German Nieves’ Paterson League Is Inspired by Hip-Hop and Skating in the Early 2000s

It turns out one of the hardest tricks to pull off with a skateboard is looking fresh without trying too hard. For German Nieves, designer of a brand-new skate brand called The Paterson League, some of his favorite skaters growing up were those who stood out for their feats in the wardrobe.

“I always thought Kareem Campbell was the man,” Nieves tells me on a phone call from his house, where he’s surrounded by boxes of product, ready to ship. “He would go out and skate these European contests in a gold chain and fresh sneakers and he looked amazing. He looked like a superstar. I wanna portray that in my brand.”

The Paterson League only dropped its first full collection at midnight on Monday. And Nieves, a legend of NYC skateboarding, says even though he wanted to for ages, he was kinda "scared" to start the brand. He took the leap a few months ago, after a simple longsleeved tee he made last September sold out.

The main inspiration for this collection? The late ’90s and the aughts (I mean, as if the longsleeved tee didn't tip you off), a time when as a skateboarder Nieves says he really felt his career hit a high. He loves the “hip-hop style” of clothing from that era, with its perfectly crumpled baggie jeans and even how they tied their shoelaces. In 2015, that look is suddenly elegant-seeming, in a way that's lowkey but not bummy—a difficult move to pull off.

“If I’m gonna go out skating, I’m not gonna go out looking like a dirtbag,” says Nieves. “I’m gonna look fresh. When you look fresh, you skate fresh.”

Nieves’ Instagram has video of him skating a debris-filled spot in Jersey (that's where he’s from—Paterson, New Jersey, is where the brand gets its name), wearing a black quilted jacket and baby pink button-down, layered with a black Champion crew-neck studded in repeating C’s, reminiscent of the polka-dot trend of recent skate collections. Just for comparison, his homeboy is rocking nondescript jeans and a hoodie.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s skaters out there who don’t have to dress cool to look good skating,” says Nieves. “But I don’t see that many skaters that really look the part of a… not a flashy person, but like a person that you want to know who they are. You’re not like, ‘Wow, look at how cool that dude looks.’ But in the very beginning, that’s what got me into skateboarding.”

New Yorkers can check out The Paterson League in person at the launch at Ed Varie this Thursday. Otherwise, pick up yours from Nieves' loungeroom the Paterson website.

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