The Supreme Weekly is a regular column examining and breaking down the influences behind the brand’s weekly drops, courtesy of our resident Supreme expert, Ross Wilson.
This week Supreme released its latest capsule collection with The North Face. With a collaboration history spanning the last 11 years, the New York skate company has made a habit of reworking classic models from the San Francisco outdoor wear brand’s archives, adding bold colors and outlandish prints. So the eye-catching snakeskin pattern present on this week’s drop should come as no surprise.
Supreme’s love affair with reptilian motifs goes way back. Snakeskin has cropped up on Nike sneaker collaborations, such as 2006’s Blazer SB, with its snakeskin Swoosh, and 2016’s Air Max 98, with its sail reptilian upper. Elsewhere, there have been caps, belts, bags, shirts, shorts, jackets, Vans sneakers, and even snakeskin box logo T-shirts — most notably the pink snakeskin box logo tee gifted at the Harajuku, Tokyo store opening in 2006, which was followed by a general release of snakeskin bogo tees in red, yellow, and black.
Now comes the serpentine Supreme x The North Face SS18 collection, including a taped-seam coaches jacket and pants, a reversible crusher hat, a lightweight backpack, and a Flyweight duffel bag all available in a choice of two colors: bright, two-tone green or more subtle grayscale. The standout piece, though, is the Stormbreak 3 tent.
Having previously teamed up with The North Face on a collection of dolomite sleeping bags for SS11 and FW14, and with upcoming collaborations on the Advanced Elements Packlite kayak, O’Brien life vest, and SOG hand axe, it seems the ultimate urbanite brand is fully embracing the great outdoors. But it’s the concept of a Supreme x The North Face tent that has achieved almost mythical status among ’Preme-heads.
A few years ago I was shown a PDF of a tent collaboration produced by The North Face exclusively for Supreme. The tent featured dual branding on the edges, a large Supreme box logo on the base, and original artwork by skater Mark “Gonz” Gonzales in the form of his unmistakable “Shmoo” characters.
Having known the brand since its humble origins as a single-door skate shop on Lafayette Street, I’ve seen multiple products that were mocked up as samples but never actually made it into production for a variety of reasons. So when the TNF tent never materialized, I wasn’t particularly surprised.
Sometimes, though, Supreme revisits ideas that maybe weren’t quite right first time around, giving previously scrapped products and ideas a second look and an eventual release.
I remember back in 2007 when Supreme was working with Oakley on its second series of Frogskins sunglasses. A few samples were made of Oakley ski goggles with the Supreme logo emblazoned across the headband. They looked amazing and were given to a few members of staff to test out during their winter snowboarding trips. This was the period before Supreme had become a full-scale lifestyle brand, and James Jebbia made the decision that, as “a skateboard shop, not a snowboard brand,” the company had no business making ski goggles. They might have looked great but it just wasn’t the right time, so the project was shelved.
Fast forward the best part of a decade and Supreme’s FW15 collection featured a remarkably similar looking pair of ski goggles, a collaboration with heritage snow brand Smith Optics. That release was followed up this SS18 with a pair of motocross goggles in collaboration with Fox Racing, highlighting how a good concept is always worth revisiting and refining when the time is right.
This appears to be the case with a Supreme x The North Face tent that has finally seen the light of day two years after the sampling process. Despite sharing many similar elements, there are notable differences between the final version and the early model. The original model appears to be a TNF Rock 22, whereas the final version is a Stormbreak 3, with Gonz’s artwork making way for the all-over snakeskin look.
Swiss social media user known only as “MRBLD" and @supcommunity from the UK were two people who fell foul of the Supreme community after posting news about the tent previously. Specialising in leaks, both have built up reputations for being the first to share knowledge of upcoming Supreme products, collaborations, and projects, accumulating enormous worldwide followings as a result.
Both received harsh criticisms from sections of the online Supreme fan community regarding the tent, so I reached out to hear their side of the story…
“A well-known Supreme leaker named “Methikan” first brought that rumor about the tent to life. He later deleted all his social media, so is no longer in the game.
“One of the leaks I posted in 2016 was about an upcoming Supreme x COMME des GARÇONS box logo T-shirt with a crumpled logo, but when a respected Supreme employee left a comment on the SupTalk Facebook group to say that it wasn’t happening that same season, it created heated discussion online.
“Certain members of that Facebook group took this comment out of context and accused me of lying and fabricating upcoming products, trying to put me down, as I was one of the biggest Supreme news accounts at that time. For some reason, people then accused me of making up rumors of a TNF tent, whereas I had never personally released that information myself. Some of the comments and accusations I received over that tent were crazy.
“Although I had heard about the tent pretty early on, I’d never seen actual photos until early 2017. A friend of mine knew people were talking shit about me because of that tent, so he came through and showed me pictures of it. I actually thought it was a myth myself, so I was pretty surprised that it really existed.”
“About 2 years ago, @Methikan (a big Instagram account at that time) posted info that the Supreme/TNF S/S16 collaboration could include a tent. @mrbld and I also heard a lot of rumors from few sources beforehand about a tent, but in the end the Steep Tech stuff dropped without just a backpack as an accessory.”
The story of the fabled tent took another turn earlier this year. From mid-March through to mid-April, a Supreme collector based in Detroit known as “Joe Migraine” (@JoeMigraine) hosted a photo series on his Instagram account titled “30 Days of Supreme Accessories.” To round off the series, he promised to reveal a previously unseen Supreme accessory, and on April 10, he delivered. Somehow Joe Migraine had managed to acquire a scale sample of the original Supreme x The North Face x Mark Gonzales Rock 22 tent, proving the tent’s authenticity. Needless to say, Supreme fans lost their minds.
After Migraine’s post, MRBLD’s online reputation was restored, with some claiming never to have doubted him in the first place.
“Once Joe released that photo, the reaction online was hilarious. People were saying I was right, but I was also telling them that I never said that a tent will drop in the first place! It was just super funny and good to have it all over.”
Supreme is a brand that attracts speculation, that’s a given. Supreme rumors, leaks, and gossip are almost an industry all of their own. As with any brand, some products happen and others don’t. Supreme might be a master of keeping its cards close to its chest, but the thirst for the label means that rumors swirl about even the most secretive of projects. And in some cases, like with the Supreme x The North Face tent, those rumors become fact — it can just take a little time.
In related news, here's why it makes sense for Supreme to open a store in San Francisco.