A Chat with One of the Last Original Swedish Greasers
Raggare are modern-day greasers who are as important to Sweden’s national identity as meatballs, ABBA, and blue-eyed blonds. This is despite the fact that the raggare subculture is all about the appropriation of American cars, rock ’n’ roll, and tough-guy leather jackets. And it’s become so commonplace in Sweden that nobody looks twice when greasy-haired small-towners cruise by blasting oldies while waving the Confederate flag from their classic hot rods (or shitty Volvos if they can’t afford the real thing) on their way to the biggest American car show in the world: the annual Power Big Meet in Västerås.
Raggare first came on the scene in the 1950s, as Swedish teenagers took inspiration from the American films and music flooding postwar Europe thanks to the Marshall Plan. Sweden had remained neutral in the war, so its industrial infrastructure was left unscathed and its export economy boomed. Suddenly, even working-class youths could afford cars, copies of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, and tickets to Rebel Without a Cause. The US became synonymous with hope, dreams, and modernity.
Still, this was the 50s, and Sweden was very conservative. The raggare—whowere swimming naked, having sex, fighting, and drinking—quickly became a favorite scandalous subject of the tabloids. Naturally, the subculture spread as rebellious youth across Sweden and the rest of the Nordic nations began to fetishize the rough-and-tumble American youth immortalized in the movies of the time. For greasers in the US, having an American car obviously wasn’t that big of a deal. If you managed to get your hands on one in Sweden, however, you were the owner of one of the coolest clubs in town: a living room on wheels equipped with a stereo, a make-out couch, a moonshine-filled trunk, and a dance floor wherever you parked.
Epicly Later’d steps out of its 90s comfort zone with a skater who’s been pro for five decades. Yes, five decades. Turning pro in 1978 at the age of 13, and then going on to become a pioneer of street skating, Eric Dressen has had a very well-rounded career. He has witnessed firsthand the rise and fall of skateboarding three times, and each time affected Eric in a different way. These days, Eric skates for Santa Cruz and tattoos full time at Will Rise in Hollywood. In part one of the series, we hear about an era in skating when most of our viewers weren’t even a sperm in their dads’ balls, and kick-turning was consider a trick. Enjoy!
An Interview with Todd Falcon
Although skateboarding waves the “No Rules!” flag pretty fervently, I’ve found that most participants are actually doing exactly the opposite. There’s an unwritten dress code that most skateboarders adhere to, as well as a list of acceptable tricks and companies that are considered OK to support. Like most subcultures that began as anti-establishment, if you stick around long enough eventually you will become the establishment. That being said, I’ve always been a fan of the true misfits within skateboarding. Somewhere near the top of that list would have to be Texas’ own Todd Falcon.
VICE: I’m sure you’ve answered this question a thousand times before, but is Todd Falcon an homage to Tony Hawk? If so, why did you choose the bird man as your spirit animal?
Todd: Indeed! I came up with Falcon in 1985 as a name I would use if I ever went pro or needed an alias. Hawk has always been my idol for ramp, and Mullen for street.
Hawk was as amazing then as he is now, and I always looked at him as an inspiration to defy limits, so I purposefully chose the name as a tribute.
When did you turn pro? Do you think there’s something less than genuine about having a pro model for your own company? Not passing judgement, just curious.
In 2003. Personally, I do not think it is less genuine, as many riders have been pro for their own companies, like Hawk, Alva, Magnusson, Hosoi, etc.
How you get there is apparently different for many pro riders. As I mentioned, I was not looking for this whole pro thing. I couldn’t have cared less. I stuck to skating for myself, inventing my own tricks, and living in my own world of rules about it—but then everything blew up fast the moment my footage got out there.
The next thing I knew I was on a Birdhouse DVD, my “Falconslide” was licensed in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, magazines and newspapers were doing cover stories on me, I was invited to pro competitions, pro demos, etc. So I started doing my own skate videos. The boards came out of fan demand, and I formed a team for a couple years, toured and promoted the DVDs, boards, and everything else.
True, but each of the riders you mentioned were initially turned pro by previous sponsors and carried their models over to their own ventures. I’m not trying to bust your balls, I’ve just always found it interesting that the only thing you have to do to become a professional skateboarder is essentially proclaim that you’re a professional skateboarder.
You raise a valid point indeed. When things began, I received calls from Birdhouse because they were blown away by my original tricks. Shortly after came the magazines, videos, DVDs, and games, as I mentioned.
I never considered myself pro at that time, but others persuaded me to release boards because I was being included in the pro circuit competitions and demos, and my name was suddenly everywhere. I had offers from companies, but I turned them down in order to create my own company, Falconskates, because I am very picky about my work and I did not want another company deciding what my board would look like. I guess that’s a director thing, but I always want to create my own art that is unique and individual.
Then came the THPS games. I already had a handful of sponsors in 2003 including Tail Devil, Softrucks, Blue Water Clothing, and several local parks. I loved all the odd companies and underdogs, so I figured it would be cool to help them out.
Then came the DVD part in the Birdhouse disc and tours, so I finally just gave it a chance since I seemed to have some sort of branding already. It just seemed natural to offer the fans what they kept asking me for—it was for them more than anything. I didn’t—and still don’t—care whether I am considered pro or a kook… What people think about my skating doesn’t bother me, because I am focused on my film career. I am glad that there are fans who appreciate my originality and it is amazing to see so many skaters doing the Falcon Stomp. Skateboarding is my art and I have my own outlook on it. I appreciate EVERY single fan that I have, and I am totally HONORED to be able to say that I have so many throughout the world.