When Reebok first released its Workout silhouette in 1984, they had no idea that it would eventually become a calling card for the South. Its humble beginnings are linked directly to Reebok’s history when it first entered the US market in the early ‘80s. Reebok started their journey in America as a fitness oriented company and, as such, the Workout was a functional shoe created for men to train in at the gym.
While the Workout was a totally functional piece of equipment, cross-trainers were still all the rage in the ‘80s as a fad and overall style statement. The sneaker’s gum soles were also of note, which gave wearers better traction on wooden floors and also served as a stylish accent. The patented H-strap on the side panels also gave extra support, further enforcing the sneaker’s fitness DNA.
Later during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Reebok started playing with different outsole treatments on the Workout to appeal to a more fashion forward consumer. From extra rugged to chunky, rippled ice bottoms, these updated takes proved to be a hit in the American market.
According to James Hardaway, Reebok’s global product manager who’s been with the company for a better part of a quarter century, this was when Reebok knew they were on to something with the Workout. “This silhouette really became popular in the South, in particular New Orleans, where it really resonated as the silhouette for the consumers there,” said Hardaway.
While Reebok’s Classic Leather still had a strong presence in New Orleans, it was the Workout that truly resonated with the youth more. Hardaway recalls younger consumers rocking Classic Leathers, but the Workout was their street uniform. “They started calling it ‘Soldier.’ So when you have a shoe that the consumers nickname, and they call it by a special name, you know you have something,” Hardaway explained.
A local hip-hop group from New Orleans called the Hot Boys used to rap about the Reebok ‘Soldier’ and how they’d rock the sneakers, proving that Reebok’s Workout had officially reached a sort of cult status among musicians and local youth in New Orleans. Reebok even released a special edition mid-cut Workout with “Solja” branding on the silhouette’s foot strap, reaffirming their bond with the South.
Take a look at some of the original Workout silhouettes above and head to Reebok.com to peep their latest homage to New Orleans before the 3:AM NOLA capsule drops on 6/28.
- Videographer: Austin Prario / Highsnobiety