This fall, boutique running apparel brand Tracksmith is honoring the history and legacy of the New York Pioneer Club, the first multi-racial athletic club in the United States. Founded in 1936 by Joseph Yancey, Bob Douglas and William Culbreath, the Pioneer Club welcomed runners from all backgrounds, “regardless of race, color or creed,” a decade ahead of integration in U.S. professional sports.
“We are passionate about celebrating icons in our sport,” said Matt Taylor, founder of Tracksmith. “The New York Pioneer Club was ahead of its time in so many ways that sharply resonate today. We’re inspired by this legacy of inclusivity and the belief that running builds character and makes us better humans.”
An important part of honoring that trailblazing legacy through the collection was a partnership between Tracksmith and Knox Robinson, a Black runner and co-founder of New York-based running club Black Roses NYC.
“We’ve always admired Knox as a leader in running culture,” said Taylor, specifically noting Robinson’s talent as a storyteller and patron for the sport.
“In a word, it means everything,” said Robinson, on how it felt paying homage to the trailblazing run club from NYC. “Leaving aside how humbling this experience is for me personally, the opportunity to hail up those who came before is not only an essential piece of the culture continuum— it’s a moment to model that energy to the youth and hopefully inform the trajectory of future generations.”
Robinson drew a lot from the legacy of Ted Corbitt, an NYPC member who is considered “the father of long-distance running.” As running histories are often passed by word of mouth, legends from bygone eras can easily slip from memory, their legacies buried under the weight of decades past. For Robinson, this was an opportunity to bring Corbitt’s legacy, and that of the Pioneer Club, to the forefront of the running world.Shop Tracksmith Pioneer Club
“The NYPC capsule is particularly special in that it took energetic archival elements of the NYPC story and in particular the life and legend of Ted Corbitt — themes and tropes I’ve been mining and refining for almost a decade as a writer — and gave all of that a platform to connect to a larger audience,” said Robinson.
Five percent of all sales from the NYPC collection will go to the Jeuness Track Club, a Brooklyn-based girls’ track club that builds on the groundwork laid by the Pioneers. Jeuness was founded by women who were coached by NYPC member Fred Thompson. Robinson and Tracksmith see this collection as an opportunity to serve the community, just as the Pioneer Club sought to do in 1936.
As with all of their apparel, Tracksmith put great emphasis on the quality of the materials used in the Pioneer Club collection. That attention to detail isn’t lost on those who collaborated with the boutique running brand on this project.
“The Tracksmith emphasis on quality materials and premium construction serves the story of NYPC by approaching the club’s legacy with due deference and respect, then sharing that energy out to a larger audience that’s hungry for history, heritage and fly style,” said Robinson.
In a year to forget, it’s refreshing to see a brand like Tracksmith remember a cultural titan of the running world. The Pioneer Club’s morals are woven into the fabric of this collection, and they are certainly felt when worn.
Tracksmith’s New York Pioneer Club Collection is available now. Shop using the link below.Shop Tracksmith Pioneer Club