Roller Skating in Popular Culture: An In-Depth Study

Roller skating has been a popular recreational activity since the early 1900s. It is a fun and exciting way to exercise and socialize, and has been embraced by people of all ages and backgrounds.

Over the years, roller skating has also become an iconic part of popular culture, with numerous references in movies, music, television, fashion, and sports.

Let’s dive in.

According To The Roller Authorities

The Rolling Stone magazine published an article highlighting the comeback of roller skating in pop culture and how it has become a symbol of freedom and joy. “Roller skating is experiencing a comeback in pop culture, representing freedom, joy, and individuality.”

The Smithsonian Magazine explores the role of roller skating in shaping American culture and how it became an icon of the 1970s disco era. “Roller skating played a significant role in shaping American culture, becoming a symbol of the 1970s disco era.”

NPR interviewed roller skating experts and enthusiasts about the enduring appeal of the sport and its impact on popular culture. “Roller skating has an enduring appeal due to its unique blend of athleticism, artistry, and community.”

Roller Skating in Movies

One of the most significant contributions of roller skating to popular culture has been its portrayal in movies. From the disco-inspired Roller Boogie (1979) to the fantastical musical Xanadu (1980) to the roller derby comedy Whip It (2009), roller skating has been a staple of cinematic entertainment for decades.

Roller Boogie, which starred Linda Blair and Jim Bray, followed the story of a young woman who falls in love with a roller skater while trying to save her family’s roller disco from being shut down. Xanadu, which starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, featured a muse who comes to life to inspire a struggling artist, and they eventually fall in love while roller skating.

Whip It, which starred Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore, is a coming-of-age story about a misfit teenager who joins a roller derby team and discovers a sense of empowerment and belonging. These movies, among others, have contributed to the cultural significance of roller skating and helped it gain popularity among new generations.

Roller Skating in Music

Another significant contribution of roller skating to popular culture is its connection to music. Roller skating rinks in the 70s and 80s were known for playing disco music, which was the soundtrack of the era. This music became inseparable from the experience of roller skating, and many people still associate roller skating with disco to this day.

Roller skating has also influenced the creation of music. Roller derby has inspired its own genre of punk rock music, with bands like The Roller Derby Ruckus and The Flatliners dedicating their songs to the sport. Popular music videos, such as Beyonc√©’s “Blow” and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” have also featured roller skating as a theme, further solidifying its place in pop culture.

Roller Skating in Popular Culture: An In-Depth Study

Roller Skating in Television

In addition to movies and music, roller skating has also made its way onto the small screen. TV shows like “Happy Days” and “That ’70s Show” featured characters who enjoyed roller skating as a recreational activity. More recently, shows like “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “GLOW” have prominently featured roller skating in their storylines.

Reality shows about roller skating have also become popular, such as “Roller Derby Girls” and “Roller Jam.” These shows give viewers an inside look at the roller skating world and the challenges and triumphs of those who participate in the sport.

Roller skating has also been featured in commercials, with companies using the activity to promote their products. For example, KFC’s “Chicken Little” commercial featured a group of roller skaters enjoying the fast food chain’s new menu item while performing impressive tricks and stunts.

Roller Skating Fashion

Roller skating has also had a significant impact on fashion. In the 70s and 80s, roller skating attire was defined by spandex, leg warmers, and brightly colored clothing. This look became synonymous with the roller disco era and has since become a nostalgic trend.

In modern times, roller skating fashion has evolved to be more inclusive and diverse. Skaters now wear everything from traditional quad skates to inline skates and have created their own unique styles. Roller skating fashion has also influenced mainstream fashion, with designers incorporating roller skate-inspired elements into their collections.

Roller Skating in Sports

While roller skating is primarily known as a recreational activity, it has a rich history as a sport as well. Roller skating sports include roller derby, inline speed skating, artistic roller skating, and roller hockey, among others.

Roller derby, in particular, has gained a lot of attention in recent years, with leagues popping up all over the world. The sport is characterized by its fast pace, physicality, and emphasis on teamwork. It has also inspired its own subculture, with players and fans alike adopting a punk rock aesthetic.

Roller Skating in Popular Culture: An In-Depth Study

Roller Skating Communities

Roller skating has also created its own communities, both online and in real life. Roller skating rinks have been a popular gathering place for decades, providing a space for skaters to come together and enjoy their shared love of the activity.

In addition, roller skating clubs and organizations have formed around the world, providing opportunities for skaters to compete, learn new skills, and connect with others who share their passion.

Online roller skating communities have also become popular, with social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok allowing skaters to share their tricks, connect with others, and promote their events.

Roller Skating in Popular Culture: An In-Depth Study


Roller skating has had a lasting impact on popular culture, with its influence being felt in movies, music, television, fashion, sports, and communities. Despite changes in trends and styles over the years, roller skating has endured as a beloved activity for people of all ages and backgrounds. As the sport continues to evolve, new generations of fans are discovering the joy and excitement of roller skating.


What are the benefits of roller skating?

Roller skating is a great way to stay active and improve cardiovascular health. It also helps with balance, coordination, and muscle development.

How do I get started with roller skating?

You can find roller skating rinks and clubs in your area and attend a beginners’ class. There are also many online resources available for learning how to roller skate.

Is roller derby a dangerous sport?

Like any sport, roller derby can be physically demanding and can result in injuries. However, proper training and safety equipment can minimize the risk of injury.

Can I roller skate outside?

Yes, roller skates can be used both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor skating can provide a fun and scenic way to explore your surroundings while getting exercise

Are there different types of roller skates?

Yes, there are different types of roller skates, including quad skates, inline skates, and speed skates, among others. Each type has its own unique features and is designed for specific activities and purposes.

Photo of author
Written by James Burton
Hey everyone! I'm James Burton, and I love being a chef. It's my full time job and I love it. But what some of you may not know is that I also have a side hustle as a roller skating trainer. In fact, I do it for fun now - it's not my main source of income or anything. But I love it, and I blog about it in my spare time. I'm from Irvine, California and I love spending time with my family and friends. We like to go out and have fun - play sports, go to the beach, etc. And when I'm not working or training (or blogging), you can usually find me eating!

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Verified Sources

Wondering where your info comes from? We totally understand. only obtains our information from reputable sources. Contents from this article are sourced from the following publications:

  1. The Rolling Stone magazine
  2. The Smithsonian Magazine
  3. NPR interview