Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Zoo York

The name 'Zoo York' originates from a subway tunnel running underneath the area of the central park zoo. Dubbed "Zoo York" by graffiti pioneer and rapper ALI (Marc André Edmonds), founder of the Soul Artists. The tunnel provided an ideal location for Graffiti artists from across New York to hang out and access tracks.


The tunnel itself was a "cut-and-cover" subway construction project which ripped through Central Park from 1971 to 1973. During construction, the site was left unguarded at night and thus soon became a hangout for writers from all five bouroughs.
A cynical social observer, ALI coined the term "Zoo York" to describe the absurdity displayed in the attitudes and actions of New Yorkers during what he called the "Sick Seventies", particularly as exemplified by what he saw at the Central Park subway tunnel site late at night.


^Zoo York/Supreme, 90's skate team members/affiliates

The Central Park Zoo at that time was populated by wild animals displayed in open-air cages. ALI noted that by contrast, here were these feral teenagers, himself included, living in a free society, who sought nothing more wholeheartedly than to crowd together in a deep, dark hole in the ground. ALI decided that all city people were insane for seeking imprisonment in tiny apartments, offices, subway cars and the like, and declared that New York City itself was "not New, but a Zoo!" He named the tunnel itself "Zoo York", a perfect symbol, in his mind, of the dark psyche of the inner city itself.


22 years later, in 1993, 'Zoo York' the skate brand was born. In my opinion Zoo York, alongside a handful of other NY based skate brands founded in the late 80's and early 90's, is largely responsible for much of the 'urban' skate styles, graphics and culture prevalent today, as opposed to the more surf orientated graphics that were abundant in the earliest skate brands whom hailed in large from the sun, palm trees and surf dominated west coast.
For example 'Zoo York' eagerly affiliated themselves with New York rappers and the like in order to build a more urban and East Coast Skate identity -

^ Meth and Ghostface 'Zoo York' Freestyle.

Zoo York managed to maintain the attitudes displayed in the 1970's 'Zoo York' subway tunnel by focusing heavily on guerilla marketing and building a firm reputation on the street through their affiliation with established NY skate figures and the shere size of their skate team.

Despite the fact the Skate Brand may have 'fell off' somewhat in the last couple of years ALI's philosphy is still as relevant as ever.


Sam said...

lovin this post ron!!

Anonymous said...

ahhhh massive post ron i love this shit!

r.i.p harold hunter and justin peirce!

shame they now sell zoo york in jd sports what a bummer

Anonymous said...

big the fuck up

Tiger said...

Never new about the origins of the name
Really interesting and different approach to the brand

Anonymous said...

absolute fucking awesome post

nice one

Anonymous said...

first ever good big ron post

koopz said...

great post my man...

Anonymous said...

Yeah good post ron.

just_trav said...

yeah safe ron, Im a skateboarderand didnt know this, just though zoo york the zoo of new york spose that was right in a sense

bristol zoo

etc etc....
safe :)


DAVE. said...

Serious post man.exclusive pics too.

Anonymous said...

sickles post. the roachs are live

Jim Brazzle said...


The Kool Skool said...

Really kool info. The guys who started it are in this dvd/movie called "Street Prophets" but you could tell it was quite late on, they were talking about "seasons" and all that retail type of thing.
I met Harold Hunter in East Orange NJ at a Rave in the Armory. I was working the door, I had no idea who he was at the time. He was trying to style it in for free with some girls, I respected what he was trying to do.... but he still paid full price hahaha! Dope skater when I realised who he was.... rip

Unknown said...

Shame about 'Skateboard P'.

Zoo York Clothing said...

This is a fantastic post on the Zoo York origins. And very in depth. Thanks for this.