Inline skates (more commonly known as ‘rollerblades’) took the world by storm when they came out in the late 1980s by Rollerblade, and unlike roller skates, these boots on wheels were different; they were new, stylish and very, very cool – and very popular. So popular, in fact, that by the 90s, the craze of rollerblading had hit with such force that nearly everybody had a pair. Black and grey boots, each with three plastic buckles and four wheels, I remember well my first and only pair of rollerblades. I remember the sense of freedom they gave, one that my bike never could, and that excitement when flying down the street, avoiding the different bumps and cracks on the road. I was a fearless rider. And a proud member of the rollerblading craze. And now they’re in my garage somewhere, along with three bikes, two pogo sticks and a broken scooter. For the craze of the 90s had somehow come to an end. The arrival of the new millennium brought about an era of new interests, styles and trends. The year was 2000 and it was time for change, time to be current again, stylish – and we embraced this change. However, over the years, this affected the popularity of many products of the 90s, including rollerblading whose number of skaters had begun to drop – unlike its beloved cousin on ice. So, what really caused the decline of rollerblading? Well, perhaps it was a combination of different things. For example, I remember how much of a hassle it was to put my rollerblades on and take them off – yes, I loved them, but riding a bike was quicker and you didn’t have to worry about changing into a pair of shoes afterwards. Safety was another problem. In fact, at one point during the 90s, one of the most common hospital emergencies for children in the UK was a rollerblading injury, especially since many children refused to wear protective equipment. But, in the end, and like most trends, I think rollerblading just became unfashionable as something better began to dominate pop culture. Rollerblading didn’t completely disappear though. In fact, the craze of the 90s lead to the arrival of sports like inline hockey and speed skating, artistic sports like inline figure skating, and a variety of dance – all of which organise competitions worldwide. But group activities like street skating are really what helped the resistance of rollerblading. Originally from America, street skating is an organised event where large groups of people rollerblade on public roads. It’s now very popular throughout Europe, like in Paris, for example, where the skating organisation ‘Pari Roller’ promotes these events every Friday night to encourage rollerblading as an enjoyable sport and a means of transportation. These events are always popular, some having had as many as 35,000 participants. And then in 2009, Rollerblade tried to return to pop culture with a new idea: ‘mobile yoga’, a combination of yoga and rollerblading. So, now, three years later and in an era of fitness trends, could this be the return of rollerblading? Honestly, I don’t think so. Rollerblade has obviously tried to transform its creation of the 90s into something new and different, but rollerblading’s immense popularity still remains to be a thing of the past. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a pair of rollerblades in the UK. However, now that I’m living in Spain, I see people traveling on them all the time! Alone, in groups, with their dogs – yes, the practical and fun activity seems to be current again. And yet, while I might look quite cool rollerblading along the Guadalquivir River on a sunny day in Seville, I would definitely not be cool in my town in Scotland. Ultimately, trends come and go; some return and others do not. Perhaps there’s still some hope for the future of rollerblading, but while many European countries are embracing the boots on wheels, the UK is still a long way away from accepting them again. Therefore, I don’t think I’ll be travelling to work on eight wheels anytime soon.
Have you ever tried rollerblading?