You may have noticed recently that Adidas is really leaning heavily towards skateboarding communication. With collaborations from famed Supreme NYC skateboarders like Tyshawn Jones and Na-Kel Smith and Palace skateboarding team member Blondey McCoy just to name a few, it’s safe to say Adidas is applying pressure to its competitors. We wanted to learn more about one of the key players pushing this movement forward so we got the chance to speak with Cullen Poythress, for those who don’t know Cullen is the Communications Manager for Adidas Skateboarding in the U.S. of A.
Experience is the greatest storyteller, How have your experiences fueled your career at Adidas?
It always comes back to skateboarding for me. I’ve been living and working in skateboarding since I was a child. With that comes a lot of different experiences traveling and collaborating with a very colorful group of personalities and brands spanning a pretty wide spectrum of culture. Skateboarding has always found itself in the center of what’s cool and when you exist in that space day in and day out you can’t help but to get exposed to all sorts of interesting things. For brands like adidas Originals that thrives on the energy of youth-driven trends in popular culture, I think there’s something very valuable about having skateboarders work in house who have this sort of innate understanding of where certain trends start and how they move. It’s not something myself or any of my other friends who come from skateboarding necessarily set out to do or know—it’s just something that sort of happens when dedicating your life this stuff for decades on end. Skaters certainly don’t know it all, but many of us tend to have certain instincts and insights that others might not.
Did you ever imagine being at the helm of one of the largest sneaker brands in the world?
I wouldn’t say I’m at the helm, but it’s been an amazing opportunity to be able to lend my knowledge and creativity to projects for such an iconic brand. For skateboarding, the footwear industry has been one of the biggest drivers and conduits to the expansion of what we do. There are resources there that have allowed skaters, retailers, and brands to tell their stories on a truly global stage with levels of visibility that would have been unimaginable 25 years ago.
Adidas is an incredible sports brand that always puts the athlete first and I’ve always tried to stay true to that in my work here. It’s always been about skateboarders, skateboarding, and a deep-seated respect for the culture first. Footwear is simply the pathway to telling these amazing stories while at the same time providing the greatest possible product to help skaters constantly push themselves forward.
Adidas has recently partnered with Tyshawn Jones, Blondey McCoy and the legend Mark Gonzales, can you tell us more about the Adidas Skateboarding Team and how it has evolved?
Great skateboarding brands are always supported by a great team and at Adidas, we always keep the skaters at the center of our work in pretty much everything we do. Nowadays being good at skateboarding is just one piece of what it takes to have a long and successful pro career and like the names you mentioned above, many of our team riders have other aspects of their personalities that bring additional layers of depth and dimension to our partnerships.
Gonz has a longstanding career in art, Blondey is deeply involved in the fashion and design world and Tyshawn has his own skate hardware company and restaurant. These people aren’t just incredible skateboarders—they’re creative forces in their own right that are not only helping to shape the future of Adidas, but the world around them.
Can you tell us a bit more about how the Adidas Skateboarding x Beyond the Streets partnership came together?
Going back to my answer to your first question—there’s a lot more depth to skateboarding than just the act of it. There’s all sorts of elements that float within the larger ecosystem in which skateboarding exists. One of those elements is the street and graffiti art movement that has grown right alongside the evolution skateboarding. There’s so many interesting overlaps and intersections between these two worlds that haven’t really been explored on any sort of meaningful, large scale level.
Beyond The Streets was an incredible opportunity to not only investigate and explore these intersections, but to bring these stories to life to the general public. The graffiti movement in its entirety was expertly curated and showcased at Beyond The Streets at breathtaking scale. Many of the artists featured in the show are skate brand collaborators and many them are also skaters themselves or have in some way been inspired by skateboarding.
This entire movement is a real part of American history at this point—and being able to educate hundreds of thousands of people on the names, styles, brands and bands that make up this world and to demonstrate how all the different pieces fit together is something very special and important. Public education and providing a platform for people to understand, appreciate and be inspired by underground art, skateboarding and music is something that’ll help keep it growing strong and healthy into the future.
Finally, I’ve gotta ask, how do you like your coffee?
Black. Like my metal.