The history of Timbs and how they became a symbol for NYC culture
When it comes to New York City, most outsiders probably have this idea of a sea of people hailing yellow cabs while pizza on every corner and everyone being an asshole, or some shit.
Well, they’re not exactly wrong (especially about that last one) but none of that is really New York.
When it comes to true, quintessential NYC shit, nothing embodies the culture of the city more than someone born and raised here wearing Timbs. Yes, Timberlands my guy.
Whether you’re a construction worker who’s barely working, and mostly catcalling all day, or a rapper sitting courtside tryna trip a referee, Timbs are an NYC staple. But more than just being a durable ass boot that goes with every outfit, it’s a statement.
From Biggie and Jay Z, to Nas and countless dudes on the 6 train, this is a trend that’s now a worldwide phenomenon. But where did this obsession with a shoe all begin? How did a seemingly small trend starting in New York transcend all throughout hip-hop and urban culture?
Timberlands low key started in Boston.
No real New Yorker is trying to hear this but they will respect the fact that facts are facts, b. Timbs started in the same state where the Red Sox and Patriots play.
The Timberland Company was founded by Nathan Swartz in 1918 who wanted to make the best shoes for blue collar workers at the time.
But it wasn’t until 1952 when Timberland really got it poppin’ and bought The Abington Shoe Company which used a special fabric. Then 20 years later they released their first waterproof boot, the Timberland. So when did it become a cultural phenomenon?
The trend started in the 90s when NYC drug dealers began wearing Timbs.
While these boots were made for factory workers and blue collar workers, it has been said that many New York-based drug dealers began to rock them while posted on the block.
Timbs were ideal for these dudes because their entrepreneurial drive had them working at all hours and they needed to stay dry and warm, it also gave them added security if they needed to stomp a motherfucker out. Straight up.
This ain’t a bunch of bullshit either. Author Rob Walker reported in his book Buying In reported,
“The legend goes that the first ‘urban’ buyers of Timberland boots were New York drug dealers – guys who had to stand on the street all night and needed the best possible footwear to keep them warm and dry.”
Then rappers made it a mainstream part of the culture.
Since the 90s and even earlier, drug dealing and hip-hop have been interconnected as street life was reflected in some of the most popular music, as it still is today.
This is the case New York artists especially, as they mentioned Timbs as a symbol of where they come from and the life they live. Look at Biggie when he said, “Timbs for my hooligans in Brooklyn,” on “Hypnotize” or Nas on “The World Is Yours” when he dropped the classic line, “Suede Timbs on my feet makes my cipher complete.”
With greats like these sprinkling Timbs references throughout their catalog, it remains a part of hip-hop culture. Even Cali rappers like The Game showed love on his song “Let Us Live” when he said, “In Brooklyn I rock Timberlands.”
Timbs are synonymous with New York culture and hip-hop made sure of that.
They’re literally made for the New York lifestyle
Being on the go as much as a New Yorker takes some rugged support. Whether you’re dipping from the boys while you smoke a Backwood on the street or you’re posted on a rooftop sipping a 40, Timbs are your go-to when it comes to support.
It’s no wonder why most NY humor you’ll find on the web has to do with some aspect of rocking Timbs, like this Spiderman dude who raised in Brooklyn.
If you live in New York, you know what it’s like to experience all four seasons of the year in one week. It can be 70 degrees one day, mad windy with thunderstorms the next and snowing OD by the end of the week.
For people who have to pretty much take the train or walk everywhere, what’s one thing they can actually depend on? That’s right, their Timbs.
There was a rumor that Timberland hates black people
This one may not be true, but definitely a little sketchy.
While some comments by Timberland founder Jeffery Swartz’s grandson, Nathan, said in a 1993 New York Times article that Timberlands were made for “honest working people” it should be noted that they may have been taken out of context and misconstrued.
In a 2011 interview with Financial Times, he addressed these comments and showed to have a better understanding of his consumers saying,
“The data was excruciatingly clear if we had had the brains to understand it. A young kid wearing outdoor hiking boots in city fashion … It wasn’t a caricature,” Swartz told the Financial Times.
“Instead, it connected back to the essence of the brand. He added that, even in concrete jungles, ‘people said ‘with Timberland boots on our feet we feel nothing can stop us … I live in a rugged world and I want to feel powerful and secure.'”
Swartz also low key funded an anti-racism advertising campaign in the past and aside from that slight blunder in the NYT article has had a clean record in that regard.
Timbs are a staple of NYC culture and aren’t going anywhere
By now you realize these aren’t just boots. They represent something much larger and more profound, while standing the test of time. It’s safe to say these shits ain’t going anywhere.
But Timbs are also one of the latest urban fashion trends to become gentrified and rediscovered by, you guessed it, white people. I ain’t really gonna get into all that right now but just peep this headline below of a model rocking some Timbs like it’s never been done before. Christopher Columbus ass.
The gentrification of Timbs, jeans and a white T brought to you in part by Wypipo. pic.twitter.com/rpRS5gcqdH
— Dennie The Great (@Dennie302) April 14, 2017
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are. If you wanna rock some Timbs because you need the support then more power to you. Just know that a real New Yorker will also wear them in 100-degree weather with shorts.
That’s the tell-tale sign you know they ain’t just doing it to look cool.