big dreams, bigger talent: meet skateboarder tyshawn jones
One of skateboarding’s most formidable young stars, 18-year-old Bronx-born boy Tyshawn Jones is destined for big things.
Tyshawn wears jacket Supreme. Jeans model's own.
"Louis [Vuitton] or Gucci?" Tyshawn Jones asks on a sunny but bitterly cold afternoon at Coleman skatepark on New York's Lower East Side. The recently remodelled park is located directly underneath the hulking Manhattan Bridge, so every few minutes, overhead train thunder rumbles and chatter ceases until the subways pass. High fashion has become a subject of interim debate as one of Tyshawn's friends, skater Troy Stillwell, is wearing a scarf designed by the Italian house. The black and yellow garment — which Troy converts into a hood to combat the biting wind chill — was created in collaboration with Trouble Andrew, the Gucci Ghost. Troy's thoughts on the matter are spoken for. Steven Valentine and Brian Briggs, two other rising skaters Tyshawn rolls with, mull things over a little longer. Tyshawn's mind is made up: "Louis."
The 18-year-old Bronx native's answer is unsurprising, especially considering that the venerable French maison recently collaborated with Supreme — the NYC streetwear stalwart that skateboarding's brightest stars have orbited since 1994. Tyshawn started hanging out at Supreme's Lafayette St. shop when he was just 13. Since then, he's pushed himself to become one of skateboarding's most formidable young talents.
In 2014, Supreme released its first ever skate video, cherry. Helmed by William Strobeck, the film featured living legends (Mark Gonzales, Jason Dill) and new faces: Tyshawn, Sean Pablo Murphy, Aidan Mackey, Sage Elsesser, Nakel Smith, and Kevin Bradley. This dynamic young cast has since starred in many of Bill Strobeck's shorter projects. More recently, they filmed in Paris, where Supreme established an outpost last year.
Though much of cherry was set in Los Angeles, some of its most enduring moments are tried and true New York. A pigtailed Alex Olson ripping a wallie backside into a cluster of construction site barriers (before fighting a tourist in Tompkins Square Park) comes to mind. Ditto that shot of Sean Pablo standing on a subway platform while an E train speeds along behind him, holding up a battered deck with 'Take my virginity away' scribbled in silver Sharpie. So, too, does the sequence of Kevin, Nakel, and Tyshawn destroying the infamous courthouse gap. Soundtracked by Chief Keef's "I Don't Know Dem," a long, lanky 14-year-old Tyshawn makes the steep Financial District drop look like child's play.
Unsurprisingly, New York is Tyshawn's favourite city to skate. "It's not like other cities where things are slower paced and you've gotta rely on people. I just push everywhere," he explains. (Though not for long: the day we meet at Coleman, Tyshawn reveals he's just bought his first car). "Everything's super fast-paced here; that's what I like about it the most." Even though skating affords him such independence, Tyshawn says he'd much rather roll with others. And with each of his colourful efforts, Bill captures the young crew's wide range of styles and strengths, as well as their genuine friendships. "Bill, that's my homie. I talk to him like every day," says Tyshawn. "I like all the people there. Being with Supreme, it's all just been fun."
It's hard to believe cherry is about to celebrate its third birthday, considering all that Tyshawn and his friends have achieved since its release. Last year was perhaps his most ambitious and productive yet: he nabbed a TransWorld cover, saw his first pro board released by Fucking Awesome, landed on the long-list for Thrasher's Skater of the Year award, and made his full-length debut video part in adidas Skateboarding's epic Away Days. He rounded out the year by dropping the first official promo video for Hardies Hardware, the wildly successful hardware and accessories company he co-founded with Nakel and Kevin. Born out of a good-natured joke between the trio, Hardies has become instantly recognisable by its clenched fist logo — a defiant symbol of solidarity.
"It's a lot of fun, but it's really hard work," says Tyshawn. "And it's definitely different to being sponsored under somebody else; running your own thing is a whole different story. People think owning a company is easy, but once the business side of it comes in, it's challenging," he explains. And yet, he's enjoying the ride: "It's been greaat to see it grow to where it is now, how much people like it, and people get tattoos [of the logo,]" Tyshawn laughs. He's got a laser focused vision for its future.
Last month, Tyshawn revealed a new, limited edition collaboration between Hardies and adidas Skateboarding. A subtle yet stylish spin on classic adidas silhouettes, the capsule saw Tyshawn put Hardies touches on crewnecks, track pants, and Matchcourt sneakers. The Hardies fist is printed on tees, embroidered on five-panel caps, and takes the form of a bold graphic patch on the Matchcourt tongues. Rendered in midnight navy blue, canary yellow, and optic white, it's an offering that elevates everyday essentials to create a new kind of go-to uniform.
Designed with unity in mind, the collection came complete with a video, in which Tyshawn and his tight-knit team rip through the Bronx alongside the Go Hard Boyz street bike crew. Troy, Steven, and Brian all join Tyshawn in the Bronx sunshine, pushing down wide open boulevards. They weave in and out of four-wheelers and dirt bikers, who pop straight-vertical wheelies at heart-racing speeds, and command attention with their cacophony of humming engines. "In the summertime, you see street bikes everywhere so I wanted them flying by, doing tricks in with the skating, because nobody's ever done that," he says.
The collaboration is representative of just how Tyshawn has made his name: by working with friends, trusting his vision, and being himself. "Just do you, stay focused, and work hard. You gotta be hungry," he advises others. "I'm still hungry."
Text Emily Manning
Photography Stef Mitchell
Photography assistance Georgina Koren.