Hip-hop reached its golden anniversary, and Timberland is honoring the trailblazers who helped make blue-collar boots “cool.”
To celebrate the hip-hop anniversary, Timberland unveiled its special Hip-Hop Royalty collection, which features the original Timberland, limited-edition royal purple six-inch boots, and a matching bucket hat.
Though not the only brand to celebrate HipHop50, Timberland’s collection highlights the value that influencers have for a brand, and more importantly, how consumers help to shape a brand’s identity.
Timberland and Hip-Hop Culture
Founded in 1952, Timberland has grown over the past 71 years to become one of the world’s premier boot brands – largely due to its position in hip-hop culture.
DMX reportedly owned 1,500 pairs of Timberlands, but he’s hardly the only one who shared his love of his boots. Notorious B.I.G. had his famous “Timbs for my hooligans in Brooklyn” line in “Hypnotize, and they’ve made appearances in videos ranging from Tupac Shakur to Naughty by Nature.
Rap was in the forefront in 1993. Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, and Tupac were all over the airwaves, and with the Timberland connection, the brand netted nearly $420 million in sales. The following year, that number jumped up to $637.50 million.
By 2000, Timberland hit $1 billion and became a fashion staple as DMX, Jay Z, and other rappers wore the boots almost exclusively.
With so many namedrops and free product placement in photo shoots, album covers, awards shows, and music videos, Timberland got a jumpstart to the brand it is today and owes some of its success to the hip-hop genre. And it’s returning the favor.
The Timberland Hip Hop Royalty Collection
The Timberland Hip Hop Royalty Collection commemorates the communities of color and the hip-hop genre that propelled the brand to its status. This collection includes a 50th-anniversary edition of the Original Timberland Boot, a staple in NYC and hip-hop culture, as well as some new designs.
The Timberland Hip Hop Royalty Boot is a new version of the emblematic group with intricate design details and elements of hip-hop. The boots are a bold purple with regal gold that leads into a graffiti logo with a miniature microphone and a boom box hang tag.
Together, these elements represent the four pillars of hip-hop – MCing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti. On the tongue of the boots are Sedgwick Ave, a street sign and nod to hip-hop’s birthplace in the Bronx.
According to Chris Dixon, the senior footwear designer at Timberland, the Hip Hop Royalty Boot project is Timberland’s way of “giving Hip Hop its flowers and showing appreciation for what they have done for the brand.”
Influencer Campaign with Lola Brooke
For its hip-hop anniversary campaign, Timberland leveraged the talent of Brooklyn rapper on the rise Lola Brooke. As “one of the voices carrying hip hop into the next 50 years.” Brooke is the perfect voice to highlight the brand’s limited-edition collection.
With the hashtag #BuiltForTheBold, the Hip Hop Royalty Boot aligns with the brand’s signature style and functionality for hip-hop artists and outdoor lifestylers alike.
Timberland x CNSTNT:DVLPMNT
Along with the limited-edition boot design. Timberland has a plan to host five youth design workshops in partnership with Black-owned creative brand CNSTNT:DVLPMNT. Founded by Dixon, the partnership intends to cultivate untapped talent and provide opportunities for young communities of color to get into the creative community.
These workshops will launch and conclude in New York City – the birthplace of hip-hop – with stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charlotte over spring and summer. The first collaboration in New York gave creatives a chance to design their own version of the Original Timberland Boot, which was reviewed by fashion and lifestyle authenticators with celebrity guest Fat Joe.
Once complete, the leading design from the workshop will be brought to life in the Timberland prototyping lab, The Shed.
Customers, Not Companies, Own Brand Perception
Timberland – and the hip-hop stars that helped make it – show how a brand has limited control over its own image and perception to consumers. Brands can only control how to present and target their message to customers, but once that’s out in the world, the consumers have the final say.
The boot brand didn’t seek out hip-hop influencer partnerships to boost awareness. Timberland boots stood out to the rising stars of hip-hop in the 90s, made appearances in lyrics, photo spreads, and music videos, unlocking the brand’s potential. And rather than trying to steer the conversation among consumers, as many brands do, Timberland handed over the mic.
Honoring an Organic Partnership
Leveraging influencers long before influencer marketing became a mainstay in campaign strategy, Timberland chose to honor the organic influencers that made the brand ubiquitous today.
As it’s always been, Timberland balances the practicality of durability and insulation with unrivaled style, which made it a favorite of literal trailblazers and the pioneers in arts and culture.