A look at the enduring legacy of the Reebok white sneaker

A look at the enduring legacy of the Reebok white sneaker

by Ollie Cox
Sponsored by Reebok 6 min

Few things are as timeless as the white sneaker. With its ageless, easy-wearing appeal that sits above the trend cycle, it is one of the easiest items to wear, and that is precisely its strength. Loved by hardcore fashionistas and anti-fashion sorts alike, the white sneaker has infiltrated almost every rotation, becoming synonymous with versatile, stress-free style. 

Reebok was founded in 1958 in England with a focus on athletic footwear and dominated American footwear trends by the 1980s. Think of Reebok, and immediately you think of “white trainers” – which is no coincidence. The brand’s most popular styles throughout the years have used a crisp white palette. In 1983, it released the iconic Reebok Classic leather, which has remained culturally relevant ever since. Initially released with running in mind, the shoe garnered a following with the fashion crowd thanks to its sleek leather build. Not only did it set a precedent for contemporary footwear styles, but also marked the start of Reebok’s white sneaker legacy. 

The Reebok Club C was first released in 1985. It was introduced to fill the gap in the market for durable tennis shoes for club-level players. Arriving with a reinforced toe cap and durable leather build, it did exactly that. However, as was the case with its Reebok Classic predecessor,  the Club C was also appreciated outside of tennis. The shoe itself boasts an unimposing low-profile construction, which, when paired with an easy-on-the-eye white colour, makes the perfect casual trainer for on and off-court activities, further strengthening Reebok’s hold on the white sneaker.

Reebok ©

While designed with sport in mind, Reebok’s lasting lifestyle legacy is plain to see, having been namedropped in songs and well-documented across notable subcultural movements. At the turn of the century, garage sounds gripped fashionable clubbers with its repetitive 4/4 beats, laying the foundations for grime, which came afterwards. The era was not only famous for its sound but also for its uniform. Ravers would often pair heavyweight Avirex jackets with printed Moschino shirts and jeans and, on foot, the Reebok Club C, which proved as durable on the dance floor as the grass court. 

Back in 2003, Reebok worked with rapper 50 Cent on a legendary G-Unit G6 sneaker. Again, an all-white upper was used for the style, with grey accents providing subtle contrast. The collaboration is hailed by enthusiasts for its fusion of hip-hop and sneaker culture. Leading up to the official product drop, Reebok and Foot Locker co-sponsored 50 Cent and Jay-Z’s Roc the Mic tour which held meet and greets, with Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliot and Fabulous making special appearances throughout the tour. Following an initial release in select cities in the fall of 2003, a wider major launch followed in early 2004. 

Fast forward a few years and the fresh-faced Arctic Monkeys burst onto the UK music scene with their punk-infused indie rock. The 2006 single “A Certain Romance” was filled with frontman Alex Turner’s heartfelt kitchen-sink realist lyrics about life in Sheffield, where we heard “Well oh, they might wear classic Reeboks / Or knackered Converse / Or tracky bottoms tucked in socks.” The lyrics highlight Reebok’s non-sporting dominance as well as the brand’s durability – favoured and replied upon in gritty underground gig venues. 

Reebok ©

Reebok has further embedded itself into subcultures through numerous collaborations with Sneeze Magazine. The two regularly work together on the classic white Club C. The Vancouver-based publication, founded in 2008, has been a bible for skate and underground culture since its inception, and to collaborate with a brand such as Reebok only exemplifies the sportswear manufacturer’s cultural staying power, which has, in part, been built up through a focus on quality and its role in white sneaker trends. 

Another frequent collaborator with Reebok is London’s Palace Skateboards, which has worked with the sportswear brand since 2013. Palace’s on-the-nose depiction of British culture has remained prominent since its inception, seen in full tracksuits (which have been featured as part of Reebok apparel collaborations), Sovereign rings, pottery collaborations, and kagools. On Reebok’s 2016 Club C collaboration with Palace, we saw the classic silhouette receive a reflective rave-ready revamp across the laces, nodding to the style’s subcultural roots. It was executed in nubuck upper in tonal white, black and blue options, with the heel of the shoe reading Palace in the Modern Tectura font, which is also used for Reebok’s logo. This final touch of branding solidified the relationship between both brands across the silhouette. 

Reebok ©

In 2018 Reebok collaborated with Bronze 56k, an NYC brand which draws heavily on ‘90s and early ‘00s aesthetics and features nostalgic nods to the past in its VHS-style skate edits. For this collaboration, the all-white upper of the Club C was featured a lime green translucent sole and navy details. The heels read’ Bronze’ and ’56k’, and the tongue was updated with a woven label with the brand’s Rubin Vase graphic. The shoe came with a drawstring bag with an all-over Bronze logo print, the same pattern also appeared on the shoe’s insoles,  further highlighting the all-white sneaker as a canvas for collaboration. 

Now, Reebok has given the tennis-rooted sneaker a revamp. The Reebok Classic Club C LTD offers a contemporary take on the iconic white sneaker with vintage logos featured throughout to nod to Reebok’s classic sporting history. LTD is a new premium Reebok line and stands for “Learn. Test. Design.”, serving as a “playground for creative evolution”. Constructed from a luxury white Napa leather upper and paired with an off-white sole unit that provides a modern touch of contrast, the Club C will be the first LTD release, merging a timeless appeal with contemporary design elements and enlarging the sole for a refreshed silhouette. 

Reebok ©

If there’s one thing Reebok does well, it’s the white sneaker. You can shop the Reebok Club C on https://www.reebok.eu/en-gb/shopping/club-c-ltd-sneakers-21416887

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