Whether it was their high-profile collaboration with Louis Vuitton in the summer, or the subsequent 50 percent stake they sold to The Carlyle Group for half-a-billion USD in the fall, Supreme’s image as a scrappy skate shop has certainly changed since James Jebbia opened up the New York City flagship on Lafayette Street in 1994. The very sale of half of his company was reportedly kept under wraps because sources alleged that Jebbia feared the valuation might jeopardize the brand’s so-called “street credibility.”
Despite the changing brand perceptions, Supreme has still managed to maintain a strong tie to the skate community which has always been embedded in the brand’s DNA since founding a skate team featuring riders Ryan Hickey, Justin Pierce, Gio Estevez, Paul Leung, Loki, Chris and Jones Keeffe, Peter Bici, and Mike Hernandez who had all earned respect at the Brooklyn Banks, Time Life Building, and Astor Place in the late ’80s/early ’90s.
“I always really liked what was coming out of the skate world,” Jebbia told Vogue about Supreme’s origins. “It was less commercial—it had more edge and more fuck-you type stuff.”
In recent years, skateboarding always remained a consistent theme; whether it was William Strobeck’s video to promote the Paris store opening featuring skaters Tyshawn Jones, Sage Elsesser, Kevin Bradley, Sean Pablo, Ben Kadow, Na-kel Smith, Greg Blobys, Kevin Rodrigues, Jason Dill, Mark Gonzales and Vincent Touzery, or a Vogue photo editorial with other four-wheel luminaries like Javier Nunez, Tyshawn Lyons, and Sean Pablo Murphy.
While most brand enthusiasts are well aware of the notable collaborations that have paired skateboarding with other facets of culture – like artist decks from Larry Clark, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, KAWS, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, Raymond Pettibon, Peter Saville, George Condo the Chapman Brothers – Supreme also has a lesser-known partnership that might have diehards flocking to secure a first-generation Playstation console.
Much in the same way that streetwear has seen greater acceptance in contemporary culture, so too have video games emerged from dank arcades and exploded into a $107 billion USD yearly business in 2017. For some, their earliest video game memories came on consoles like SNES, Sega Genesis or GameCube where gameplay trumped graphics.
Coincidentally, the same year that Supreme was being founded, Sony launched their flagship gaming console, PlayStation, which ultimately became the first home-gaming unit to ship 100 million units thanks to a revolutionary GPU and Geometry Transformation Engine which was uniquely suited to help capture the intricacies of modern sports.
Thus, people no longer only had the option of running at breakneck speeds as Sonic the Hedgehog. Now they could compete on the gridiron, NBA floor – and in the case of skateboarding – at classic spots like the Brooklyn Banks in NYC, China Banks and Embarcadero in San Francisco, and Southbank in London.
The skateboarding simulation was born.
The aforementioned skate spots were meticulously crafted for inclusion in Rockstar Games’ 1999 title, Thrasher Presents: Skate and Destroy, which was the lesser known – albeit more realistic depiction – than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater which released the same year and went on to spawn 19 different iterations.
As IGN noted in their original review, “With skate-able, shred-able real-life environments that you would see in every day life, the game does a great job of simulating the real life sport. Z-Axis took the most publicly skated places and added little touches here and there, not fantasy re-creations, but minute details skaters always wished were there.”
Adding even further to the authenticity of the game was a soundtrack boasting artists like The Sugarhill Gang, EPMD, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, and Gangstarr.
But perhaps lost amongst the steep learning curve for the game and the excellent soundtrack was streetwear – and specifically Supreme’s – sartorial influence which aided in the overall accuracy.
It has become a regular occurrence for streetwear to appear in contemporary titles. Most recently, Anti-Social Social Club, BAPE and UNDEFEATED collaborated with Gran Turismo which allowed gamers to access custom designs from the brands like a McLaren 650S coated in ASSC’s shade of pink, BAPE’s distinct camo on a Mercedes-AMG GT S, and UNDEFEATED’s logo and branding rendered in black and red to cover the Porsche 911 GT3.
Prior to that, NBA Live ’18’s Livestrike feature allowed for player modifications from UNDEFEATED, BAPE and Pink Dolphin.
Even when game makers can’t legally include brands like Supreme, Palace, and COMME des GARÇONS, they’ve found creative ways to transport signature stylings like puffer jacket collabs, box logo hoodies and signature patchwork using fake brands called Bigness, Manor, Güffy and SQUASH.
It’s impossible not to acknowledge that none of this would have occurred if Thrasher Presents: Skate and Destroy hadn’t come up with the novel concept.
Skateboarding itself is built upon sponsorships and clothing partnerships. Since it is the rare sport that doesn’t require sartorial uniformity amongst its riders – like with other team sports – the integration of real brands into a game that relied heavily on authentic maneuvers and real places seemed quite natural.
Supreme was positioned alongside other brands like FTC, Push, Zoo York, Forties, Independent, DC, Converse, DVS and Volcom. Of course, there was also the option to go “logo free” which seems rather apropos as the brand deals with its own issues of “selling out” after its foray into the luxury sector.
Although 2017 certainly proved to be a year of change and evolution for the brand, their third collaboration with Thrasher cemented their commitment to skate culture. And whether it was coincidental or a subtle wink at their gaming past, it was littered in “Skate and Destroy” imagery.
For more Supreme news, read why Tyler, the Creator was really the one who brought the brand back.
- Featured/Main Image: Thrasher: Skate and Destroy / YouTube