Shoes inspired by other shoes.
A few decades into sneaker culture and the references are getting more meta than ever. Of course, footwear remains a perfect canvas to tell a narrative, and if the story is as good as the colorway and material composition, you get a win/win/win for creators and consumers alike.
Take the latest Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance 993 for example. Black-soled kicks are polarizing enough, but heads quickly noticed the similarities between this shoe and the Timberland Euro Hiker.
Released in 1988, the colorblocked mid boot was meant to capitalize on the hiking craze. Over in Europe, bookmakers like Vasque were putting out models like the Clarion in bright contrast colors that complemented similarly bold skiing outfits. Timberland’s answer channeled and translated that vibe for an American audience, but also put out a now-iconic brown and olive green color combo affectionately known as the “beef and broccoli,” alluding to a NY Chinese takeout staple.
It seems this is the well ALD tapped for its latest collab, and it’s a fitting fusion to tie together hiking culture with one of NYC’s penultimate walking sneakers. A thinking man’s boot meets a thinking man’s NB.
Clearly Stüssy and Dr. Martens also had the throughline between hikers and street stalkers on their minds when they decided to reinterpret the ‘60s-era 939 boot with a decidedly NYC twist. With its padded collar and metal eyelets, it already shares a few passing similarities with Timberland’s signature 6-inch work boot from 1976. The golden wheat-toned suede and contrast leather collar merely sealed the deal.
There’s a thin line between homage and rip-off, and they tread it carefully here. The fact that the 939 predates the Timberland 6-inch is one of many instances of the “xerox” effect in shoes. It’s what happens when one company becomes more known for a silhouette they didn’t necessarily invent, but certainly perfected. Or as Drake once put it: “It ain’t about who did it first; it’s about who did it right.”
That brings us to the latest Dior show and its newest model, the Dean hiking boot. First shown on the runway of its Pre-Fall 2022 men’s show, inspired by Beat Generation poets like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg as well as the great California outdoors, the latest footwear option fuses retro hiking silhouettes with a fashion-forward lean.
Not that you’d expect anything less from Thibo, the Dior mens footwear design lead with a thing for vintage fleeces and retro outdoor gear. The cues are taken from the Timberland Euro Hiker and paneling from Vasque models like the Skywalk and Clarion. But the result is something that feels a bit like a shoe out of time. And when footwear becomes a wearable history lesson, it only pushes forward a culture of people connected by the stories product can tell.