50 years ago, Timberland introduced its iconic “yellow boot,” officially known as the 6-Inch Boot these days. Though the company began as the Abington Shoe Company in 1952, the brand as we know it today was birthed in 1973 — the 6-Inch Boot was originally titled the “Timberland,” and it was so popular that the Abington Shoe Company decided to rename itself Timberland after its most popular product. Fast-forward a half-decade, and Timberland is a purveyor of some of the most iconic boots in the world of street culture today: besides the 6-Inch Boot, there’s the “40 Below” Boot, the Euro Hiker, the Field Boot and many more.
So how are they celebrating 50 years? By inviting a half-dozen world-class creatives to push their most iconic products in a fresh direction as part of a new Future 73 initiative. Timberland has tapped CLOT founder Edison Chen, A-COLD-WALL* founder Samuel Ross, fine artist Nina Chanel Abney, Opening Ceremony founder Humberto Leon, textile designer Suzanne Oude Hengel and designer/sustainability advocate/longtime partner Christopher Raeburn to give some of their most iconic styles a fresh spin, all of which were on display at the Future73 kickoff event at Timberland’s headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire.
Chen’s collaboration continues CLOT’s long-running mission of bridging Eastern and Western cultures with ancient Chinese script, tiger-inspired details and more across fully circular footwear and eco-friendly apparel. Samuel Ross’ creations show his knack for refined minimalism, adding by reducing. Nina Chanel Abney’s unique perspective on fine art and easygoing nature are on display across her footwear and apparel offerings. “I’m a footwear designer now!” she exclaimed with a laugh when discussing the parallels between her art practice and her steps into the footwear world.
Leon’s footwear designs play with proportion, exaggerating the most notable elements of the 6-Inch boot, while his apparel offers a unique take on modular function. Hengel’s knit creations offer beautiful tone and texture, exploring how far the scope of Timberland’s products can be expanded by completely changing their materials. And Raeburn continues his experimentation with found materials, noting that his designs drew from unique technical fabrics he found at a military surplus store and that he tried to imagine what the next 50 years would look like for Timberland while creating his products as well.
“Legacy is so important when you have an actual connection with a product,” Samuel Ross told Hypebeast at the Future73 launch event. “You feel like there’s even more responsibility there when you grew up loving something and you get a chance to create your own take on it.” Ross wasn’t the only designer to mention his personal connection to — and excitement around — working on Timberland’s icons. “This was a bucket list project for me,” said Nina Chanel Abney. “Coming in with a fresh perspective and reworking something as iconic as the 6-Inch Classic is a rare thing.”
“How do we take a piece of pop culture iconography and push it into the future?” – Humberto Leon
The Future73 collective’s footwear and apparel designs will roll out over the course of 2023, with exact release dates and further info to be announced in the coming weeks. It’s an undeniably massive project, one that’s equal parts past, present and future, and the partners were all on board with the task at hand. “How do we take a piece of pop culture iconography and push it into the future?” Humberto Leon said, recalling his design ethos when working on his collaboration. “I’ve been working with Timberland for almost 15 years, and there’s still so much to explore.”
And exploring is exactly what this initiative is about.
Stay tuned for more info on Timberland’s Future73 initiative and 50th anniversary celebration plans. While you wait, be sure to check out “Sole Mates,” a weekly Hypebeast series that spotlights notable individuals in street culture and the relationship they share with their favorite footwear.