Clarks Originals has released a new short film, Soles of the City, featuring Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Ronnie Fieg and many more big names. Directed by Set Free Richardson, it chronicles the brand's role in hip hop's most formative years and celebrates its connection to New York City.
The film features first-person accounts from cultural icons such as April Walker, Ronnie Fieg, Futura, Dave East, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. They each describe their introduction to the Wallabee and how the classic Clarks style became synonymous with hip hop back in the day when the genre was exploding across America and the rest of the world.
Tracing the emergence of the brand's relevance to its popularisation among Jamaican immigrants arriving in the US during the late '70s and early '80s, the film illustrates the deep-rooted connection between the "sneaker alternative" and the formation of new communities defined by resilience and forged identity. First introduced in 1967, the Wallabee has an enduring legacy and ties to many different sub-cultures and countercultures throughout its history.
While hip hop established itself as more than just an underground phenomenon, the Wallabee became the uniform for artists like Run DMC, Slick Rick and KRS1, who wanted to stay true to the genre's Caribbean diaspora roots. The '90s then saw an explosion for the style in New York and on the hip hop scene, largely thanks to the adoption by Staten Island's Wu-Tang Clan. "I love where it's going," remarks Smoke DZA on that era. "Fashion-wise, it's definitely never going to die. It's always going to be a premier shoe to wear on any occasion. It'll always be the most comfortable shoe."
"Clarks was my shoe when it was time to get fly on a higher level than sneakers," shares Set Free Richardson, the director behind the film. "They always made me stand out from the rest. I grew up on Wallabees, so when I was asked to do the New York story, I said we gotta do it right – from the beginning of hip hop and how it rolled to where we are now. When music cultures adopt a product, it helps build a legacy. For me, that's what hip hop did for the Wallabee. I chose a cast that would reflect that because I wanted people who are fans of the brand and know the New York history."
One such fan to feature in the film is Styles P. "It's the sole. It's the sole. Look at it. It's the gummy bottom. It's incredible," he says, talking of his love for the Wallabee style. Other names that make an appearance include John Seymour, Danie Sierra, Bahr, and Statik Selektah.
"To us, culture and community have always been at the centre of the Clarks brand," says Tara McRae from Clarks. "We're proud to be celebrating the rich history the Wallabee shares with the iconic city and across music, fashion, and art."
The campaign includes a series of portraits (as set out below) of all those featured in the film, all naturally sporting their favourite Wallabees and captured around New York City. Discover more over at Clarks Originals.
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