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Red Wing boots with their traditional red leather and white soles continues its resurgence as a must-have fashion footwear item, particularly among leading-edge fashion players in Japan who tend to seek authentic Americana in choosing their styles. As we’ve reported before in stories such as “Urban Surplus in Uptown NYC: Streetwear Takes Cues fromMidwestas Outdoor Hunting Staples Take Root” many young men, starting in 2006 from parts of Harlem, have been taking on styles that go back to classics -in some ways influenced from traditional sports such as hunting and fishing. This in turn has also turned on many trends in Japan and parts of Europe.

This authentic, workmen, or utilitarian trend in fashion and footwear continues to re-shape the fashion landscape. Utilitarian trends mean creating styles from the every day, based on necessity, one’s surroundings, and affordability, and are one of the strongest roots of creation in youth and street culture fashion. By the very nature of these markets, their trends often spark from such utilitarian means. The rise of brands such as Carhartt, Dickies, Redwing, Timberland, and now even John Deere denim which launched at MAGIC last month is good examples of this Utilitarian Fashion Movement (with Levi Strauss of course launching the first wave of utilitarian fashion in the late 1800’s).

A closer look at Carhartt and Dickies for example (see separate story on Timberlands), shows that they did not originally market to the skateboarding community, but it was skaters who recognized the durable materials within these pants, their affordability, and ease for modification (cut-off for shorts, stitched sides to make stovepipes). They took these “worker” pants and used them for their sport -which in turn became an intricate part of the lifestyle of skate in America, and now, in Europe and Japan. Both brands are easily considered “fashionable streetwear brands” fetching almost double the price outside of America.

What’s ironic today is that such DIY attitudes and styles now inspire couture designers and has flipped the marketplace upside down. Trends coming from the bottom-up vs. the top-down” which is outlined in many parts of our global youth culture studies, continue to change the business of the industry in significant ways. Clear examples are the revival of buffalo plaids and houndstooth found this season on the runways in New York and Paris in Fall ’08 collections. As it’s already done in fashion and now in personal entertainment, and technology, youth and street culture today are driving the speed of change.

Among this group of utilitarian trendsetters are young men who are trading in colorful or white on white sneakers and moving towards more rugged soles which was prevalent this winter, but will be popular again in a recontextualized format this Fall 2008. The all-American look and sturdy construction of brands like Redwing, Wolverine, Timberland, Pendleton, Woolrich, and others have become staples of the outdoors inspired ensemble. As our New York correspondent Kazuko Ito describes things, “Looking for a polar opposite to the over-saturation of sneakers, forward-thinking uptowners in New York City are favoring leather boots as high and as retro as possible. Even a military element can come into play, with some favoring the sleeker style of a combat boot.”

That’s why when Redwing announced their collaboration with the Japanese brand Neighborhood”, it indicates this next evolution of a higher-end boot with roots in authentic Americana styles, evolved by the Japanese (as usual) to result in a high-end designer footwear style. Called Black Moc, the Redwing X Neighborhood collaboration is currently only available at places such as Cliffedge and costs a whopping $680.

The branded Neighborhood white tag on the tongue resembles classic tags in denim jackets and workwear such as Carhartt pants which also fits within the concept of LTD’s (limited editions), urban surplus styling and utilitarian fashion as a symbol that tells the story -if only to it’s special owner of these highly coveted boots. What’s most important to pick up on this style is that it marks a significant crossover of what was once utilitarian workboot-to-designer footwear in street culture.

Look for other traditional brands to continue to do the same in the near future”, as well as new brands such as Toy Plane from Japan coming out with collections that are completely fresh, yet maintain a modern version of the utilitarian vibe (in this case, car mechanic culture) in jackets and button-downs. Other brands on this tip include fitted buffalo plaids and side pockets from the re-launched Alphanumerics (see also “Alphanumeric Re-Launches Bringing Back Classic Aesthetics, Style a Decade Later -Label Networks TV Captures the Interview from the Originators“).

For more information about top footwear and apparel brands within the utilitarian genre in North America, Europe, and Japan, contact info@labelnetworks.com; (323) 630-4000 about the Premium Global Youth Culture Subscription 2008.

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