When it comes to collaborations, it’s fair to say we’ve become jaded. Everything from tech brands to furniture manufacturers, restaurants and hotels have all lent their names to a host of fashion labels. Because of this, it becomes all the more significant when two brands that have existed in the same cultural sphere for decades finally come together. Such is the case for Timberland and Champion.
Their collection, logically, celebrates their most iconic silhouettes. First to drop on November 10 is the Luxe Pack which features a speckle soled, premium nubuck World Hiker boot and a reimagined Field Boot with magnetic ankle straps and a nubuck-ripstop upper. The apparel offering includes classic Champion joggers, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a fleece-lined hoodie—all of which don the two brands’ insignia in gold. On November 26, the classic 6” boot drops in gray, black, and Champion’s favored blue colorway, linking to a range of apparel. Both packs launch exclusively at footlocker.eu and in Foot Locker stores.
The two American brands share a fair amount of common ground. Both originate from humble beginnings, both were designed for functional purposes, and both, accidentally, became associated with communities and movements today considered sub- and counter-cultural, namely: hip-hop and hardcore. Having lived in parallel for decades, the two coming together now is a symbiosis of something that has existed under the surface for a long time—in fact, it’s kinda surprising that a collab between Timberland and Champion has taken this long.
Champion originated in Rochester, NY, almost a century ago as a knitted goods manufacturer and from the early days focussed on making high-performance garments. It invented Reverse Weave—a fabrication method that minimizes shape-loss and shrinkage and is also credited with inventing the first hoodie (as we know them today). For years the brand functioned as a team wear supplier, providing gear to colleges, league teams, and the U.S. military. It wasn’t until the ‘80s that Champion appeared in commercial retailers adorning its, now iconic, small “C”.
In 1952, three decades after Champion was founded and just over 350 miles away from Rochester, Timberland, then known as The Abington Shoe Company, began manufacturing hard-wearing boots for New England construction workers. Equally as driven to innovate, they developed a new construction technique that molded sole to upper without stitches, making the boots almost entirely waterproof. In 1973, the brand debuted the 6″ and 8″ Timberland Boot and, due to the mass popularity of these models, they renamed themselves the Timberland Company.
During the years that followed, functional work- and sportswear brands saw an upshot in popularity as people other than those they were intended for began wearing them — mostly as they were functional, hard-wearing, and had a “blank canvas” quality where you could make it your own. This was something neither Timberland nor Champion intended—a far cry from their blue-collar and team wear origins.
At the forefront of this entire process was hip-hop. Both brands became synonymous with an attitude and look that appeared on the feet, backs, and even in the lyrics of everyone from Biggie (in Hypnotize “Timbs for my hooligans in Brooklyn”) to the Wu-Tang Clan (Raekwon spits “Champion gear that I rock, you get your boots knocked” in 7th Chamber). Champion’s boxy hoodie with its extra large hood styled out with baggy jeans and wheat-colored Timbs became a look synonymous with ‘90s hip-hop, one that is impossible to dissociate from the brands today.
For Champion, the world of hip-hop wasn’t the only one quick to take to the brand. Arguably even more obsessed with its laidback sportswear garms was the straight-edge hardcore scene. The brand became one of the scene’s most prominent outfitters, making its way into the cover artwork of seminal band Gorilla Biscuits’ debut 7-inch record. Meanwhile, in the U.K., Timberland’s reach was extending beyond hip-hop as the label’s iconic Yellow Boot became a staple of ‘90s rave culture–their durable construction able to withstand hours and hours of raving, save for a few scuffs (which only added to the look).
As forebearers of what we now know as streetwear, the silhouettes they introduced contributed to defining some of the most frequently revisited looks and shapes at the heart of modern menswear. Recognizing this authority, the two brands have attracted a ton of collaborative partners including Ronnie Fieg, OFF-WHITE, BAPE, Wood Wood, Supreme, Stüssy, BEAMS, and Vetements.
Clearly, both iconic brands owe a lot to past musical movements in many ways, so what better way to celebrate their final coming together than enlisting an OG artist to play alongside an up-and-coming talent. Over the next month, Foot Locker will do just that and host one-off DJ events at their London, Berlin, and Milan flagship stores. Full lineups coming soon, stay tuned.
The collection launches exclusively at footlocker.eu and in Foot Locker stores.