Tyshawn Jones has something a dwindling number of professional skateboarders can claim: a signature shoe.
Not that long ago, any pro who was remotely marketable signed a footwear deal that included an original silhouette bearing their name. The shoes these contracts yielded would run for a couple of seasons before new models replaced them. And so the cycle went.
But now, even the highest-profile pros—skaters who release influential video parts, skaters who win contests—are more likely to get colorways of existing models, sometimes ones that belong to other pros. It’s less risky for a sponsor, sure, but also less of a milestone.
Jones is well aware of the shift.
“A lot of people aren’t getting shoes these days,” the 22-year-old Bronx native says, “so I’m very grateful to be one of the few who actually does.”
This month saw the release of the Tyshawn Low, the second iteration of Jones’ signature model with Adidas Skateboarding. The first, a basketball-inspired, cup-sole mid, arrived in June 2019, about six months after Thrasher named him 2018’s Skater of the Year. The award owed largely to his part in Blessed, a video released by another one of his sponsors, Supreme.
Jones’ new sneaker is a cut-down version of the first, something he said he’d planned from the start. And while it arrived without a formal part to support it, Jones doesn’t feel pressured to produce one, preferring regular Instagram clips filmed with a friend instead. “I think that always shows the best outcome.”
We spoke to Jones about his shoe, his video parts, and why he doesn’t actually watch skate videos himself.
Let’s talk about your shoe. Two years on, where’d the idea to do a low-top come from?
Well, I think a low-top was something I wanted to do from the start, but I just wanted to do a mid first, because that’s what I wanted for more or less myself. But a low-top is something I’ve always wanted to do. I just was rocking more mids at the time, and that’s what I wanted to start the tree with.
Does the low offer you something when you’re skating that the mid doesn’t?
It suits everyone, other than the mid. For the mid, you got to be a certain type of person to rock it. I hear a lot of people say, who know me personally, “I love your shoe, but I’m just not a mid kind of person.” Or, “Mids just don’t look good on me.”
What kind of person do you have to be to rock the mid?
A swaggy person. I don’t want to [offend] anybody, but shit, I could rock anything. But I guess a lot of people can’t, you know what I mean? So fuck it—we gave ’em the low.
“A lot of people aren’t getting shoes these days, so I’m very grateful to be one of the few who actually does.”
I don’t know. I mean, pants are getting bigger now. It feels like now might be the time for the mid, but yeah, I feel you.
I think it depends on what you’re talking about when you pants is getting bigger.
I mean, you don’t see it? Everybody around the city now—every kid skating downtown is wearing almost, like, 1992-looking pants.
Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know about that one.
You’re not here for the baggy pant revival of 2021?
For a long time, every pro skater almost, it seemed, was getting shoes. And then that sort of tapered off, and it feels like, more than anything right now, most pros have colorways. Even someone like P-Rod, who’s a legend, only has a colorway, and he’s very specific in talking about that and saying, “This isn’t actually a pro shoe. This is a colorway of a Dunk.” What do you think it means, then, as a young pro skater, to have a shoe when so few pro skaters do?
A shoe means the world to me. I’ve obviously always wanted a shoe growing up. Everyone wants that shoe, because it feels like you’ve made it, in a sense. That’s one of the hardest markers to get to in skateboarding. A lot of people aren’t getting shoes these days, so I’m very grateful to be one of the few who actually does. I don’t know why I’m chosen, but yeah, it’s pretty crazy to think that it seems as, like you said, when I was growing up, everyone had shoes. No one gets shoes anymore. I don’t really know why. But yeah, I guess that’s the way the industry just went. But yeah, having a skate shoe with my name on it is crazy.
You can kind of count the pro shoes in skateboarding that have lasted a long time, either as a single shoe or a line of shoes, almost on one hand. What does it take for a skateboarder to make something that’s actually memorable, that actually resonates beyond a couple of seasons?
I don’t know. That’s a really interesting question, because it seems like back in the day, it was easier. It seemed easier for a shoe to get stamped. These days, it seems like things come and go so fast because, with social media, kids don’t know what they want to do anymore. Styles are changing and nothing really sticks around for that long. I don’t know if there’s a method to it. I feel like you just got to be lucky. But I can’t really name a pro shoe that’s stuck in skateboarding in the 2010s and up. Before, it was the Janoskis and stuff like that, and Half Cabs. But these are shoes that have been around for so long. If you think about it, which shoe would you say has been stamped—the last one that you would say?
Janoski, Half Cab.
And, I mean, the Half Cab has been around for almost 30 years.
But those are old shoes that have been around for so long. When did Janoskis come out?
Exactly. You see what I’m saying? And Busenitz. We can’t forget about him.
But other than that, I don’t know. Shoes haven’t really been trademarked in the pro skateboard shoe world in a minute. Hopefully we could break that mold.
It seems like you guys did a slower roll-out with it. When DC would put out the Rob Dyrdek 3 or whatever, it’d be like, “Here are the four colorways.” You got it in white, black, blue, and maybe some other combination. Whereas when you dropped the first shoe, the mid, it was one or two colorways at a time. Every few months, it was, “OK, now the black suede is coming out.” Was that to give it a longer shelf life?
For sure. And the shelf life isn’t done. We kind of do the slow burn with it, and we’re trying to transition it to be stamped in the skate world and have those long seasons. And we don’t want to burn it out fast. It’s still going strong. The shoe does well. Working with Adidas, they got a pretty good team over there, and they told me how they think that we can make this something that lasts longer than something that’s just for the moment. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job doing it.
You’re one of a dwindling number of pro skaters to have an actual pro model shoe right now, especially with a big company like Adidas. What expectations do you think that that carries to skateboarders as a whole? What do you think they expect of you as somebody who has his name on an actual silhouette?
I would say they would expect me to be skating and going hard and doing it. But, honestly, I don’t care what nobody thinks. I’mma just do me, and that’s what got me this far. But they would probably expect me to be dropping parts every year and stuff like that.
Is that something you think about a lot? I mean, you had the Supreme part. You had the part with Bill [Strobeck] that came out after. You’ve had some Instagram stuff. There was some Hardies stuff in the Illegal Civ video. But as a pro skater, do you feel pressured? Like, “Damn, it’s been two and a half years since Blessed came out. I need to do something.”
No, because if I’m gonna drop something, it has to be great to me. Things I try to do take a long time, sometimes, because I’m always pushing myself. I could always go drop another part, but is it gonna be better than the last? That’s how I like to think. I’m not gonna drop something just to drop it. I’m not in the business of trying to stay relevant. And I think that’s what people mess up. They’ll just be like, “I have to keep my name in the mix.” I’m not here to do that. I skate every day, whether people think, “Ehh, he hasn’t dropped a part in a minute.” I don’t know if I’mma drop a part—when my part’s ready and done.
I’m not in my brain like, “Oh my God, people didn’t see any footage of me in two years. I have to do something.” When it comes out, it’ll come out. Hopefully people like it. But as long as I like it, that’s what matters to me. I look at skateboarding like an album. It’s a slow burn. I’m 22. I don’t have to rush to keep my name in the mix, especially if I’m gonna have a long career till I’m 45 or something. I don’t have to drop a part every year. I feel like I’m gonna just water myself down. I like my stuff to be special.
You had that Instagram edit come out with Thrasher. What’s the strategy behind that kind of thing for you? What’s your thought process going into pieces of content like that?
I don’t think it’s more or less a strategy. The person who films the stuff is my friend. We just hang out, and he’s like, “Yo, let’s go skate.” And we film around, and we knock shit out. That thing was in a day or two of filming. It’s not really thought-out process. He obviously knows, we know, but he’s like, “Yo, we want to make an edit for your shoe. I got to film something of you.” And I’m probably just like, “Yeah, I’mma get around to it.” And, finally, we always slap it together last minute. That’s how everything works. I don’t really beat myself up—like, “Oh, we’ve got to...” That’s my friend. So we just be having fun, fucking around, skating around the city, driving around the city, hitting spots. And I think that always shows the best outcome.
And then, at the same time, you’re not just skating, right? You’re doing the restaurant. You got other stuff.
Exactly. That’s another thing—I like to do other things to make me like skating more. I can’t just skate every day. I feel like it’ll get boring to me.
Do you worry about it clouding your focus?
No, I don’t think it clouds my focus. I think it makes me want to skate more at times. If I am focused on other stuff for a week, that might give me that oomph to go out and go hard and skate again. If I’m out doing random stuff for a week in my regular life, then I might be like, “All right, I want to go get a clip.”
“I could always go drop another part, but is it gonna be better than the last? That’s how I like to think. I’m not gonna drop something just to drop it.”
What’s the one thing about your regular life that might surprise most skaters?
I don’t watch skate videos at all.
Like, if the Illegal Civ video comes out, you’re not watching that?
I watched that because that’s my friend’s video. But I don’t watch a skate video and be like, “Yeah, I’m about to go skate!” I’ll listen to music or just chill with my dogs, and then be like, “All right, I’m about to go skate.” I’ll watch rap videos before I go skate. I don’t know—watching skating, random people skate, doesn’t get me hyped. If it’s my friend or something, and they just dropped something new, I’ll probably tune in, but I don’t really watch skateboarding. I only see stuff on Instagram. I feel like you see everything you need to see on Instagram. The ender’s gonna be up there in two days, anyway.
Let’s say Adidas went to you and said, “We need a three-minute part for this.” What do you think the value of that is?
I don’t know. I think about that a lot of times. I think that there’s people still doing it, but this day and age, it seems like video parts and stuff don’t even matter. People get sponsored from Instagram clips now and never had a video part. So it’s always those thoughts. I mean, I’m a soul skater to the core. I’m going to always drop video parts, but it crosses my mind sometimes. I’m like, “Damn, these kids getting sponsored these days just hitting the skate park and dropping iPhone clips.” I’m out breaking my back, trying to get a clip. But yeah, it’s cool. To each his own. I like dropping parts.
This the second iteration of this shoe. At what point do you think this shoe runs its course and you move on to a new silhouette? How much longer do you think you can carry it with this shoe?
I like this shoe, and I like all my shoes. I think that they’re stamped in my book. I see a lot of people skating it. I would say I’ve got one of the most popular shoes out right now, humbly. I see a lot of kids skating it, and I get a lot of people telling me that they really like the shoe. So I think it resonated well, and I think a lot of people love to skate in it, and I think people would be bummed if it went away. So if there was no need to keep making shoes, shoes, shoes, these shoes, if they keep doing well, I’ll keep them and make more shoes to add to the tree. But I want these shoes to last forever.