How To: Build A Detroit Style Roller Skate

7 / 1 / 2022

*Editor's Note: Just to be clear, we are going to drop some names in the next section of this article. They were recommendations from some professional skaters and we have not been given any money by these brands who are not paid advertisers. However, if any of these brands are reading this and wanna wiff us some fliff…

Not all skates are created equal. They are the sum of their parts. Besides that, they are also made differently to do different things.

Some are built for speed, some for stability, and some are built just to look fucking cool.

The types of skates that people build also depend on regional taste. For instance, in Atlanta, the style is to wear a shoe with a long tongue lined with fur that is folded down. It's just something that caught on there and so people in the world of Atlanta skate culture rock that look. This trend didn’t start taking off as much in other areas until it became more noticeable on social media. Now, people can take from a larger pool of cool to make their skates look some sorta way, so trends have been melding into each other.

Detroit also has their own trends when it comes to building. Trends that are growing outward too. The builds in the D are less about flash and more about function. The shoes don’t need to showcase what the moves already do. Instead, when building a skate for rolling Detroit style, you should focus on a few key elements (or so we have been told by some of the people that actually know what they are talking about).

1. Get a boot that supports your ankle and is made out of full-grain leather.

We were shown the Riedell Model 297 boot when we took a trip to RollerCade. We will just tell you now that these boots will cost you a pretty penny. These boogie shoes are found in the “professional” section of a skate shop, and what they lack in bells and whistles, they make up for in durability and a genuine Shearling lining that will help keep your feet from getting funky while you do on the rink.

2. Keep the stoppers on.

Lots of people in lots of places like to take the stoppers off the front of their skates. Sure, they are clunky and can take away from the look of your sexy, red-velvet skates with the rainbow stripe down the side - but if you wanna skate Detroit Style, you’re going to need those big, bulging bad boys on the front of your foot in order to do many of the moves that people do down in the D.

3. Attach some lightweight plates.

If you’re skating with a partner around the rink and showcasing Detroit Style moves, you’ll be lifting your legs high off the ground a lot. You’ll be kicking over your partner, hanging your leg off the ground like a figure skater, and doing a million other moves that are gonna start your calves aflame for hours at a time. You don’t wanna add a heavy weight plate to all that. Imagine trying to go dancing with lead in your shoes. That’s why we were recommended to get some Snyder Advantage plates made from durable, lightweight aluminum.

4. Get yourself some hard wheels made for "Rhythm" skating.

You wouldn’t buy yourself a Benz and then put some $50 Firestone tires, right? So why float your Riedell’s on the wrong type of gummy wheels that’ll harsh your mellow on the rink? Harder wheels are perfect for rolling across a smooth rink floor quickly and smoothly. If you’re skating outside on rough terrain in the city or by the beach, you’ll want softer wheels. However, if you’re skating Detroit Style with a partner and doing moves for everyone at the rink, you’re going to want hard wheels like the Sure Grip Fo-Mac Harmony wheels.

So how much is a build like this going to cost you when you also add in good laces and bearings to boot? You’re looking at around $1400 to keep yourself rolling the right way.

That’s right... it’s just like the old saying goes, “Good skates ain’t cheap and cheap skates ain’t good.”

Still though, go to any rink in Detroit on any day of the week and look for the person rolling around on some all black, nondescript, leather roller skates and those cats will be busting out the coolest moves on the floor. Guaranteed.

written by:

Kalvin Lazarte

photography by:

Sam Sklar