Powered by With

gray scale photo of woman lying on bed

Hey Boomer meets the power of Collabs

A few years ago, the phrase “hey boomer” became a viral putdown from Gen Z and Millennials to their parents and older leaders trying to put life experience and wisdom forward as a solution to an existing challenge. The struggle between established and rising generations is as old as time. And, if you wait long enough you’ll find yourself part of that older generation putting forward the oldest of all absolutes–this generation is going to hell in a handbasket–although Gen Z would need to Google “handbasket” to figure out what the most recent “hey boomer-ism” meant.

Very common to both Boomer and Gen X experience, especially during the period from the 1950s through the 1990s are Clark Desert Boots. James Dean wore them, Bond wore them, Prince wore them, as did Snoop. They are old school defined. Tracing their history back to British military experience in Africa, they were a takeoff on the simple shoes worn by native farmers and herdsmen. A rugged sole with a soft flexible top held together with a lace passing through one or two simple eyelets.

Unlike the heavy, hot, inflexible army boots issued to British troops of the time these new boots, especially adapted to hot, unpredictable and shifting terrain–like the sands of the Sahara–desert boots lived up to their name–boots for the desert. When the Clarke family found a pair and began experimenting with production, it wasn’t long until the desert boot option and the Clarke name were rocketing to fame in markets first in Britain and then across America. 

James Jebbiah, of New York City, founded his skater brand of clothing and boards in 1994. This was the ultimate “street” brand. Adapted to the culture and the environment of New York City, it was an entire world away from the purpose, look, feel and experience of Clarke’s desert boots. 

In a 2017 interview with Vogue magazine, Jebbiah points out that: “There are always critics that don’t understand that young people can be into Bob Dylan but also into the Wu-Tang Clan and Coltrane and Social Distortion. Young people—and skaters—are very, very open-minded . . . to music, to art, to many things, and that allowed us to make things with an open mind.” (Robert Sullivan, Vogue Magazine, August 2017, https://www.vogue.com/article/history-of-supreme-skate-clothing-brand)

The culture of early 20th century desert boots and 21st century skaters can and should find a place to live, work and play “with” each other. It’s that type of feeling and the individual identity and global success of both brands that led them to one of the big consumer plays of the 21st century–the “collab” or X launch.

The original desert boots came in primarily “desert” or “natural” color ways–beige, coffee, dark brown but in their cross launch with Supreme where comfort on asphalt is more important than on sand dunes you can now get your Clarke’s in colorways including red, pink, vibrant green or black (or at least you COULD have got your Clarke’s in these street wise shades except they sold out almost overnight.)

Generations have differences. Some of those differences still matter today and ought to be celebrated, promoted and “collab-ed”. Other differences need challenging and changing, but there is a place for “with” in the generational experience. If a British army desert boot can meet a 21st century inner city street brand and not only find common ground but soar, then maybe our generational gaps can become generational synergies with as much opportunity baked in as challenges.