The First Recorded Demonstration Of Rollerblades In 1923 Is A Sight To Behold

by : Hannah Smith on :
The First Recorded Demonstration Of Rollerblades In 1923 Is A Sight To BeholdSporting History/YouTube

Rollerblades are a highlight of retro fashion, but it turns out that people have been figuring out ways to skate around town for a lot longer than you might think.

Archive footage has revealed the first known recorded demonstration of rollerblades, and as you might be able to tell from the grainy black and white shots, it was a fair few decades before the roller craze truly hit in the 1980s.


The video is actually from 1923, and shows some otherwise well-suited and booted gentlemen taking an early iteration of the skate shoes for a whirl.

Check it out:


They’re not quite the chunky four-wheeled boots you’d find at your local roller disco, but instead one wheel attached to a leg brace that allows the riders to strap themselves into the skates.


Think of Sideswipe from Transformers, and you pretty much get the idea.

But just because they’re not the hi-tech carbon fibre blades the skaters of today are used to, doesn’t mean the men who pioneered the roller-blading fad couldn’t throw some serious shapes.


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While some of those trialling the wheels had to use skiing poles to keep themselves upright and in a straight line, others got to grips right away, with the video showing one man performing an elaborate routine of spins and glides with the rudimentary shoes.

As futuristic as it looks, the idea wasn’t for the faint hearted, with those who did strap their feet to the wheels risking a broken ankle or at the very least some nasty scrapes if they couldn’t keep themselves upright.

Early roller blades (British Pathe/Unilad/Instagram)British Pathe/UNILAD/Instagram

According to historians, the shoes seen in the footage were actually dubbed ‘cycling shoes’, and they were quite the trend in 1920s Paris. Other early prototypes of cycling shoes cropped up in the UK and the United States, with some versions incorporating skis with smaller wheels at the front and the back for better stability.

Incredibly, the history of rollerblading actually dates back even further, with records of roller-blade-style shoes found in records as early as the 18th century.

Cut to the present day, and people are still finding ways to innovate when it comes to rollerblades, with one Youtuber even creating his own pair of electric skates, allowing him to reach some impressive, if slightly terrifying speeds.


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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism.

Topics: Life, history, Now, Paris


  1. @Unilad/Instagram

    The first recorded demonstration of rollerblades back in 1923 😮