They may be the first custom thing that you put on your car. For that matter, maybe they're the only custom thing that you ever put on your car. Regardless of how trick your ride is, most often you start with the wheels. Being the focal point of most cars, your rim and tire package can make or break the look and style of your ride.

Since the beginning of lowriding, there have been several unspoken rules to this game: one would be that a sharp set of wheels will set you apart. This was especially true back in an era undergoing many changes with equality for minorities and the growth of individuality, and it remains true today. The final rule would become the ultimate code for lowriders, and that's the smaller the wheel, the closer to the ground it gets you (remember, this was before the days of hydraulics as we know them today).

Throughout time, the lowrider wheels of choice have changed and evolved. Many in the early years, as members of a custom car faction in the '50s, started out with some red "oxides" and clean hubcaps. This was during a time when aftermarket rims were not available except as options through car dealers. In recent years, rims have made a major impact on the multi-million dollar automotive aftermarket, with more tire and wheel options available than ever before for lowriders and car customizers alike. This was definitely the case with the rise of the mammoth chrome rims.

For many cars, no matter what they're rolling on, they are and always will be a lowrider simply because of the type of car that it is. Now we're not here to give you a list of cars that are unmistakably lowriders. A '63 Chevy Impala, no matter what you bolt on it, carries the persona of a lowrider, much like a '32 Ford roadster is considered the "poster boy" for hot-rods.

The point is that our rims and rubber have changed throughout the years, and it's not so much the application on the car, but the car itself, one that waited to shed its mundane appearance and spread its wings amongst the lowrider community, that's the "star." Instead of a sport coupe that doubles as a family car, it's now a jewel-encrusted "king" that dances through the streets and punishes its rivals in competitions of honor and prestige.

So we're here to shed some long-awaited light on the rims and tires that pushed our culture through the high times when it seemed that everyone and their mother was riding, as well as the low times when we were looked at as a weird cult of Latinos with some major mental defect.

For those of us who have lived, loved and studied lowriders for the past few decades, we see that times change and our current definition of lowriding has to be able to accept these changes as long as it keeps with our style. This means that we will be seeing more big wheels on lowriders, and the pedigree that we have maintained for decades will be validated through these advancements. History marches on, and the Lowrider Movement will roll on with it.

Naked ladies are always a favorite because of the style and flare that they bring to the street. But did you know that they were also the first to be used as a spinner-type wheel? It's true. A bracket was used to mount to the spindle so while the lady stood still the wheel spun around her.

The cross-laced rims that came from the Tru-Spoke and Cragar design teams flossed fat, bent spokes clustered around the five lugs that kept all of their style mated to your ride. For many years, these rims were enough to make the girls from local neighborhoods drool while you're doing laps on Whittier Blvd., decades before the anti-cruising attitude of the Whittier P.D.

McLean and Roadster were two of the first straight-laced wire wheels on the market that didn't need an adapter to hide the lugs. The absence of an adapter was addressed with a design that consisted of shorter spokes and a spinner cap that covered the lug nuts. Though they were a great alternative to the original cross-laced spokes, they were no match for Dayton, which would emerge as the true king of the wire wheels.

Many younger lowriders are suckers for some thin "whites" and a set of five-spoke Cragars or Astro Supremes. This may be due to the fact that they were the first set of mag wheels that we can remember. Other brands would soon follow, like Dynasty, Fenton and Rocket. Nothing can beat the style of Cragars or Astro Supremes, however, and this ideal is reinforced by many of the top-notch wheel manufacturers today that work off of the basic five-spoke style for their current designs. These forged relics brought lowriding to its rise and would be used as a "mile marker" for the end of the golden age of lowriding in the '70s. Mag rims and caps would not be enough for the lowrider enthusiast as times began to change.

The "silver" age of lowriding slammed on the scene laced up and ready to party. Like a fresh pair of Nike Air Flights, wire wheels came with straight- or cross-laced spokes that radiated the sun and gleamed in the night, which made them hard to ignore while you crawled down the boulevard blasting Parliament from your ride. As our cars began to shed their stock "skins" for new candy-covered patterns and enough fat flake to choke a python, there was a newfound need that the rims of old could not satisfy.

The new paint schemes of the '70s needed something with more flare and flash, which unearthed the wire rim market. They started with cross-laced rims like Tru-Spokes, fat-spoke deep-dished reversed-style rims, and morphed themselves to a thin straight-laced Dayton with a few transitions along the way. Someone down the line got tired of the variable-fit oval mounting holes, long-shouldered lugs and lining up the back spacers every time that you swapped rims for work mode after a weekend of cruising, and more progress was made.