The complex relationship between hip hop and fashion began in the late 80s and has continued into this day. In hip-hop's early years, rappers wore certain clothing brands simply because they liked them. What the rappers wore quickly spread to the masses and influenced how they dressed. Footwear brand Clarks created a shoe called the "Wallabee" that quickly became a staple within the hip hop community. The shoe was a cross between a dress shoe and sneakers that those in the hood could wear with anything on different occasions. Entertainers and sports figures to this day still have a love affair with the iconic shoe. OVO rapper Drake and NBA All-Star LeBron James both have been spotted sporting a pair.
For the release of its new '"Floor Seats" Wallabee, Clarks threw a lit party during Art Basel Miami at the UNKNWN store. New York rap legend Jadakiss and cultural figure and Compound creator Set Free Richardson, who just recently produced the Clark's New York documentary that highlighted the role of the Wallabee in 90s hip hop, spoke to EBONY about the influence fashion and hip-hop had on one another and why folks gravitated to the Wallabee shoes.
EBONY: In the 90s, hip hop and fashion had a heavy influence on one another. What impact did Wallabee have on the culture?
Set Free Richardson: I think that fashion has always been connected to hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s, it was a form of expressing yourself from breakdancers and the B-boys with the Puma sweatsuits. Now, brands are showing the fashion right with the music and putting artists and rappers in their hands.
The Wallabee had a big impact on the culture, and you can charge that to the Juice Crew, Slick Rick and Dana Dane all the way up to the Wu-Tang Clan, even Biggie wore Wallabee's. Coming up, growing up, it was something you wore instead of wearing penny loafers or some hard bottoms. You could still get the job done feel good and look good. That's what they did.
What was the process like producing the Clark's and NY documentary? How’d you decide on choosing the cast?
Incredible! Clark's is one of my favorite brands to work with because they let a creative be creative. They have their brand guidelines, but they don't stifle you. They let me put my creative vision on their brand and we came out with a great documentary.
When it came to the cast I had to do the homework. I couldn't can't do the documentary without Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, or people like Futura, who did the Wallabee back in the day. April Walker, of course, the female goat of styling. She styled Biggie and Pac. Jadakiss is the voice in New York to me. Jason Jones and Styles P is a big Wallabee head. I had to get the people that could give the right commentary about the shoe. You have to make sure you tell the story the right way.
How do you rock your Wallabees?
I tie my Wallabee's kind of differently. It's like a knot tied with both of the strings hanging down and not too tight. They have incredible comfort; when you walk it's like walking on mattresses. The black one is my favorite; the dark colors are what I always love to rock.