Jan 17, 2021 • 1HR 5M

The ACL Podcast 003: Matt Taylor of Tracksmith

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Michael Williams
Conversations about style, life, business and culture with interesting people.
Episode details

Knox Robinson —the coolest guy in running—in the New York Pioneer Club collaboration capsule.

Tracksmith is interesting to me because of how it has managed to take inspiration from history —to embody the aesthetics of a heritage brand— while simultaneously being completely forward-looking and modern. I’ve seen a lot of brands try to do this and it almost never feels right. Tracksmith took the good parts of archival running and modernized it to create an inclusive, fun, New England-centric brand that seems to know itself (and its customer) very well.

I would guess that everyone wrote-off the brand initially when they considered it was going up against Nike and all of the massive companies that dominate athletic apparel. What was obvious to the Matt Taylor, who founded the brand in 2014 with Luke Scheybeler, was that there was an unrepresented group of runners who didn’t seem to connect with the big brands. That’s where Tracksmith’s boutique approach fit right in.

Matt Taylor ran track & field at Yale. He later worked on running for Puma. Scheybeler is also a Rapha co-founder and he helped both brands establish a strong initial visual and creative presence. Tracksmith pairs technical details with classic Ivy-inspired design elements in a way that’s easy to describe, but hard to actually execute. Beyond design, the focus of the product is highly functional for both the casual and elite runner.

Matt’s collegiate running experience and the brand’s New England roots have both shaped what Tracksmith is today from a design perspective. Tracksmith fills a void for amateur runners with a technical yet classic aesthetic.

It’s important to disclose that I do marketing consulting with Tracksmith. I want to be completely transparent about that and it’s not something I am trying to hide. Doing this story was my idea and no one at Tracksmith pushed for this even a little bit. I have been pressured by clients in the past to write stories and I have always politely declined. That’s not what I am about and if you look back at the partnerships I have done in the past I am extremely transparent about conflicts of interest. I work with Tracksmith for the same reason I did this story, because I like the brand and believe in the people there.

Tracksmith is a DTC brand that’s going for longevity and quality first. In that regard, it’s one of the exceptions to the rule when it comes to DTC companies. So many start-up brands solve no real problems and seem to only exist because of performance marketing. Matt talks about that a little bit in this interview with Colin Nagy on LeanLuxe.

The way Tracksmith’s product, image and core values align in such a cohesive way stands out to me. That’s why the brand has activated such a passionate community in the same way that Rapha does. That’s a massive accomplishment especially in the face of the competition that exists in running.

We recorded this chat in the fall and our conversation was wide ranging. We did cover a lot of important stuff like how to build a brand, sustainability in fashion and who makes the best pizza in New Haven. It’s all in there, I hope you enjoy.

The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Spotify or on Apple Podcasts directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.