Timberland's 6" Work Boots - known as Style #10061 to the brand's employees or by their more popular monicker "Timbs" — have come a long way since their release in 1973. Originally designed as a hard-wearing boot for New England construction workers, the six-inch high waterproof nubuck shoe has become synonymous with hip-hop style, appearing on the feet (and in the songs) of everyone from Notorious B.I.G. to Kanye West.
The story behind the brand's popularity in hip-hop circles is a strange one; Timberland never intended for its boots to be worn by rappers, and found the association so far removed from its blue-collar roots that it at first tried to distance itself from its new-found audience.
But like so many brands who found popularity in places they didn't know existed — Converse, Dr. Martens, and Vans, to name a few — the subcultural association has become such a large part of the brand's identity that today that it's hard to imagine them without it.
In the early ’90s, when Timberland was serving its core customer base of blue-collar workers — who adored the brand's boots for their hard-as-nails construction and superior waterproofing— the company noticed a strange thing happening in New York City. The Big Apple's hustlers, rappers, and scoundrels, miles away from Timberland's rural heartland and oblivious to the brand's blue-collar reputation, had become obsessed with their boots.
As consumer journalist Rob Walker reports in his book Buying In, "the legend goes that the first 'urban' buyers of Timberland boots were New York drug dealers - guys who had to stand on the street all night and needed the best possible footwear to keep them warm and dry."
Ever keen to enhance their hustler credentials, the city's rappers followed suit, and soon the boot was everywhere; on Tupac's feet, in Biggie's lyrics, on Wu-Tang's feet, and in Mobb Deep's artwork. Rap magazine Vibe reported that "everyone from thugs to step teams were stalking, walking in their six-inch construction boot," as they "stood up beautifully to urban elements like concrete, barbed wire, and broken glass."
And it wasn't just their footwear, rappers of that time laid the foundation for our current workwear obsession, rocking Timbs with labels such as Carhartt and The North Face in a typically baggy 90s manner.
As the rap scene only got bigger, it's a look that has become synonymous with New York, and more specifically Harlem. To this day, you will find the city's rappers putting their own spin on the look — such as A$AP Rocky who recently stepped out in a classic brown pair with baggy jeans and a NY Yankees cap.
However, becoming an icon of hip-hop (and New York) style has been a catalyst for the Timberland boot to reach new audiences worldwide.
Today, you're just as likely to see them on your Instagram feed worn by the likes of Bloody Osiris or in the lookbooks of fashion labels as the brand continues to work with designers and give them the freedom to experiment with its classic footwear styles.
In the past twelve months alone we've seen countless collaborations, the highlights of which being yet another collab with Supreme, a link up with Stussy stylist Veneda Carter to turn workwear into eveningwear, and a sneak peak at a very gorp-y pair of 3-Eye Classic Lug shoes created together with A-COLD-WALL*.
They might have started life as being strictly for workers, but Timberland's 6" Work Boots accidentally became a certified style classic.