字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント Timberland believed, for some reason or another, that they didn't sell boots in the hood. But the kids were buying Timberlands the same way they were buying Jordans. The Timberland company's classic, yellow boot is cemented in the memories of hip-hop fans and outdoorsmen alike. While Timberland's profits increased dramatically at the height of its popularity in the '90s, the brand seemed to struggle with just how big of an impact the hip-hop community had on its bottom line. You know, it started to get really popular in the streets of New York and all up and down the East Coast. Listen, I would wear Timberland's with a bathing suit, literally. And I'm not joking. Here's how the Timberland boot became a hip-hop icon. This is Suddenly Obsessed. The Abington Shoe Company was founded in 1933, supplying unbranded shoes to distributors across the U.S.. In 1973, the company decided to create a waterproof, nubuck leather boot that could withstand the harsh New England elements. They called it the Timberland boot. It was for people who worked in factories or construction in New England, and that was their self-image and that's who they were selling to. The Timberland boot became so popular, that in 1978, the Abington Shoe Company was renamed the Timberland Company. And for reasons unknown to the brand at the time, the appeal of the Timberland boot reached far beyond hardhat workers and outdoorsman. In 1980, the Timberland boot made its international debut in Italy. When Italian tourists visit New York, they buy shoes. Never mind the elegant, premium leather shoes made in their own country. They want the rugged, outdoor American look. By the mid 1980s, The New York Times reported that teenagers were robbing people for their Timberlands in Italy's fashion capital, Milan. Italian flight attendants were reportedly buying up to 50 pairs of Timberland boots on trips to the U.S. to sell for double the price in Italy. The embrace of Timberland is a high-end, made in the United States brand catapulted the yellow boot to a once-inconceivable status. By 1993, Timberland was the top selling boot in Italy. Think about that. In the late '80s, Timberland opened a U.S. flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York City, and almost immediately the iconic yellow boot started popping up in New York neighborhoods like Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx. With its new status as a fashion must-have, Americans on the cutting edge of style now coveted Timberland as a prestigious brand. They really came from the initial people in the neighborhood who probably, unfortunately, were probably hustlers in some sense. They had enough money to go uptown or downtown and look at the more prestigious brands. The legend goes that hustlers liked the boot because they were incredibly well-made and able to withstand long nights in harsh weather conditions. I had stories from people who grew up in, let's say, the '80s in Harlem and would talk about how, "Yeah, the thing to do was to go to Midtown (because there were no Timberland stores in Harlem)," and go to these stores that were just not designed for that consumer at all. But they didn't care about that. They were interested in the quality and the sort of signifier value in the context that they were in. And it sort of transferred from there into a broader style thing that kind of came up with hip-hop. In the early '90s, New York hip-hop artists adopted the Timberland style wholeheartedly. I think when kids wanted to associate with specific brands, they had to first see it on somebody that they valued. In '94, Queens-born rapper Nas dropped a line in one of his top singles "The World Is Yours," where he pays homage saying, "Suede Timbs on my feet makes my cipher complete." In '95, rap duo Mobb Deep released their most iconic album, 'The Infamous,' with a cover image of Havok wearing Timbs. And in'96, Biggie Smalls frequently celebrated Timbs in his style and music, dropping the famous line, "Timbs for my hooligans in Brooklyn." Other iconic rappers like Wu-Tang Clan and DMX were also seen rocking the classic, yellow boot. But Busta Rhymes took it to another level. He would customize his Timbs for major red carpet events. Between 1991 and 2000, Timberland's sales skyrocketed. Gross profits grew from roughly $80 million to over $500 million. That same year, the company reported record revenue topping one billion dollars. But Timberland's growth was not without controversy. Hip-hop was still a new concept in the early '90s, and some brands like Timberland didn't seem to comprehend the genre's influence or staying power. Timberland was focusing on servicing a market with the highest quality boot in the world, but if you're selling the highest quality boot in the world, then how often do you need to buy a new boot if you're a construction worker? But the kids now are buying Timberland, and I'm buying two or maybe one new pair a month because of the fashion sense, and you called me a drug dealer. In 1992, marketers across the U.S. were following Bill Clinton's campaign calls for racial harmony after the brutal beating of Rodney King and the riots that followed. The following year, Timberland created its "Give Racism the Boot" campaign, which the company ran internationally. At the time, then-Executive Vice President Jeff Swartz said, "This is not about selling boots. It's about making a strong statement." But in November of 1993, Swartz gave an infamous interview to The New York Times that would test the limits of all of the goodwill Timberland had built up with the Black community, which now represented a sizable portion of its customer base. The phrases were something like "Well, the consumers money spends good. But, you know, we're still a brand for hardworking people." It seems Swartz didn't quite comprehend how important Timberland had become to the Black community when he said, "If you hear that hip-hop kids are wearing Timberland boots...that's coin in current dollars. But how in the world is that sustainable?" Which obviously was not well-received. And part of this was that it was an explanation for why Timberland was not advertising in magazines like Vibe. There was open sort of complaint and talk about we should boycott Timberland and things like this. I'm not throwing away seven years at Timberland into my closet. Are you kidding me? Especially if I was a guy or girl from the hood, and I've invested damn near 50% of my entire salary. What am I going to do? Following the interview, Swartz spoke openly about the criticism Timberland faced, saying their stock price took a hit as a result. Customers began asking, "Why Timberland doesn't want to sell to Black people?" But the conversation was bigger than that. In the '90s, marketers were just starting to pay attention to Black spending power in the U.S. As of 1993, studies showed that Black Americans spent 50% more on shoes and four percent more on clothing than non-Blacks. For a group that was historically marginalized, this was a significant shift. With Blacks accounting for more and more consumer spending, this presented a challenge for brands like Timberland, who were bound by traditional ideas of wealth and influence. But young, Black entrepreneurs saw Timberland's misstep as a major opportunity. When you said that we don't sell our boots to drug dealers, a little young man at Red Lobster who was working extremely hard, I felt pissed off. I said, "Who's ever going to love and value the people that they make and sell their boots to?" So I went home and came up with a brand, FUBU, "For Us, By Us." A lot of people would interpret it only as a color, but I wasn't going to be a bigot the same way that Timberland was. It was about a culture, those who loved and valued hip-hop. Timberland learned that when young, Black consumers start a trend, affluent suburbanites were likely to follow them, a pattern that still exists today. Over time, Timberland's reaction, let's say, evolved. In fact, it went 180 degrees. Timberland came to realize this was not a fad. It was not a problem. It was an opportunity, and it was the future. Timberland had a long-standing history of giving back. But in 1999, Timberland really put their money where their boots were. The brand designed a limited edition red boot in partnership with City Year, which was meant to appeal to the Black consumers' appetites for customization while embodying Timberland's socially conscious ethos. In 2007, the company launched the Borough's Project, which called on designers from New York City's five boroughs to design custom Timbs. Basically, they started following that consumer, and that was when they started designing products such as pink work boots that had no relevance to its supposed core demographic of the factory worker or the outdoor construction worker and had 100% relevance to the street fashion person, who by that point wasn't just the "urban consumer", the hip hop star, and things like that. It was a very wide spread. So it had leached out into the suburbs because it was just the bomb to have to have Timbs as they came to be called. After seeing major spikes in profits throughout the '90s and early 2000s, Timberland's growth fell stagnant between 2005 and 2010. Following its multigenerational expansion under the direction of the Swartz family, in 2011 Timberland was sold for $2.3 billion dollars to VF Corp., a fashion conglomerate that owns brands like The North Face and Vans. It seems VF Corp. is embracing the different types of Timberland consumers from the outdoor enthusiasts to its trendy clientele. While Timberland has been working on its sustainability efforts, it has also created fashion-forward styles like the four-inch heeled boot. And the brand hearkened back to the '90s by launching a special legends collection with one of its early, unofficial hip-hop ambassadors, NAS. And in recent years, the brand leaned into hype culture, creating collectors boot drops with brands like Supreme and Off-White. While the Timberland company might not see an expansion like it did in the early '90s, they succeeded in retaining a diverse and loyal consumer base. Timberland does not have the same kind of edge that it had in 2000, 2005. But that's kind of inevitable. So brands have to weather the storm of crossing over from being the new thing to being the old thing, and if you can be the old thing and still be acceptable, you're not in a bad position.