounds, they skate and surf the aforementioned “Locals Only” area of the Santa Monica Pier during the early 1970s. (And when they say locals, they mean it, lest you get your noggin’ bashed in.) Amidst their lazy days spent carousing amongst the palm trees looking ridiculously cute in striped tees, slouchy jeans, and faded Vans, the trio hang out at the Zephyr Skate Shop, which is owned by surf/skate board designer Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger).

The late Heath Ledger as Skip Engblom in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Sidenote: I can’t throw enough words into this space to give the late Heath Ledger’s performance in this film justice. Aside from adopting Engblom’s trademark “duuuuude” drawl to perfection, he jumps around the screen in white tank tops and Hawaiian-printed shirts with a mess of tribal beads around his neck. His long hair dances around black sunglasses that are constantly fused to his face, and he jumps on a skateboard (in faded bellbottoms and bare feet no less) like it ain’t no thang. It’s my favorite performance of Ledger’s ever (I know that’s upping my hype factor on this movie), and besides being a blast to watch, his laid-back style is a trip. It’s all about throwing a vintage Hawaiian shirt over a pair of cutoffs and calling it a summer day, brah.

Sid (Michael Angarano), Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) and Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Skip orders the newly invented polyurethane wheels—which are now commonly used on all skateboards—for his boards, and these full-time surfer kids who dabble in skating soon discover that their skateboard game can be taken to another level. There’s a drought going on in LA at the time, too, so they start sneaking into backyards to skate empty swimming pools. By pairing their wave-riding skills with the streets, skateboarding as we know it today was born. (I KNOW. Awesomeness.) And three superstars emerge, namely Peralta, who is baby-faced and a little too wholesome for the rest, tough-guy Jay Adams who shreds not skates, and Tony Alva, aka the definition of swagger. They become the Zephyr Skate Team (aka the Z-Boys) and start bulldozing (and winning) sleepy skate competitions with their never-before-seen aggressive street skating tricks.

Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) skates in an empty pool in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Did I happen to mention that the team also includes the super rad, legendary female skater Peggy Oki? Not only does she master her board better than the boys, she rocks the whole faded t-shirt, jeans, and Vans look too. Director Catherine Hardwicke was concerned that there weren’t that many girls in the original script, so she went out and found which “girls were actually instrumental to Z-Boys.” Those girls ended up being Oki and a few of the boys’ girlfriends, including Tony Alva’s sister, Kathy Alva (Nikki Reed), who finds herself in a love triangle with striped tee, good-boy Stacy and bandana-wearing bad boy Jay. Kathy’s style—gauzy, embroidered Mexican blouses with faded cut-off shorts, moccasins, and feather earrings—starts to evolve from sweet (with Stacy) to sexy (with Jay) but then turns into full-on punk later in the movie.

Kathy Alva (Nikki Reed) in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The other Lords gals include an endearing America Ferrera as Thunder Monkey (kid you not) and Melonie Diaz (currently starring in Fruitvale Station—go see it) as gal-pal Blanca.

America Ferrera and Sofia Vergara in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Lords of Dogtown follows both the rise and fall of three legendary athletes at a time when skateboarding as a sport wasn’t taken seriously. It highlights both the power and destruction of fame and how that impacts friendships. It also includes hilarious cameos by a pimped-out, white-tuxed Johnny Knoxville and Sofia Vergara, who seems to scream a lot while wearing macrame. I don’t want to give it all away, so I’ll quote New York Times film critic A.O. Scott’s review of the film upon its release in 2005: “Lords of Dogtown from start to finish is pretty much a blast.” Check it out and let us help you recreate the look below!

Johnny Knoxville in ’Lords of Dogtown.’
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

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