Tobey McIntosh Went From Taking His Mom’s Nike Dunks to Designing His Own

The founder of Crenshaw Skate Club discusses his upcoming Nike SB Dunk Low collab.

Via Nike SB/Tims Hans

At just 11 years old, Tobey McIntosh would frequent the Supreme store on Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles, asking employees questions, obsessively watching skate videos, and dreaming of learning to skate. Finally, his dream came true in 2014. Spoety, one of the store employees from McIntosh’s neighborhood, set him up with a board of his own. The problem was, he still needed a pair of shoes to skate in. The basketball shoes he had in his closet weren’t going to cut it. So, he did what many a young kid has done, he raided his mom’s closet for some sneakers. 

“My mom and I were the same size, but she was into her shoes and liked them super neat, so it was going to have to be a secretive mission,” says McIntosh. He laughs reminiscing on the moment. “I stole them out of the closet.”

Rather than going for a pair of beaters or something buried in the back of the closet, he chose a brand new pair of brown and orange Nike Dunk Highs. He would hide them in the back of his closet when he got back to the house. Eventually, his mom discovered his pilfering when he got too lazy to put the thrashed sneakers in their hiding spot. The moment has stayed with him. They weren’t Nike SBs, but Dunks are a big part of his history with skating. 

“They were bad. I filled holes up with Shoe Goo and everything. There was no going back,” says McIntosh when recalling the tale of the stolen sneakers. “I’ve never taken a pair of my mom’s shoes again. But that was my first true skate shoe. That’s why the Dunk has always meant so much to me.”

The Crenshaw Skate Club x Nike SB Dunk Low in front of the Crenshaw Square sign it's inspired by.

He remembers wanting a pair of the “De La Soul” SB Dunk Lows that came out the next year so bad that he rounded up his family’s unwanted belongings for a yard sale to raise the $50 more he needed to buy a pair. He’d buy unfavorable colorways of SBs that went on sale from sites like 6pm just so he would have fresh pairs to skate in. More recently, he’s been blessed by Nike SB with free pairs of coveted collabs like the Strangeloves, which he also didn’t hesitate to skate in despite their high value on the resell market. 

Fast forward to 2023 and McIntosh is adding another chapter to his ongoing history with Dunks. On Aug. 5, the collaboration between his brand Crenshaw Skate Club (CSC) and Nike SB releases to the public in full family sizing for $130. Pairs will be available at select skate shops and on CSC’s website. A SNKRS drop will follow at a later date that has yet to be confirmed. Matching graphic T-shirts will also be available.

Like his streetwear brand, McIntosh’s SB Dunk Low takes cues from the neighborhood he grew up in. The red and green pattern that covers the overlays is a nod to the large sign of the Crenshaw Square shopping center that has oxidized over time. The silhouette of the Crenshaw Square sign is also stitched on each heel. Certain campaign imagery was even shot at the location. Crenshaw Square is a place McIntosh remembers frequently visiting to grab a hot dog and a Playas Punch from Earle’s, or see locals riding by in low riders. 

“I wanted to base the shoe off of a place in my neighborhood that was important to me,” says McIntosh. “Everybody in Crenshaw knows about and has their own different stories about it. The word ‘culture’ gets thrown around a lot, but that’s true culture. It’s a landmark. It’s like our own Statue of Liberty.”

Nike SB allowed McIntosh to write "Nike" on the left heel tab in CSC's signature font.

McIntosh made sure to include tons of small-yet-meaningful details across his SB Dunk Low. While he won’t reveal specifically what it will uncover, the pattern found on the overlays is designed to wear away over time when to reveal hidden messaging. Messages have all been placed underneath the Swooshes, which McIntosh says have a tendency to tear off after multiple sessions of flip tricks. The hope is that owners will eventually create a whole new sneaker if they wear them.

“When they’re skated, it looks crazy,” says McIntosh. “They mature very well. This is made to be worn and skated in.”

Flipping the inner tongue tag up reveals the phrase “We are the ones you have been waiting for,” a message that makes its way onto most CSC products. Children playing with building blocks, another common CSC motif that nods to a local daycare in his neighborhood, appear on the outsole. If you remove the insole, the zip code of Crenshaw, 90008, is printed on it. Nike allowed McIntosh to tweak the Nike SB branding usually found on the tongue tags and heel tabs to be written in CSC’s signature font. 

“I had a vision for it, and Nike just let me rock out and do what I wanted to do, which I really appreciate,” says McIntosh. “They weren’t like, ‘Oh, maybe you should do this.’ They took my vision and what I was trying to pull off and let me put it all together.”

Unfortunately, as is the fate of many sneaker collabs these days, McIntosh’s sneaker leaked back in March before he had the chance to properly show it off. While he says it initially bummed him out to see a low quality photo of the sneaker get tossed onto social media without any storytelling, he’s come to terms with it. 

“It’s part of the culture,” says McIntosh. “I’m not going to be stressed out by something I can’t change.”

The outsoles of the CSC x Nike SB Dunk Low are a window to more signature CSC graphics.

But it isn’t just about releasing a sneaker to the masses for McIntosh. He made sure to give back to his community as well. This past weekend, he held a skate jam at Charmette Bonpau Skate Plaza in Crenshaw. Winners of the best trick competition that was hosted received a pair of CSC x Nike SB Dunk Lows. In an effort to make sure as many locals can get their hands on the collab as possible, he also had sign-ups for a special raffle at the event. If you could prove you were from the area with your ID, you could enter. 

“That was big for me,” says McIntosh. “I don’t want to sell this shoe and have nobody in the community be able to buy it.”

Another designer whose work was very attached to his community was Spanto, the founder of Los Angeles streetwear label BornXRaised who passed away in June. He was slated to release an SB Dunk Low of his own this summer that has since been postponed. McIntosh, who collaborated with BxR in June 2021, calls Spanto a big mentor. He recalls the two being excited to celebrate their Nike SB collabs together and planning to do a special photoshoot to mark the occasion, one photo in Crenshaw Square and another in Venice Beach to celebrate the locations that each of the sneakers was inspired by.

“We formed a real friendship. I’d always expect a call from him every few weeks,” says McIntosh. “If something happened with the brand or I had a question, he was someone who I knew I could call and he’d respond right away. Now, it’s weird that I can’t ask him. He’s a really important person to me and Crenshaw Skate Club.”

This isn’t the first time that McIntosh’s Crenshaw Skate Club has collaborated on a sneaker with Nike. In 2022, he designed a friends and family pair of Air Jordan 36 Lows. They featured various shades of brown and a CSC logo on the right tongue. While they didn’t make it to retail, they did make noise on social media. Although the early stages of his Nike SB collab were already underway by the time the world saw his Air Jordan PE, McIntosh says it was almost like a proof of concept for him and his five-year old brand. 

“The 36 Low, even though it was a friend and family, was a good start to see like, ‘Okay, this guy can make some shoes people like,’” says McIntosh. “It was good that the first one was a challenge. The 36 Low is’t a model that's a sure shot like an Air Jordan 1. It challenged me to focus a lot on the shoe and I couldn't just lean on the model to do it for me. A Dunk is universally liked, but I put that same amount of effort into it. When you spend $130 on my shoe, I want it to feel worth it.”

The magnitude of getting his own Nike SB collab isn’t lost on him. Now that the shoe is finally releasing, and has been laced up by skaters he looks up to like Eric Koston and Theotis Beasley, it’s setting in what he was able to do. 

“Being able to work with Nike is like every kid's dream,” says McIntosh. “Deshawn Jordan and Theotis Beasley are skating in my shoe. When I first saw that I was just silent. Like, that’s crazy. It’s just a surreal moment I’m living through.”

And yes, he repaid his mom after all of these years. It wasn’t her brown Dunk Highs, but it was something better, a pair of SB Dunks designed by her son.

“I gave her a pair early and I’ll give her another pair to wear,” says McIntosh. “Hopefully, that makes up for the stolen Dunks.”