The Return of The Chunky School Shoe: A Story of how Wallabees & Kickers Came Back Into Your Wardrobe (This Time Out of Choice)
Stüssy X Clarks Originals Wallabee
I used to dread the first day of school. Not just because the summer break had come to a close, nor that I hadn’t finished all my homework (I always had). It was in fact because of something more vain. Looking down at the clunky boots that swallowed my prepubescent feet, I loathed my mum’s choice of the “sensible” shoe option whilst all the cool mums bought my classmates something a bit more fun. My school did indeed have a school shoe policy – all black. But in regards to the style of it, or what brands we could wear, it was practically a free-for-all. The lads in my class with much deeper voices than mine back in year 9 towered over me in their heeled Nike Air Max 95, as I looked like a scabby Dennis the Menace in my Kickers.
Though looking back, If I could tell my 13-year-old self one thing (well before that I’d say stop being an ungrateful brat, your mum paid good money for those shoes) it would be to stop all your worrying. You won’t believe it right now, but all the hip and happening people down in big ol’ London will be wearing these in a few years’ time.
By hip and happing, I’m talking about the boys down at Palace, who have taken Kickers from a playground staple to a must-have shoe, worn by hypebeasts you can find lurking around Soho. First opting for the classic Kick Hi silhouette as part of their Ultimo 2018 Collection, the brand stamped both their logo and the Tri-Ferg motif on the classic shape, which came in navy, my mum’s favourite black and a ketchup-y red. The skatewear brand’s second Kickers collab took a more grown-up approach, as Palace chose to reinterpret the classic boat shoe silhouette from the brand’s archive. This particular silhouette was a popular choice amongst Manchester ravers in the 1990s. Palace paid homage to the vivid attire such ravers sported back in the day with an array of fun colourways including rusty orange and highlighter yellow – two hues that most definitely wouldn’t be allowed on school premises.
Palace X Kickers, photographed by Juergen Teller
Though it isn’t just Palace who’ve jumped at the chance to collaborate with Kickers. Soho favourites Lazy Oaf and The Ragged Priest have also had a go at reworking the Kick Hi silhouette. Both brands plumped-up the sole to even chunkier proportions, with the former creating rainbow coated platforms, whilst the latter favourited a monochrome-striped finish.
When it comes to shoe revivals, the Clarks Originals Wallabee technically didn’t disappear in the first place. A shoe brand seminal to both the mod and acid house raving scene in the UK, the Wallabee became a favourite within Jamaican Rude Boy culture, as well as later amongst 90s hip-pop stars. Both Run DMC and Wu-Tang Clan have famously sported them in the past – now the latter is playing an integral role in revitalising the shoe’s appeal.
As popular as the Clarks Wallabee might have been, whoever owned a pair probably chucked them to the back of the wardrobe to make room for a fresher pair of trainers at some point during the naughties. Sadly, I know if my mum had bought me a pair for school, it would’ve summoned a “What are thooosseeee?!” sort of response from my peers. Yet with a whole new range of collaborations under their belt, Clarks have found a new spring in the shoe’s bouncy step. This is partly down to The Clarks Originals x Wu Wear Wallabee range. Based on the group’s hits Ice Cream and Glaciers Of Ice, the delicious three-piece collection is doused in swirls resembling melting ice-cream – yummy.
Ahluwalia Studio, photographed by Amber Pinkerton
Streetwear giant Stüssy has also offered its own interpretation of the Wallabee, favouring both mint and burnt orange colourways, with a paisley trim to top things off. As excellent as such collaborations may be, the rise in popularity for both Kickers and the Clarks can be pinned down to both brand’s cropping up in fashion spreads. A cracking example of this comes courtesy of sustainable menswear designer Priya Ahluwalia, who chose to the Wallabee as the shoe of choice in the campaign for her capsule collection with Browns. In fact, the popular school shoe looks terrific when paired with the Ahluwalia Studio’s re-made tailoring.
Once the victim of playground ridicule, both Clarks and Kickers have bounced back into the hearts of previous lovers, whilst nabbing a brand-new army of devotees at the same time. They say mums are always right, and I certainly should’ve listened to mine.
Stüssy X Clarks Originals Wallabee
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