Get the inside story of how an 18-year-old college student and founder of LA’s Crenshaw Skate Club landed his own exclusive sneaker from the greatest in the game.
Luka Dončić. Jayson Tatum. Tobey McIntosh.
Fans of the Air Jordan lineage will recognize one name stands apart from the others. Famously, Dončić and Tatum took their respective teams to new NBA heights this season — balling out in player exclusive pairs of the Air Jordan 36. For their efforts, All-NBA accolades and signature sneaker releases are on the way.
However, to a certain sect of purists, the ideology that “ball is life” excludes hoopers from exploring other hobbies. Many folks think that to truly love one culture, there’s no space to appreciate a parallel passion.
This is not true, and this is where McIntosh comes in.
At 18 years old, the Stanford student by way of Nipsey’s neighborhood has a bright future ahead and a brand on his shoulders. Starting Crenshaw Skate Club at only 14, the kid with a love of the halfpipe and the hardwood has already landed collaborations with Round Two, The Hundreds, and his hometown Clippers.
Really, McIntosh isn’t different from Dončić and Tatum. He has his own Air Jordan 36 PE, too.
Boardroom spoke with Tobey over the phone between exams outside Palo Alto. Below, learn how a teen talent worked his way into breaking the barriers between skate and hoops.
IAN STONEBROOK: First and foremost, how’d the exam go?
TOBEY McINTOSH: I’m thinking it went pretty well. I left out of it pretty confident, but we’ll see when I get the score back. It’s kind of scary when I come out of an exam feeling good about it. [Laughs] It’s a computer science class about programming methodology.
I’m an economics major, but I’m thinking about doing this new cooler major called STS, which stands for Science, Technology, and Society. You get a mixture of computer science, humanities, history, and some science in there. Economics at Stanford are great classes, but they’re more research-based economics, which is great if you’re looking to work for the government.
But I’m looking for something more modern. Something that will help me with my own brand and make me more knowledgeable about society as a whole.
IS: With your economics background, would you say you saw a gap in the market when you created Crenshaw Skate Club at only 14?
TM: Crenshaw Skate Club pertains to me seeing a gap in the market, but it wasn’t a gap that I was looking to benefit from economically. It was more something I saw growing up skating in South Central with all my friends.
We’re all African-American skaters, but when I looked at skate videos and magazines, I never saw people who looked like me and my friends. I wanted to create something to represent me and my friends in the industry. I just saw a big void in the representation of Black skaters, especially inner-city skaters, so I started Crenshaw Skate Club.
IS: Walk me through the time of the highlights of Crenshaw Skate Club these last four years.
TM: The first major highlight was being stocked by Supreme. Going to Supreme all the time as a kid? The first time I walked in and saw my own shirt on the shelf was a crazy time and amazing.
The first collaboration I did was with Anwar Carrots. He’s another Black designer who really broke a lot of doors down. It was amazing to be able to work with him. A recent highlight is the Clippers collaboration. I grew up going as a kid because I loved basketball, and the only tickets my dad could afford were the Clippers games.
I became a fan because they really had an underdog mentality, and I aligned with that. It was surreal to collaborate with them, walk on the Clippers’ court, and shoot photos with them. I was able to speak at a game about the collaboration, and that was a little nerve-racking, but now when I do my presentations at school, it’s so easy. Powerpoint presentations are a piece of cake.
My most recent highlight has to be this Jordan PE. Being able to create my own shoe and give it out to my friends and family is just amazing. In the shoe, I put details that align with myself and my story. To have those elements put into footwear and have people be able to wear it and be excited about it? It’s amazing.
IS: I love when PEs and collabs happen on modern models. When did you first see the AJ 36, and what opportunities did the design and tooling lead to bringing it into your world?
TM: The 36 is a more modern shoe. With Jordans, aside from the 1s and 3s, people don’t really see them as skate shoes. This was an opportunity to do something out of the box and catch people off guard because the 36 has a lot of panels and textures you can play with and the backtab is big enough to throw a graphic on. With this shoe, I tried to put elements of my story but keep it fun as well.
With this Jordan, people are like, ‘Oh my God, the 36? It doesn’t make sense.’ In the imagery, I wanted to show people skating because you can skate these shoes, too. They skate pretty well actually because skate shoes aren’t usually that comfortable, but the 36 is a great shoe for skating. If you saw the 36, you’d never think about it until you tried it. I wanted to try that, test it out, and they’re actually pretty good.
IS: The cement accents on the shoe are signature Jordan Brand but have a deeper meaning in your story. Explain that.
TM: I wanted to put the cement print on there because, to me, cement represents Black skaters being the cement in the skate industry and holding it together. Cement is something that can hold a structure together. When you see a structure, you don’t really credit the cement, but that is what’s holding the structure together.
I see Black skaters as that: we’re holding the industry together, but we don’t get the credit we deserve.
IS: Your work with Jordan Brand began at a community level, helping build courts and computer labs with Russell Westbrook. Why is it important to see local youth like yourself giving back?
TM: In 2019, I did a shoe drive at my local YMCA with Nike and Jordan Brand. That was the first thing I did with them, and I was able to give 100 pairs of shoes away to the Junior Clippers program at Crenshaw YMCA. That was super dope to do and really meant a lot.
To see the smiles on the kids’ faces? I can really put myself in that situation because if I was eight and just got a new pair of Air Jordans? That would make me happy, so being able to do that for kids just like myself was amazing.
This past summer, Jordan Brand did a lot with the Crenshaw YMCA, and I was part of the project where they built a new basketball court and a new computer lab. To be part of a project that will impact kids in my neighborhood forever? They can always go to that basketball court and always use that computer lab.
Kids can go to the computer lab and explore what’s possible. Having a computer there where they can code, they can use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, they can expand on what’s possible and what they want to do with their future.
The main thing is for kids to see what’s possible for themselves. I don’t want to be the only person doing this. If they’re 14 and I’m 18 doing these things? When they see that, they know it’s possible for them as well. With these collaborations, I don’t want to gatekeep. I want to knock down the door and let everyone in with me.
Where I come from, you don’t see a lot of positive role models your own age. Seeing me do this is realistic for them because I grew up going to that YMCA. If kids from my neighborhood are on Instagram, I love giving them advice and telling them my story. They don’t have to start a clothing brand or do what I do, I just want to show them that anything they dream of that seems so far out? They can actually do it and achieve their dreams. That’s the main messaging behind all these things.
Obviously, a Jordan shoe is cool, but the main part is the messaging that it’s possible for a kid from Crenshaw to get their own Jordan shoe.
IS: When the Air Jordan 36 PE was announced, what was the reaction of your older family and friends to working with the GOAT?
TM: That’s been amazing. My grandpa, my uncles, my dad? They were so excited about the collaboration. I kept it a secret so that when I unveiled it they were like, ‘Oh my God!’ They watched Michael Jordan play basketball, and they know the Jordan shoes so they were super hyped about it. When I gave them a pair, they threw them right on and posted pictures.
It’s just crazy to see people in your family that you look up to and your older peers wear something you created. For people that mean so much to you to wear something that you created and be so excited over it? For them, Michael Jordan is basketball.
I wasn’t alive when Mike played for the Bulls. So, Jordan to me is an adjective for greatness. That’s what I think of: Black excellence and excellence in general. But to see their perspective as Michael Jordan from basketball and them being excited over that it? It was cool to see.
IS: Growing up in the Midwest in the ’90s, it always felt like people weren’t allowed to love basketball and actively skate. What was your personal experience with both cultures and sports in LA?
TM: I grew up with a park right next to me. I played basketball as a kid and all my friends did, but I skated. We’d go to Norman O. Houston Park, and when we would skate, we’d have to be in the same ecosystem as the basketball players there. We’d have to negotiate with them to get half the court, so we were always aligned because I was always skating on a basketball court.
Growing up near a park, somedays we’d play basketball and then we’d go skate. So, I didn’t see skating and basketball culture as separate because I grew up skating on a basketball court. As I got better and started skating at skate parks and street skating, I saw how they were known as polar opposite things. With my Clippers collaboration, I wanted to show that basketball and skating can live in the same ecosystems.
IS: Building a clothing company is the dream of many kids today just like making the NBA was the end all be all for many growing up. Looking at your Instagram, you literally know Nigo. Tell me how that meeting came about and what he means to you and the kids of your generation as a visionary.
TM: I met Nigo backstage at ComplexCon and got introduced to him through Anwar Carrots. Meeting Nigo is so crazy because everyone knows who Nigo is but he’s so rare. You don’t see him much. It was so fire. He had someone translating for me, and he sat there with a blank expression but talked to me through his translator. It was so cool. I was 17 at the time, and he said it was so amazing what I was doing.
To get praise from somebody like Nigo is surreal because as a creative, he wasn’t put in a box. He had BAPE and he sold BAPE, but for most people, their identity is in one brand. Since he was able to start that and then start another thing with Human Made that’s also successful? It just shows that he’s an all-around creative and more than just a brand owner.
He does music, he’s just an all-around creative person that does it at the highest level. He’s like the Michael Jordan of streetwear in a way.
IS: Lastly, there’s going to be a lot of energy added to the already moving Crenshaw Skate Club label with this JB shoe. What can fans expect next from Tobey and CSC?
TM: I won’t give out too many details, but for me, I will just continue with what I’ve been doing: living my dreams out. Hopefully, by doing that, I can inspire others to go achieve their dreams as well. Whatever I do, they can do as well.