When I first heard of Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Volcom
I recently ran across an article that underlines an interesting issue along those lines. The Santa Cruz Sentinel in California recently ran a story about a bit of a "David and Goliath" battle in the skateboarding community, traditionally known for its rebellious punk attitudes -- although it's arguable that time and increased mainstream popularity are mellowing things out. Namely, the issue centers on athletic-gear giant Nike
Some skaters don't find this an issue at all. But on the other side of the fence are rabid fans of independent, homegrown brands, created "by skaters for skaters." Among the players the article cited is Volcom, which provides gear to retailers such as Zumiez
Other smaller skateboard companies mentioned in the article were Consolidated Skate Board and Independent. A notable aside: Steve "Birdo" Guisinger of Consolidated Skateboards got in touch with me to remind me that the "Don't Do It" campaign should be credited to Consolidated, which has been working to ward off large sporting goods companies since the early to mid-1990s and has won the battle in the past. He wanted emphasis placed on the idea that Consolidated is the principal "David" in question in the Santa Cruz Sentinel article.
It's always interesting -- and, I'd argue, risky -- when giants such as Nike seek to benefit from subculture movements, since for many purists the underground is underground (and decidedly anti-corporate) for a reason. Last summer, in what has to make some hall of fame list for major corporate blunders, Nike got into hot water with Dischord Records' Ian MacKaye, a D.C. punk icon, when it co-opted imagery from a classic Minor Threat EP to promote its "Major Threat" skateboard tour . er, without permission. That story definitely hit my radar as a Dischord fan for the past 20 years -- and it resonates with other fans, too, considering how some angry words from MacKaye and a letter-writing campaign by fans led Nike to pull the marketing materials. Interestingly, while Nike apologized, it said that the campaign was created "by skateboarders, for skateboarders." Imitation may be flattery, but old-school renegades saw Nike's blunder as an attempt to co-opt the underground. And despite Nike's apology, MacKaye also bridled at the idea that Nike got free advertising from the furor.
In the Sentinel article about the "skateboard showdown" between Nike and some skateboarders, Volcom is lumped in with the "independents" (anti-corporate types, perhaps?) favored by one youthful skateboarder. That's a little bit ironic, considering that Volcom is, in fact, a publicly traded company. That is a bit corporate, don't you think?
However, there's nothing at all amiss about describing Volcom as "homegrown." When Tom Gardner recommended this company for Motley Fool Hidden Gems, he pointed out in his investment thesis that Volcom is indeed the real deal -- Volcom founder Richard "Wooly" Woolcott was once a professional surfer, and surfing and skateboarding share similar roots.
Some of us former rebels feel a little weird when we see underground gone mainstream. Hot Topic
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.