Timberland in ’90s hip-hop culture

Can you name a shoe brand that produces guaranteed waterproof shoes only? That was even more popular than Jordan Brand in the early 90’s? That has become inseparably associated with the hip-hop culture of the 90’s? That is easily confused with an american rapper and producer if you have spelling troubles? Well you guessed it already: it’s Timberland boots!

The Notorious BIG_1

The Notorious B.I.G.

But how exactly did this happen? How did a company that was so deep enrooted in the blue-collar workforce, become a fashion symbol of America’s hip-hop community? The Timberland Company has come a long way since it’s founder Nathan Swartz bought a shoe fabric back in 1952 by the name of The Abington Shoe Company. For about 20 years there really wasn’t anything special about the brand, before they released a true game-changer in 1973: the first all guaranteed waterproof boot called Timberland. Made up from 39 components and constructed via 80 separate factory floor steps that shoe proved to be so successful, they actually changed the firm’s name into The Timberland Company. From this moment on, sales went through the roof and the brand was widely know for it’s quality workman boots. This was up until the 1990’s when something unexpected was about to change the company’s identity forever: gangsta rap!

Wu Tang Clan_3

The Wu Tang Clan

According to lore, the very first group of people besides the blue collar workers who made use of the sturdy boot were New York drug dealers, who were in need for a a comfortable shoe to keep them dry and warm during nighttime. These people were standing on the streets all night long, exposed to any kind of weather, so obviously the Timberland 6 inch boot came in just handy. From there on the rap scene followed suit, eager the recreate the typical hustler look of that time.


Nas on the cover of ‘Complex’

Today it’s kinda hard to argue who started this ongoing fashion trend. The Wu Tang Clan actually claims to be the first to wear the resilient boot, while many others believe it was the Boot Camp Clik, most notably Smif-n-Wessun. Though it’s safe to say once a few stars of the scene were spotted wearing Timberlands, the trend took off from there. MCs joining in include Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Nas, DMX, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Drake, The Game, P. Diddy and Nelly. You name them. At one point or another they’ve all been spotted rocking their Timbs. The company first really wasn’t sure what to make out of the situation, being scared that these new customers would spoil the good image of the brand. But revenue actually was that good, that they’ve left it alone and the boot hasn’t lost popularity ever since.

So next time you put on your Timberlands, be aware that those have come a long way and wrote a piece of shoe and hip-hop history of their own!

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