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Jarkko Propudas on Gay Action and Diversity in the Skate Community

Jarkko Propudas on Gay Action and Diversity in the Skate Community

Happy Hour Skateboards began with a horde of Finnish skater boys who look just like you might imagine: messy haired and dressed in streetwear and probably holding a board or a beer. United by their love of skating, the gang also values art & culture, chosen family, and enjoying life to the fullest, just like Tom’s Men. The crew wanted a brand for themselves, and so they created one…  Fast forward a decade and a half— they are working on their second collaboration with Tom of Finland Foundation. The new line features the catchphrase, “Just Cruising”, a subtle play on words nodding to Tom’s culture, and “Holiday Mode” printed over iconic images of Tom’s men on the beach. It’s pretty wicked to see the collision of worlds. You can snag some limited edition threads or a skateboard deck at TOM Store. I spoke with Jake, a Happy Hour shredder, about the brand. Check it out...

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Sinking the ship since 2002." Love that vibe. Can you tell me about your inception and what your brand is all about?

Thanks. First we had a skateboard crew with my friends called Pub 26, and like every fine pub, they have their own Happy Hour, hence the creation of our brand.

Skateboarding for me and my friends has always been about having fun and not taking it too seriously, that's where the vibe comes from. That's what the brand is all about I guess, having fun. We’ve been doing some weird graphics and have been fulfilling weird ideas like 16 years now, and we're still here, that’s what “sinking the ship since 2002'' is about.

How'd you get involved with Tom of Finland?

I came out as a gay skateboarder at a local skateboard magazine interview in 2013. I have always gotten a kick out of Tom’s drawings and Tom’s Men. About two years ago I went to see Mr. Leather Europe here in Helsinki Finland, and I met Durk [the president of Tom of Finland Foundation]. I asked if I could offer him a beer — he was super nice right away. I think after one beer and one cigarette we were shaking hands like ''let's do this.'' We need more gay action and diversity amongst the sports and skate community. Of course working with ToFF was our biggest move, as a small Finnish brand.

What does a collab like that mean for a skate brand?

It really means a lot. At first I was a little nervous how skateboarders would take this, but when we released the first collab there was a line outside the store for two hours. There were teenagers, art collectors, moms, deck collectors, skateboarders, all kind of people. 

This is also a tribute for Touko as a influential artist and key figure in a gay liberation. I hope it can be a history lesson for skateboarders.

It’s awesome that the line was received so well. How has the skate community evolved with the times? 

It has changed a lot. Nowadays there are pro skaters who are out. But somehow, I feel skateboarders have always been very open minded, because their knowledge about music, art and traveling has always been there. Meeting new people all the time helps.

How did the skate community respond to your coming out? 

All went good! I have only heard good comments. Also got emails and had talks with all kind of people about how my interview helped them dealing with stuff they are going through. I think it was more like ''it is ok to speak about tender, challenging stuff as a skateboarder.''  I’m very happy with that. I think the magazine sold out.

What was meeting Durk like? Did he impart any wisdom on you?

Durk is amazing. When he comes into the room he has that skill that makes everybody feel welcomed there. He’s also full of crazy ideas, like how he wants to skate and blow fireworks from his butt.

How's the collaboration been? 

When we did a first collabo we wanted to use ''just cruising'' and a graphic of loggers, because it was so Finnish, but it didn't work out then somehow. When we talked about it with Durk, right away he was like, ''let’s do it!'' We used a very old one of Tom’s drawings from 1957. That was after our first round, after we proved ourselves the opportunity came. Durk also said ''think outside of the box'' and that's how the colors came for the second round. 

Who do you recommend the new collaboration for?

Just cruising or holiday mode can be a mood or a feeling. That's how I see those phrases. One woman bought a holiday mode t-shirt at our release party and said she was going to wear it to work meetings. Very brave. Collabo is of course designed for skaters and their needs for a first hand, but I also see those boards on walls of a kitchen, and clothes at the summer festivals.

In there a connection between the skate community and Touko’s leather community?

Hell yeah, the brotherhood.

If you had to give advice to a young gay skater, what would it be?

You are definitely not alone. Under the sky of skaters there is all kinds of people and personalities. Follow your heart, you’ve only got one. 

What can we expect from Happy Hour in the future?

We just came from filming trip from Majorca, Spain. We are filming for a new Happy Hour skateboards movie (it will be our 5th). All of 2018 will be focused around that. We’re also working on a very exciting collabo that will be out later this year. I hope it will be lots of laughter and love like the last years!

 

Jamison Karon is the author of How to Be a Faggot, and creator of the series and short film Sorry You're Sad. He is a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute.

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