Kick Back And Grill with Southern Skaters In Their Underwear
Underwear models. They’re kind of the bane of our respective existences, no? They are absurdly beautiful, with bodies that result from hours and hours spent at Equinox and refusing carbs. As I type this, a billboard of a Calvin Klein-bedecked Kendall Jenner looms over me, reminding me to grab a green juice and stop ghosting my trainer.
There are some small changes. Brands like Aerie are featuring models of different shapes and sizes, most notably the goddess Barbie Ferreira. But while they aren’t extremely thin, the models in Aerie and Lane Bryant ads are still, well, models. Freakishly attractive specimens are used to advertise all manner of clothing and accessories, but if you think about it, shouldn’t underwear models be the most accessible of them all? Underwear is perhaps the most universal item of clothing in the world, the one thing that pretty much everyone wears every day (if you exclude starlets getting out of limos in 2007).
Men’s underwear brand The Eighth gets it. Their wares, part of the reasonably new trend of high-end men’s underthings, are marketed to everyone, and thus they get a diverse range of dudes to model them. In a recent spread, The Eighth enlisted a group of skateboarders from Jackson, Mississippi, to rock their boxers and briefs while enjoying a typical Sunday: grilling and skating in an empty pool.
Featuring skateboarders in editorials and campaigns is pretty standard. In New York, most of them are interchangeable with models, and their fashionable influence is seen everywhere, from Vetements to Gucci. But the guys from Jackson are different. These pictures are pure fun, capturing exactly where I’d want to be on a weekend. And these aren’t your typical skater fuccbois either: they’re working with an organization called Skate MS to build skate parks across Mississippi, giving kids in underfunded schools a place to go outside. We spoke to Skate MS founder Frank Henn about his underwear modeling debut and getting insights into southern skate culture.
I find this whole skate culture in Jackson to be really interesting. Can you tell me a little about Skate MS?
A couple buddies of mine started [it] I guess in 2011. We had a forum on there where other skaters could [connect]. You could post pictures of your session and that kind of junk. Then our indoor skate park shut down. My buddy Austin and I were driving out of town every weekend, like three hours on a Saturday morning to go ride a skate park. We were spending I don’t know how much money in gas just traveling, trying to find some place to skate. So, we decided to try to figure out how to get a skate park built in Jackson.
“Someone came and spoke at our school about how skateboarders are all devil worshippers.”
We were gonna use Skate MS as a forum to do that, so we started a non-profit branch of it and came out with this whole “kids need fresh air” campaign. We attacked the community real hard, making skateboarding kind of acceptable. When I was younger, we were just kind of outlaws because we had nowhere to go and people were always seeing us as being in trouble for skateboarding. You’re automatically a criminal every time someone sees a cop talking to you.
That’s so crazy to me.
I’m 41 now, but especially when I was a kid, we were the punks. Someone came and spoke at our school about how skateboarders are all devil worshippers.
Oh my god.
It’s just nuts. It’s changed a lot since then, thankfully. So, we were trying to battle out of that stuff in Jackson. There are skateboarders here and we needed a place to go that was provided by the city. So, we actually got skate parks built in West Point, Vicksburg, and we just helped Hernando open up a park.
Right, but still not Jackson [laughs]. I love it here and I live here, but it’s hard to actually do anything through the correct channels to get anything done. That being said, we built a bowl in my backyard, which is in all these pictures.
We built that five or six yeas ago. We all grew up skating on the streets, going downtown, whatever. We’ll build a big empty swimming pool and skate in it. So, we dug a hole and poured concrete in it.
How do you feel about being an underwear model? Was that a career plan you anticipated?
[Laughs] Never in my life had I ever thought I’d be wearing underwear and [that] someone would be taking a picture of it.
I love the pictures. It looks like it was so much fun. Is that what a typical weekend is like for you?
Almost every Sunday it’s like church at my house. We’ll all just come over here and throw boudin, sausage, or burgers on the grill and drink some beers and ride our skateboards. You know, just have a good time.
Was anybody self-conscious or were you all super excited to do it? Did you have to convince anybody to do it?
No, none of us really care about much. In Mississippi, right now, it’s like 76 degrees, and what is it? March? And it’s been [in the] 60s and 70s since February, so, really, skating in our underwear is a lot more comfortable than normally skating in just shorts [laughs]. That day it was like 80-something, 90-something. It was a great day to be skating in your underwear.
In New York, skating is a very fashionable, very cool, kind of pretentious thing. But with you guys, it just looks like a lot of fun. Can you tell me a little bit about what skate culture is like in Jackson?
We’re all just looking for the good time, you know? So, in Mississippi, there might be fashion here, but I have no idea. To me, this is the first fashion thing that ever happened in Mississippi, but I’m sure that’s totally not true. I’m sure there [are] as much people into fashion as [there are] into skateboarding and I just don’t know it.
Here, it’s just that we’ve had nothing for so long that we’ve learned to build and create stuff ourselves. We’ve all had so much fun doing it and continue to have so much fun doing it; it’s just our lives more than anything. It’s just, we’re gonna go build this and have a good time. It’s just fun to us, [and] what we enjoy doing. On Saturday we get together and pour 40,000 pounds of concrete and we pay to do it. Paid $600 for five yards of concrete. Spent two weeks building the forms and filling them. By Saturday we have to dump it all out and by Monday we skate it, and yeah! All that work and money just to skate anything.
Can you expand a little bit about sort of positive aspects that skate parks bring to the community?
Skate parks can save the world. Skateboarding can save the world. It’s like nothing else. You have the ability to just grab a skateboard and go outside and skate the curb in front of your house or in front of work, you know? You can do it on your lunch break. You’ve got a hundred dollars invested, if that, to a skateboard, you can go outside and get some exercise, get some fresh air, anytime, any day. It’s just a cheap, easy, effective way to stay healthy. In Mississippi, we’re number one in a lot of things like obesity and diabetes. Then we’re last in a lot of things like healthcare and education.
I’m from Detroit. We’re like number two. I understand.
Yeah, so we’re close behind. Here in Jackson, you’ve got all this crime. I live as close to downtown Jackson as you can get, and every night I just hear gunshots. You just become kind of deaf to them. These kids around here, they have no opportunity, so that’s what they turn to. So, if you don’t give these people and the kids something positive to do, they’re just going to find anything to do. We don’t have any money to fix our roads, we don’t have money to fix our shitty water system, we got all this corruption and crazy stuff, and it seems like the state keeps trying to keep our little city down
It blows my mind that we couldn’t get the city of Jackson to agree to let us raise funds and build a 1.5 million dollar park with a 300,000 dollar skate park inside of it.
Our community needs it. We’ve done board giveaways and helmet giveaways. We did an after school program where we gave away like 50 boards, and all of the sudden there are 50 skaters in the community. It’s easy, it’s safe, and [kids] are spending time outside.
Photographer: Tate Nations
Artistic Director: Annebet Duvall
Production: Meredith Sullivan
Shot on location in Jackson, MS exclusively for The Eighth.