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The "Newest" Craze

Roller skating’s widespread popularity has waxed and waned many times throughout its long history as one of the USA’s favorite recreational activities. Interestingly, all the different “crazes” have had different reasons for the sudden rise. These five decades stand out as points of excitement in the history of roller skating, but frequently the popularity continued for years into the next decade. Other spikes in popularity came in different locations at different times as well.

These rises in popularity showcase that roller skating adapts over time, getting people back in skates in different ways time and time again.


The 1880's were the original craze! Roller skate companies were finally making usable skates for the general population to use. The 1880's were a time of great promise for the roller skating industry-- and a time when rinks held incredibly high standards for etiquette while skating by policing behavior and dress.

Plimpton's rocking-action skate was heavily utilized during this period, starting in New England. This craze rocked the whole world-- with waves of popularity reaching most continents.


The 1940's brought roller skating back to the public for a different reason-- World War II was in the back of everyone's mind, but roller skating allowed for an escape from the stressful reality of living during a time of war. Roller skating rinks frequently donated scrap metal and other materials to the war effort, but having their doors open to the public was very helpful for keeping up morale. Baby Boomers grew up skating for fun in the 1950's and 60's, which gave them the skills needed for the next craze!
For more on roller skating and the World War Two, please see audio stop 15.


The 1970's brought roller skating back to the forefront in a way totally dependent on the new music sweeping the nation. Disco music gave skaters a new tempo and style to dance to, rather than the more traditional organ music. Going to the roller disco with your friends was a great way to have fun, meet people, and dance the night away! This craze fizzled out fairly quickly by the first years of the 1980's, but still remains one of the most iconic popularity spikes in roller skating history. Watching Roller Derby on TV was also popular at this time. Empire Roller Skating Center in New York City was an iconic roller disco.


The 1990's brought about a shift in what kind of skates were popular. Up until the 90's, "roller skating" was synonymous with quad skates, but this craze brought inline skates to the forefront. Rollerblade became the most well-known inline skate brand, bringing skates to young Millennials and Gen X. This period also shifted focus to outdoor skating, rather than rink skating, making it accessible to anyone who owned a pair of skates to get out and enjoy!


2020 marked a tumultuous time in human history with another dangerous pandemic sweeping across the world. With lockdown, restrictions, and anxiety abound, skaters found solace in the freeing feeling of skating. Social media had a major hand in catapulting roller skating back into popularity by giving roller skaters a platform to post videos of them skating, frequently to nostalgic music and wearing clothing styles reminiscent of the 1970's. Younger millennials picked up skates in their 20's and Gen Z experienced its first major foray into skating popularity. The social media platform TikTok and Instagram played a major role in allowing young people to share roller skating content and eventually pick up roller skates themselves. The shift in popularity brought quad skating back to the forefront, but the demand for inline skates also increased dramatically. Many new skate brands struggled to meet demand for skates-- frequently being backed up for months in production. The skates and items below were generously donated to the museum to showcase the new and exciting innovations coming from the roller skate industry.

Social media platforms TikTok and Instagram blew up with roller skating content. (Left) Ana Coto skates down a street to Jennifer Lopez's song Jenny From the Block. The TikTok shows Coto dancing and lip-syncing to the song. It was posted April 28th, 2020 and many attribute this simple, joyful clip to a renewed burst of interest in roller skating. Coto has amassed more than 17.3 million views on this single clip. Another example is Oumi Janta, a roller skater from Berlin, posted videos of her dancing on skates that have garnered millions of views during the summer of 2020 and beyond.

National Museum of Roller Skating Audio Tour - Museum Proper
  1. The First Roller Skates
  2. Patented Roller Skates
  3. The Father of the Modern Roller Skating
  4. Rinking
  5. The "Newest" Craze
  6. The Disco Era
  7. Pop Culture! Skating in Lines: Roller Skating and Comics
  8. Pop Culture! Orchestras, Organs, & Disco: Music in the Rink
  9. Pop Culture! Movies: Roller Skating Across the Silver Screen
  10. Competition: The History of Hockey on Wheels
  11. Competition - Speed Skating
  12. Competition - Dance Skating
  13. Competition - Figure Skating
  14. Competition - Derby
  15. C. W. Lowe's Tent Rink
  16. When Skating Goes to War
  17. Skating for Others
  18. Roller Skating Car Hops
  19. Jam Skating
  20. Extravaganza on Wheels: The Skating Vanities
  21. Vaudeville