Catching up with Leo Gamboa, Reebok's Global Product Manager, END. discuss the return of the Beatnik and the history of the lauded sandal.
A unique and storied silhouette, the Reebok Beatnik Sandal has enraptured audiences over the past three decades with its combination of rugged design and bohemian outlook. Now, Reebok prime the striking style for a return to the world stage with their robust Cordura edition.
Originally launching onto the scene back in 1994, the Reebok Beatnik Sandal offered a sensibility that captured the free-spirited attitude of its namesake, the Beat Generation, wrapped up in a forward-thinking, hiking aesthetic. Tapping into the pervasive outdoors aesthetic that the '90s championed, the rugged, trail-sandal was catapulted to stardom in Japan, finding favour amongst sneaker fans and outdoor aficionados alike.
A cult sensation overseas, the style has remained a firm favourite for collectors for the past 26 years, with scarce supply and rare iterations in exceedingly high demand. Following Reebok's collaboration with Beams and Needles in 2018, and the upcoming Pleasures collaboration, the sportswear brand prep the Beatnik to enter the modern sandal arena with their Cordura pack.
Sitting down with Reebok's Global Product Manager, Leo Gamboa, END. discuss the return of the storied Reebok Beatnik, the silhouette's cult appeal in Japan and why now was the perfect time for the sandal to take over.
Originally released in 1993, the Reebok Beatnik was delivered as a part of an outdoor line, alongside hiking and climbing styles. A rugged sandal that blended aesthetics from outdoor footwear and classic men’s shoes, the Beatnik was somewhat ahead of its time. What was the original inspiration for the silhouette?
Reebok wanted to create a new wave sandal offering great comfort and leading edge design. It stood out from our other sandals at the time because of its aggressive shark-tooth sole and its closed-toe oil-suede upper. The shoe also featured a molded EVA footbed providing cushioning and a better fit than most sandals, as well as high tensile strength nylon web straps adding support and stability.
The beatnik generation, a movement in the ‘40s & ‘50s that rejected the standard values of the time, served as the source for the model’s now iconic name. How did the Beat Generation influence the development of the shoe?
Here’s a great blurb on the distinction of a Beatnik from the book "The History of Fashion" – "a Beat scoffs at material narcissism. The beat is passing through, an anthropologist of the underworld, he signals his alienness not by presenting an alternative style but rather by an indifference to style itself."
The Beatnik found a particularly strong audience in Japan, where it remains a sought-after style to this day. What was it about the Beatnik that specifically resonated in Japan?
Originally made in Brazil and released in the West, it gained cult status in Japan, where traveling footwear enthusiasts brought the Beatniks overseas to Asia. It was so rare and desirable to the public it eventually became a cult icon.
How has the culture around the Beatnik in Japan influenced the style over the years?
Japan has always been at the forefront of fashion and trends. With the Beatnik being an icon in Japan for the past few years, it was just a matter of time for the rest of the world to see and feel how special this model is.
What is it about the silhouette that has allowed it to retain a strong presence over the course of three decades?
To me the original shape and ripple sole really separate this silhouette from the rest. The upper can be executed in so many different ways as you will see this year and in 2021.
Why do you think the style didn’t originally receive as much attention in the rest of the world compared to Japan?
As with many styles and trends, sometimes it takes the right project or person to really get things rolling. Once the Needles Beatnik launched in Dec 2018, the collaboration was so well received that it created global hype and high anticipation for the next launch.
What has instigated the Beatnik’s modern resurgence?
Since the launch with Needles, people started to realize how special this model was and how hard It was to purchase for the past year. Japan was sold out and everyone I know was trying Yahoo Jp and Ebay auctions to get lucky. Added support would come from Organiclab.zip and Daniel Pacitti (friends of the brand) as well.
This will be the first time a non-collaborative Beatnik will be available in the UK for a number of years. Why did now feel like the right time for the silhouette’s return?
During its Asia release, many friends and brands asked if we could expand this model globally. With evolving styles and modern trends leaning further into the outdoors and trail inspiration, it was a great time to expand distribution.
Ahead of the Beatnik’s release in the UK, has anything been altered on the silhouette, or has the design remained true to the original specifications?
For the global launches we have tried to keep the design as true to the original as possible. We did add one new option to a few of the newer models – a removable heel strap - giving the option of a true mule slide. The Pleasures collaboration will be the first model to release with that feature.
With collaborations such as Beams x Needles and Pleasures, the Beatnik’s influence has spread further than ever before. What does the future hold for the Beatnik?
For 2020 - 2021 we have a few very strong inline packs rolling out and some great collaborations on the way. We will continue to highlight this model for the next few seasons.
Reebok Beatnik Sandal
Reebok Beatnik Sandal
Reebok Beatnik Sandal