In hindsight, skateboarding in the mid-90s was just one big epic blaze of puffed-out sneakers, XXL Blind jeans, Droors hoodies, nylon DC Shoes jerseys, switch crooks and a steady barrage of Wu-Tang beats. If you ever find yourself vibing for nostalgia, social media brings the feeling back to life with its Flashback Fridays, Throwback Thursdays and skate history accounts like Mackenzie Eisenhour’s Deadhippie or the Chromeball Incident.
But what’s been missing from feeds so far is a closer look at the German skateboarding scene in the magical 1990s.
It’s high time, because while the rest of the world would occasionally glimpse footage from the Munster World Cup contest or thrown-together 411 Video Magazine profiles, Germany was home to a rich scene replete with its own legendary spots and heroes in the naughty nineties.
But where was all that history on social media?
It all changed in January 2018 when I found myself tagged on Instagram in a brand-new account under the name Latte Alter. Judging by the expression – ‘Latte Alter’ is 1990s German slang for ‘whatever, man’ – this instantly piqued my curiosity.
Then I saw the photo in the first post: It was me! Doing a frontside boardslide in an obscure image that ran in a 1996 edition of Monster Skateboarding magazine, photographed by Helge Tscharn.
What was going on?
Looking for clues, I saw that the Insta account’s tag line read, “Skateboarding from the ‘90s” next to a well-known cartoon graphic from a 1990s Titus Skates pro model. And that was it. No name or identity behind the account. No further clues.
So all I could do was wait and watch more classic images from German skate history pop up on Latte Alter.
Since then, Latte Alter has not only become a regular fix for 1990s gold from the pages of German skate magazines and a place for skateboarders from that era to trade comments and anecdotes. I have also managed to get in touch with the folks behind the account, two guys named Ingo who tend to shy away from the spotlight but agreed to sit down for an interview with ILLUMINATED PAPER.
So without further ado, here is master archivist and 1990s skateboarder Ingo Dreckmann with a look behind the scenes.
Please introduce yourself and your background in skateboarding.
I’m Ingo, 37 years old from Dinslaken, Germany. I started skateboarding in 1988 and still do it.
What made you decide to start the Latte Alter Instagram and when did you post the first pic?
I randomly met a guy from Bavaria online, also named Ingo, because I bought a hoodie from him. We started talking and figured out that we’re both skate nerds with a passion for Nineties skateboarding.
At first, we had ideas about making a small documentary about the 1993 German skate video “Trouble” by T-Boards, because we both know guys that were in that video. Also I knew some characters who appeared in the skids, like the man on the street with the beer bottle is from my town, Dinslaken!
“Trouble” was amazing because it landed in such a vacuum as there were hardly any official videos from German companies at the time. So what happened to the documentary?
We soon figured out that we couldn’t possible handle a project on this scale, or perhaps were just too lazy (laughs).
Then we thought about making a blog with clips, old photos and interviews. But we couldn’t really get that dialed, either. And that’s what finally led us to the easiest solution: An Instagram account with old photos!
Since I have a scanner at work, I had the perfect opportunity to scan those magazines in the morning. Wait, actually at first I just photographed them with my phone! But after two weeks I realized scans just look better, so I’ve been scanning about two mags at a time every week. The first image, which shows you by the way, was posted on January 19th, 2018.
I have actually been meaning to ask why you chose my photo as the very first to post? You know, many skaters thought Latte Alter was my account and hit me up on Instagram telling me they like what I’m doing and stuff, haha.
I honestly don’t even remember. At first I had like 20 or 30 images I had photographed into my smartphone and yours must have been just the first one that spontaneously popped up. And I was also looking for people I could tag in the posts and I managed to find you on Instagram.
Well, thanks for the honor of being first. You just posted your 300th picture, congratulations! What is your process for finding images?
They all come from my personal collection. I collected all issues of Limited Skateboarding Magazine and all issues between 1990-2000 from Monster Skateboarding Magazine.
And over the last ten years I found some extra ones via classified ads on eBay to fill in some gaps at really low cost. The other day I scored this huge package of 25 issues for just 10 euros. I randomly go through the mags and pick the pics.
So for the uninitiated, where does the name ‘Latte Alter’ come from?
Ah man, ‘Latte Alter’ (‘whatever, man’) was just this typical slang we knew from Monster Magazine. [Pro skater] Mussa [Najras] would be quoted saying, ‘Latte Alter, just stay mellow guys.’ So that’s how the name was born.
And where does the Latte Alter Logo come from?
It’s a 1994 skateboard graphic. It was the debut and I guess the only pro model board for Nu Heinzel on T-Boards. He’s from Thailand and I guess they thought it was funny to rip off a Mc Donald’s advertisement for their ‘Asia Weeks’.
One guy on social media actually still had a photo of the burger packaging and sent it to me. Amazing!
They had this special McNuggets sauce that was pretty killer. But by today’s standards that caricature would probably be considered to be racist. McDonald’s also had Mexican weeks at the time where you sprinkled chili powder on your French fries and tossed them in this paper bag. But the Nineties were just a different time…
Yeah, just ripping off a graphic from McDonald’s and putting it on a skateboard – that’s really the Latte Alter spirit.
Why are the 1990s such a special time in skateboarding?
There was a big change and evolution going on in everything: tricks, fashion, media, etc. That impacted skateboarding a lot. I really don’t cry about the fact that those days are gone and I don’t need to wear that kind of fashion or shoes anymore.
But I think it’s just nice to keep the memory alive because in the US there are countless websites but in Germany there is just nothing. No platform that features 1990s skateboarding! So I also see what we’re doing as a bit of an archive.
I also see what we’re doing as a bit of an archive.
An account like yours has really been missing in Germany. We had our own scene and media during the 1990s and of course, sometimes skaters had coverage in 411 video magazine or Thrasher or TransWorld, but a lot of mind-blowing tricks were only documented in the magazines you get your scans from.
What influenced me the most was probably Monster Magazine between 1995 and 1997 and Limited Magazine in general. I still remember my very first issue was issue #3 featuring the Girl Skateboards Germany tour. They just gave me the mag for free at Kingpin [skate shop] as an add-on and I was totally blown away.
I had only been reading Monster for four years and Limited was completely new to me. The ‘In and Out’ section and ‘Trend check’ with the puffy shoe style with sponges in it. Or the first nylon pants, I totally soaked it up. I thought, ‘These guys knows what’s fresh!’
Behind the scenes, the two main magazines – Monster and Limited – were owned by different distributors who used them as advertising vehicles to push the brands they carried. Were you aware of that at the time?
Sure, but back then I did not care, though. And compared to today, the mags were the only way to know what’s up. Maybe you heard rumors of “that guy that trick there”, but there was no proof or evidence other than the magazines.
They both had their riders they would always feature but beyond that there was no source of information, especially for a skater like myself from a small town. Limited always had its own perspective it felt like.
We also covered Southern Germany a bit more since we were based out of Wiesbaden.
Yeah, that’s where you would see reports on Munich and that spot in Hofheim. Or skaters like Holger von Krosigk.
There was also a bit of beef between the Northern and Southern scenes in Germany.
I noticed that Monster always had tons of coverage from Hamburg and Munster and Cologne. But their photographer Helge Tscharn was driving all around Germany to take pics. I heard stories of how driving with him was pretty hellish.
Haha, it was! Telling stories and trying to navigate at the same time. There was also this video magazine in the mid-1990s that Gordon Kurz and his associate Sam put out…
Yes, “Addiction!” But they only made one issue, right?
They also filmed a ton for the second issue, but it never came out. Gordon must be sitting on a ton of footage people would love to see!
Imagine you posted all that raw footage on YouTube. That would be off the charts!
What are your personal feelings and memories about skateboarding in the 1990s?
I can just speak for myself: It was the time that I fully discovered skateboarding – the fashion, the aesthetics, magazines, videos. I get a warm feeling of the ‘easy old times’.
No worries, just going to school and skating with your friends afterwards. I’m glad that I witnessed it and saw or read everything first-hand. It’s funny that I also still remember all those things exactly from the mags back then, like photo captions or what someone said.
Me too, those photos and words are burned into my brain forever. But I can’t remember what I did two weekends ago.
That’s exactly what it’s like for me! Lots of people tell me that they remember those pics like it was yesterday.
Do you miss any of the 1990s fashion trends?
A nice heather grey Droors hoodie would be the only thing.
Since you started Latte Alter early this year, what has the response been like and have you heard back from 1990s skaters featured on your account?
The response has been nothing but positive. I think lots of skaters feel the same as me when they look at photos from ‘90s skate mags. Maybe thinking: “I remember that photo,” or “I had that magazine issue, too.”
The account got me in contact with lots of sponsored skaters from back then, from Klaus Dieter Span, Flo Marfaing, Nu Heinzel, Sebi Vellrath, to Patrick Ehling, Tobi Hunger and the list goes on. Plus lots of ‘normal’ skaters DM’d me and gave shout outs or even sometimes sent pictures.
Which photos get the most response in terms of likes and comments?
From what I found it’s mostly Jan Waage, Flo Marfaing, and Sami Harithi.
The response has been nothing but positive. I think lots of skaters feel the same as me when they look at photos from ‘90s skate mags.
Do you have any ‘grails’ – 1990s skaters that dropped off the map you would like to know more about today?
Definitely Mark Mitzka, Tim Liebthal… but otherwise I almost found all the ones I was looking for. Lots of people tag others in the pics and they end up following me. And I ended up getting in contact with so many people on social media from my generation.
On that note, you seem pretty active on social media. Who else do you follow and what would be your Top 3 suggestions for people to follow?
I like ‘90s skatepics and clips from all over the world and old skate shoes. I don’t care for specific accounts so much, but of course the usual suspects here are: @readandestroy, @coldeneracollector, @scienceversuslife, and @chomponkicks. But if I had to pick or recommend one, it would be @scienceversuslifedrawing That stuff is awesome and unique!
That’s a tight list. Would you also recommend today’s skateboarders to explore the 1990s and dig into the origins of tricks and fashions in skating?
They should just go skate. You can’t expect them to study the nineties or learn who Sami Harithi is or something. It’s a bit of a shame that they’re probably not even interested. But I for one am glad that I got to grow up and watch the culture grow like it did.
Amen, same here. So what’s next for Latte Alter?
Hey maybe we’ll get that website together one day and do some interviews with guys from back then and record their stories. That would be cool. You really hardly find any 1990s German skateboarding on the web these days. There are no websites and only a few people have uploaded any videos. So at some point, all of it is going to get lost.
But I probably don’t have the time right now for a full website, I’d rather just use that extra time to go skate. So I’ll keep doing the Instagram account, I still have plenty of magazines (laughs).
Please keep doing what you’re doing and thanks for the interview, Ingo.
You really hardly find any 1990s German skateboarding on the web these days. There are no websites and only a few people have uploaded any videos. So at some point, all of it is going to get lost.