MODERN sneaker culture is not based on durability or material quality, in fact it is not so much as considered — it’s a popularity contest, a culture dependent on social approval and acceptance of others. But, amidst this reign of terror there are a handful of casual footwear options that capture the imagination of the few. This article will break down the Reebok Beatnik sandal.
A personal favourite with those at TCStreetwear, the Reebok Beatnik launched back in 1993. This strap-ridden, ripple-soled sandal was released as part of a hiking and outdoor footwear range; in one sense, its introduction to street fashion as a whole is a happy coincidence directly comparable to that of any current Salomon XT-range sneaker. A soft and pliable upper means comfort is prioritised; thick leathers or rigid canvas aren’t seen to be as foot-friendly with constant wear when compared to a plush corduroy or even long-hair, padded suede. Reebok’s iconic ripple-sole has been seen on silhouettes before, we can recall Classic Leather and Workout models sitting atop the aggressively angled, high-profile outsole.
In the 90’s, a following within Japan surrounding the shoe seemed to materialise, a cult if you will. So, when the sandal saw the light of day during SS2018 it made perfect sense for the six-piece collection to be exclusively available in the country. Unfortunately, despite being produced in South America’s Brazilian factories once-upon-a-time, this is not something possible to replicate form 2018-onwards.
Where does ‘Beatnik’ derive from? To put it simply, a collective recognised by San Francisco natives infamous for exploring rejected narrative values when it came to poetry and literature as a whole, perhaps breaking conformities to pursue copy appeasing to the mere opposed to the masses between 1950-60. This was the ‘Beat Generation’, but why was an article of outdoor and rugged footwear branded an eponym of these devotees? The movement inherited ideas from Buddism, capturing the imagination of climber Warren Harding who later became a ‘Beat’; this group sculpted rock-climbing into the image as we see it today.
To provide a little more background, originally the ‘Beats’ were authors exploring America culture and politics within the post-war era. With non-conforming literary views came a lot of taboo; psychedelic drug experimentation and sexual liberation to name two routes frowned upon in the modern day. But, this is what the ‘Beat Generation’ did or shall we say did not do — conform, a lot of Beat traits then became iconic for the early-60s Hippie movement too, pioneered by Allen Ginsberg and Kerouac. Though we mentioned San Francisco above, that was merely a point for reference — much of the floor work was carried out by students and football scholars at Columbia University campus, NYC. Kerouac appropriated the term ‘Beat’ to hold connotations of being on or upbeat despite previously insinuating being run into the ground, or beat-down; a common phrase (apparently) used by NYC’s African-American community when speaking on oppression.
In terms of the NYC-to-San Fran adventure, Ginsberg moved from city to city in August of 1954, swiftly falling head-over-heels for Peter Orlovsky. From this point on, the Beat movement was spread through book-readings and public performances.
A sandal commemorating rock-climbing and non-conforming literary enthusiasts is radical, but it bloody-well worked. Forward thinkers or people with a passion; there are very few draw backs with a shoe that combined an iconically comfortable silhouette with outdoor possibilities, then given a name coined by a loyal community. Positive connotations go a long way in this industry, especially when the namesake laughs in materialism’s face whilst exposing tasteful sock-choices.