Clarks has a longstanding relationship with fashionistas across the globe. Founded in the UK way back in 1825, the brand has found massive success across the pond thanks to the Hip Hop community embracing the infamous Wallabee silhouette. Clarks has since gone on to produce some of the most iconic collaborations with some much-loved fashion brands. Somehow, Clarks really does personify cool, and with the likes of Supreme and Aime Leon Dore wanting to collaborate with the British shoemakers, it’s easy to see why Clarks is such a sought-after brand.
I look at some of my favourite collaborations to come out of the Clarks camp and deep-dive into the company’s illustrious history.
WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
Clarks was founded in Somerset, England, back in the 1800s by Cyrus Clark. The store began by selling rugs and slippers. Still, it would eventually move onto shoes that saw the companies success soar—producing a wide range of products from school shoes to desert boots led to Clarks operating worldwide. Clarks thrives on creating smart-casual footwear with everyday comfort levels like sneakers. Thanks to shoes like the Desert Boot and Wallabee, Clarks embraced pop culture movements, with the company blowing up in Jamaica and within the Mod and Hip Hop communities.
The Desert Boot was notably linked to the ‘rude boy’ movement in Jamaica and within the UK Mod scene in the 60s. As with anything, Clarks would go out of fashion for a brief hiatus before Hip Hop reintroduced the brand as cool.
Wu-Tang Clan reignited interest around Clarks and the Wallabee, with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, in particular, flying the British brand’s flag. The duo would mention the Wallabee in their lyrics, with Ghostface even declaring himself Wally Champ. He would also drop an album dubbed Wallabee Champion, solidifying the shoe’s place in the Hip Hop history books.
RONNIE FIEG, KING OF NEW YORK
KITH founder Ronnie Fieg is one of a kind. He has managed to craft a lane for himself within the fashion industry through the KITH label. Fieg started at his uncle’s footwear store, David Z’s, and eventually getting the opportunity to collaborate on an ASICS sneaker. This break was just what Fieg and KITH needed, with the brand going from strength to strength in recent years. KITH stores have popped up in some of the most popular stores globally, stocking a range of streetwear brands and hyped sneakers. KITH and Fieg are no strangers to collaborations, but the upcoming efforts with Clarks may be the best yet.
This collaboration, though, is slightly different to previous efforts. Ronnie has been granted the opportunity to create his own sneaker with Clarks. Meaning this isn’t a KITH x Clarks shoe, but a Fieg x Clarks silhouette. Dubbed the 8th Street, named after the street that the David Z he began his career at in Manhattan was on. Fieg rolls back the years, drawing inspiration from 90s New York and bringing back the love between New York and Clarks once more.
The two silhouettes, the Lockhill and Sandford, are named after some of the first factories Clarks ever had. Crepe soles feature across both silhouettes, with the Lockhill boasting a running silhouette aesthetic whilst the Sandford draws clear inspiration from an NYC-staple, the Air Force 1.
These brand new sneakers from Clarks shows the company is moving in the right direction, willing to embrace change and produce some seriously eye-catching footwear at the same time. The 8th Street collection is a must-cop for anybody following the career of Fieg and Clarks as a brand.
CLARKS COLLABORATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Clarks may be one of the OG collaborators in the game. The shoe brand has linked up with some of my favourite brands consistently year after year. As I mentioned above, Clarks has a long-term love affair with New York and anybody who resides there. It started out thanks to the co-sign from Wu-Tang Clan but has since evolved thanks to NYC-based brands embracing the brand once again.
Teddy Santis and his Queens-based brand have recently struck up a fantastic partnership with Clarks. The two worked on a line of Wallabees covered in Casentino Wool. A luxurious move from Santis and ALD, with the range of colourways selling out instantly.
Supreme New York has one of the most successful working relationships with Clarks that you will ever see. Year after year, the duo join forces to bring a one-of-a-kind take on a Clarks silhouette. Due to its NYC roots, we have seen a fair few Wallabees release under the Supreme banner. We have seen a bandana-clad pair drop, as well as some traditional colourways. However, the best of the bunch is the recent woven range that was released a few weeks ago. Releasing in four colourways, half of the shoe features a completely woven design. Perfect for anybody trying to switch up the classic Wallabee look with an intriguing pair of shoes.
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CLARKS, HERE TO STAY
After almost two hundred years in the game, it would be easy for Clarks to simply switch off from the creative process and produce shoes they know will sell to its loyal fanbase. But Clarks and the people behind the brand aren’t happy to do that. They want to keep the company moving in the right direction. I genuinely believe that working with the likes of Fieg and Santis will allow them to do that.
I, for one, cannot wait to see what Clarks has in store for us over the next few years.