As Britpop filled the airwaves, the noise from the 90s came to reverberate across England’s zeitgeist, informing style, politics and shoe choice.
The sneakers of Britpop featured everything from terracewear icons to mod revivalism, as Britain tried to stomp their way into the millennium.
These were the shoes of ‘Cool Britannia’.
Appropriating elements of 1980s hooliganism and terracewear, Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis laced adidas Samba and Gazelle sneakers, a look inspired by the kind of stylistic pilgrimage football fans made across Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. The ultra-casual trainers became a symbol of Britpop, with brands such as Fila and Gola also having their hay-day in the 90s.
While bands like Oasis were influenced by England’s roaring terraces, Damon Albarn and Blur drew on a mix of mod and skinhead nostalgia. Dubbed ‘Southern Softies’ by Oasis and their followers, Harrington jackets and cherry red Dr. Martens became synonymous with Blur’s vision of Parklife, and it was a style that spread across the UK.
As we know, the Dr. Marten remains one of the great Forrest Gumps of the shoesphere, reappearing frequently during the United Kingdom’s seismic cultural moments. During the 1960s, the utilitarian boot arrived in England, delivering vicious blows by skinheads, symbolising the DIY attitudes of punks in the 1970s, and later, lending an aesthetic cue to the factionalism of ’90s Britpop.
Then there were the Clark Wallabees. The Verve stormed the charts with Urban Hymns in 1997, fueled by their love of drugs, psychedelic rock, and Clarks Wallabees. The Verve carried on the legacy of their sartorial godfathers, the mods, led by their spindly frontman Richard Ashcroft (‘Mad Richard’). In terms of footwear, Ashcroft’s fondness of the Clarks Wallabee assured the shoe’s cultural apotheosis when it graced the cover of Urban Hymns before appearing in the classic music video for ‘Bittersweet Symphony.’
Hip hop pioneers would later discover the Wallabee, but it was figures like Richard Ashcroft (and, across the pond, the Wu Tang Clan) that provided the Wallabees with that cultural bridge in the twenty-first century.