3 February 2018

The Original 6-Inch Timberland: My Story

Original 6-Inch Boot
Black Nubuck
(The Bearbrick is just for the photograph!)

Another month, another pair of shoes. 

I was around 14 or 15 years old when I bought my first ever pair of boots. They were navy blue nubuck Timberland 6-inch boots, with a cream cuff and gum sole. I saved up all year and, even then, was only able to afford them because I was lucky enough to find them at a shop on clearance for 50% off. They were the first pair of shoes that I bought by myself, and were the first pair of shoes that I bought simply because I liked them and wanted them, rather than as a replacement for shoes I already had.

Growing up I had a relatively small and functional collection of shoes. Well, I say collection, but it was just three pairs - I had a pair of black leather lace-up school shoes, a pair of trainers for PE class (I believe Americans call it Phys Ed) and the weekend, and a pair of football boots, similarly for school lessons. If I was lucky enough to grow out of any of them within a year, then I might be able to get a new pair with the new school year, but otherwise they were my only shoes. Buying the Timberlands was a way for me to own a pair of shoes that had nothing to do with school, and what school regulations deemed to appropriate footwear, and all to do with what I myself enjoyed. I actually felt equally liberated and wasteful for having this extra choice. It is probably why, even until today, my footwear collection has never been particularly expansive.

For me it was a feeling of pure luxury to have this additional pair of shoes that I could wear in my own time. Not to mention the fact that they were not a pair of trainers, but a pair of boots. Boots for me felt somehow more mature, as if I had work to do, places to go, and people to see. I realise that Timberlands have a workwear connotation in America, but where and when I was growing up, they were actually something of a luxury item. The work boots I remember seeing are steel toed Caterpillar boots, Hi-Tec boots, and of course the infamous Magnum boots (still favoured by police and security personnel today). These were all very functional boots to which the nubuck Timberlands stood in complete contrast.

Timberlands were not something you saw that often on the street at the time. Indeed the only real point of reference I personally had for them were from media. I remember seeing Tupac on screen wearing the original wheat models, or the various coloured pairs DMX would wear. They were an aspirational luxury symbol that for me spoke of freedom and, most important of all - they looked cool, and thus by extension, I could look cool by wearing them. I remember that feeling when I put them on and wore them outside for the first time. I actually felt like I was faking it somehow. Indeed I remember thinking that they were too cool for me. I took every opportunity to put them on, but even so, I thought that they were somehow wearing me, rather than me wearing them.

As a result my eldest brother ended up taking the boots from me (I had large feet) after a year or so, and he wore them into the ground from that point. In the years since I have owned a few pairs of boots, with Dr Martens being the most common choice, but I never again felt that sense of coolness that I did from the Timberlands. In a way I think that I was subconsciously avoiding considering a pair again. But having recognised that, I thought that it was time to do something about it. And so, for my birthday last month, I asked my sister whether she would be kind enough to buy a black nubuck pair for me. I sized down, pulled them on, and they were as comfortable fresh out of the box as I remembered.

I was surprised at how natural they felt to wear. I had that nostalgic feeling of coolness the moment I put them on, but with none of the shortcomings. I guess I have come a long way since those days. It is something that I wish that I had done before, because that feeling was so nice. I really am coming to a point where I want to explore all the things I thought were cool when I was younger, albeit through the consideration of my current wardrobe and tastes.


1 comment:

  1. Not so different over here, PE is also called PE in America and timberlands had the same hip hop connotations growing up. there was another brand called Lugz did also "knocked off" the Tims look.