Like '90s footwear staples Birkenstocks and Tevas, classic Timberland yellow boots are totally having a moment right now. But now, they're getting an millennial update on the oversized streetwear look favored by hip hop stars like Missy Elliot back in the day: Cara Delevingne wears her Timbs with sweats and ironic t-shirts; Suki Waterhouse matches hers with skinny jeans, a sweater and Bradley Cooper; and Jourdan Dunn sports hers with a robe and not much else.
Back in civilian life, I've spotted teeny bopper girls in brownstone Brooklyn channeling their best mini-Cara in the boots and leggings, and in a balmy 85-degree Miami over the weekend, I saw a Euro-teen wearing a pair with cut-offs and a basketball jersey (yes, another wannabe-Cara move). So how does the brand feel about this redux?
"Obviously, at top level we’re super excited about [the return of the classic boot]," Frank Hwang, Timberland's global brand manager, tells Fashionista. "I mean, anytime any of our iconic products are brought to the forefront through celebrities or media or musicians, it’s awesome."
But interestingly enough, this resurgence in the classic style comes at the same time the heritage company (now owned by VF Corporation) has been pushing hard to expand its women's collection with more fashion-y (but still functional) offerings, like tall riding and biker boots for fall, and strappy sandals and colorful wedges for spring. A quick look on the Timberland website also reveals a bunch of new feminine colorways and print variations on the classic style for spring. (Pastel work boots to match a 3.1 Phillip Lim fall '14 outfit, maybe?) I couldn't help but wonder: Is there a master plan to simultaneously harness the return of the boot and promote style offerings that Timberland might not be as well known for?
Well first off, they had an inkling that the boot might come back. "From a trend perspective, we saw some of this coming," Hwang says, referring to the return to '90s fashion, continued interest in the Americana look and menswear-inspired trends. But there might be a touch of really good timing involved, too. Either way, the company is definitely capitalizing on the phenomenon -- especially in the "huge uptick" in sales of the yellow boot for women.
"Basically for us everything centers back to our tag line and our campaign that's called 'Best Then, Better Now,'" Hwang explains. "The idea is that we have this awesome product that everyone knows us for, and on this other side -- the 'Better Now' part of the equation -- is all these other things that we’re doing with Timberland."
"In an ideal world we use the yellow boot as almost like this Trojan horse to get us in the door, or in your closet, or just part of your consideration set," he added. "And then taking those traits or qualities that you know us and love us for and saying, 'Hey, why don’t you check out this awesome leather ballerina [slipper]?' Maybe that’s not too far a stretch."
Smartly, the company is realistic about where it stands on the fashion spectrum. "We’re never going to be, you know, super runway fashion," Hwang says. "But there’s ultimately an area we want to hit on that’s super functional and versatile and stylish that can take you on your entire day."
Timberland isn't just expanding with colors and prints, but also product technology to allow for year-round wear in warmer climates. "You’ll see some of the styles, like our Brookton, which is a lightweight version of the boot," he explained. "If you took the yellow boot and married it almost with a sneaker. You have this lightweight thing, which is almost a pound lighter than the yellow boot, but has all those style cues and is something you can start wearing into spring and summer."
But with the classic boot becoming a fashion trend accessory again, there's always the risk of going the way of the divisive Ugg. Birkenstock has its strategy, what about Timberland?
"That’s something that’s always top of mind for us," Hwang says. "We’ve had the yellow boot around since 1973 -- we actually just celebrated our 40th anniversary, which we were pretty excited about -- and again, this uptick, it’s awesome. But we have the benefit, we’ve been to the rodeo before, right?"
As we've learned from J. Lo and Missy, come 2020, Cara and Suki will likely be wearing different footwear. And Timberland gets it.
"We were cautiously optimistic that [the trend return] was coming and we’ve embraced it," Hwang shares. "And we want to ensure that we look forward to the future of how we keep it going, but also acknowledging at some point this may tone down a bit. Hopefully that the stuff we brought to light as part of that 'Better Now' piece of Timberland will continue to stay and push forward."
In the meantime, I'll be eyeing the street style spreads see if any "It" Girls have been converted to one of the new Timberland non-classic styles in the slideshow below. What do you think?