New Balance Numeric came into skateboarding with a fresh and unique approach, from the beginning they stated they didn’t have any interest in becoming the biggest brand, they just wanted to create the best product possible.
From this starting block, the Boston based company have gone on to assemble one of the finest teams in skateboarding - initially bringing in Bostonian legend PJ Ladd, later snagging the powerhouse that is Brandon Westgate, and recently reigning SOTY Jamie Foy. A power move on New Balance’s behalf.
A great aspect of the team has been its literal balance. Stalwarts Tom Knox and Jordan Trahan have been representing New Balance Numeric almost since its inception. Tom cut his teeth on the streets of London and can be regularly found in front of Jacob Harris’ lens in Thrasher’s Atlantic Drift and other Isle Skateboards productions, the company he’s been professional for since 2015. Jordan is originally from New Orleans and has put in many years in New York City, turning pro for 5Boro and rolling with the Bronze 56K crew.
Their unique styles compliment each other, and you can tell they’re good mates. It was a pleasure to catch up with them on a rainy April morning to have a chat about the latest New Balance Numeric 440 release, skate shoe superstition, and to find out what it's like riding for the brand.
How's the trip been so far? Jordan, is this your first time in London?
Jordan: First time in London, but we did a trip a few years back which began in Manchester and went up to Scotland. This is the first time being here with Knoxy boy!
Tom: It's sick because my first time in New York I stayed with Trahan and he showed me the true New York experience. We pushed to every spot all over town, it's nice to try and do the same kind of thing in London. Because he lived in New York for quite a few years he can adapt to city skating well. The other guys can get on with it, but they're more used to driving around, whereas Trahan definitely more skate from spot to spot. The other guys are loving not having to drive everywhere though.
We all know skaters can be picky about the shoes they skate, do you guys prefer to skate a cupsole or a vulcanized shoe?
Jordan: Cupsoles all the way.
Tom: I only skate cupsoles. Before New Balance, I used to skate whatever I thought looked good, but since being on New Balance I realised that I like to skate slightly thicker shoes. New Balance has really good cupsoles that last so I prefer that.
Is that to protect your feet or just general comfort?
Tom: Yeah, general comfort, it does help protect my feet too. For me it means I can still jump a little bit too, down a drop or whatever, it feels good.
Jordan: Pushing around the city your foot gets a lot more fatigued when you're wearing a vulcanized shoe. The flex of a cupsole bounces back a lot better, it helps to preserve the integrity of your feet.
Tom: I know people who can switch between the two, but I can't really. I'll chill in vulcanized, but for skating, I stick to the cupsoles.
The 440 are pitched somewhere in the middle, right? A cupsole with a more vulc feel?
Tom: It’s definitely a bridge between the two, you have more board feel than some of the other cupsoles, but you still have that protection.
Jordan: It may be the only shoe on our line that has the stitched toe cap as well.
Tom: It was a slight change in terms of overall protection, but now that I've got used to it it’s the perfect middle ground, I've got good board feel as well as the protection.
Tom, you recently had a colourway of the New Balance 440, how did that go down?
Tom: It was really good actually, I wasn't sure how it was going to go down as it was the first time that I'd had my own colourway, and I didn’t go for obvious colours like an all back shoe. But it went down really well, it sold out, had a great reception - people seemed to really like the shoe. It felt good to skate in too, I wanted to create a shoe that kind of felt like a football or sports shoe, and it did have that feel to it with the leather.
Do you guys have a preferred New Balance model?
Tom: I just skate the 440 now. That or the 288 which is similar, it's a cupsole, but it's on the thinner side.
Jordan: For me, it's the 288 or the PJ 533.
How do you break in a new pair of shoes? Do you have any superstitions or just put them on and skate?
Jordan: I fold them backwards, twist them up like a pretzel you know.
Tom: I just put them on and skate. Sometimes I'll walk around in them a bit first, run a few errands. The 440's break-in on the day, I can skate them the first day I wear them. It used to be that when I went out in new shoes I'd take an old pair in my rucksack just in case, I hate that feeling of new shoes old board.
How much does New Balance's history in running help them design skate shoes?
Jordan: I feel like it's pretty comparable with the way your foot flexes when you're pushing down the street, you'd feel that same kind of flex running on your toes all day.
Tom: It’s quite easy for them to utilise certain technologies, they can draft it in from running or football, it helps out a lot I think.
Jordan: They've been mapping the human foot for over fifty years trying to perfect the geometry of the sole, it's pretty interesting.
They seem quite reactive as well, they designed the 420 for Marquis, do they listen to the skaters?
Jordan: Marquis was only skating running shoes for a year or two, he'd order them straight off the website. His only request was if he could have a shoe he wanted to use that running silhouette.
Tom: In that sense, it's quite a small brand, if you're skating the running shoes they'll make a pair of runners for you to skate in. There aren't too many levels for you to go through, it's quite instant.
New Balance pride themselves on their family history, the skate team seems tight-knit too, is that something that's important to you?
Tom: Definitely, it feels good to be a part of something tight-knit. You pretty much know the people who own the brand, we've visited the factories and all that, we get to see how it works. It's certainly one of the best parts of the brand.
Tom, I've read that Seb has organised trips around your parenting responsibilities? Must be nice to know they've got your back in that way?
Tom: When I had my first daughter he booked a trip to London for everyone to come on so I didn't have to be away from her. It's sick, they have our backs, they understand the pressures of life.
Jordan: In my decision to move back to New Orleans from New York City, I had to lay out my reasons for wanting to, and they supported me 100%.
Tom: It's pretty easy in that sense, as long as you're skating and enjoying yourself then they're happy.
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