HotNewHipHop takes a look back at Lugz, a staple of 90s hiphop style.
If you’ve worked at Footlocker the past couple years, you’re guaranteed to have come across Lugz. I know I did. I was cheesed every time I’d have to look for some weird, fur-cuffed Timberland knockoff that was half the price and twice as hard to find in the stockroom. I swear there were never more than three sizes of any model, stuffed in a dusty corner.
Lugz weren’t always so uncool.
Started in 1993, Lugz stepped onto the scene correctly, plastering hip-hop magazines like Vibe and The Source with their full page photoshoots featuring big names in hip hop. While Timberland was too busy catering to the working man with ads that Ford probably had on a mood board for their obnoxious F-150 campaign, Lugz made sure to emphasize street style over substance.
It worked. Lugz became a fashion statement. The brand became synonymous with staples of New York style, which was at the time synonymous with hip hop greatness. Baggy jeans, wife beaters, chains, ball hats and 3XL hoodies paired nicely with some Lugz, for the person who balled on a tighter budget than their friends decked out in Timbs.
Despite their lack of pedigree, Lugz made a dent in the market by signing fresh faces to rep their gear.
Erick Sermon was the first to sign onto the brand in 1994, and brought his signature production to the table with a 60-second boom-bap jingle.
I’m wearing L-U-G-Z, is there a reason why you askin’ me?
You’re diggin’ my boots, right? My girl got some on (haha, you dead wrong)
When half of EPMD rocked your gear, street cred was a given. The Green Eyed Bandit helped put Lugz on the map.
Snoop Dogg was another early ambassador for the brand. Just look at those orange creps! Oo-wee, that was a hard set. We’re pretty sure kids would give their left leg to score Snoop’s track jackets at the thrift shop, too.
Even KRS-One put out a radio spot. Big Joe Krash was on-brand, rapping about chasing your dreams today, not tomorrow. “We gotta pull up our Lugz straps and start representing’ [ourselves].” Reminiscent of the message he put into “Outta Here” on Return of the Boom Bap.
Still, Lugz knew that rappers wearing their clothes and boots inspired by competitors wouldn’t cut it forever. Nobody wants to just be the “alternate” to Timbs and Polo, or Clarks boots.
So they branched out in the early 2000s. Funkmaster Flex and Birdman introduced their signature silhouettes, a “sleek” driving shoe and pair of chunky low-top boots for Flex, and a some fresh whites named after the co-founder of Cash Money Records.
At their best, Lugz were in direct competition with Timberland and Clarks, two established brands with infallible, classic silhouettes. They found trendsetters to be faces for their product against all odds, considering most of their footwear “borrowed” heavily from their competition.
Now come the shameless years.
Bruh. Everybody clowned Champion and Skechers for ripping off Nike’s minimalist Roshe Run sneaker after it was introduced in 2012 to the masses. Lugz had no shame, dipping their hand in the pot to remake a model that Nike did to death, in endless colorways and materials.
Lugz embraced the hype train on other models, like “the Changeover,” the result of combining a work boot with four of the five K-Swiss stripes and the Nike Cortez’ shape. Somewhere along the way, it seems Lugz forgot what made them cool in the first place: simplicity, and staying true to an aesthetic. Sure, they always had designs that were similar to their competition, but they never scrambled to mix and match styles in the 90’s like they did in the 00’s.
Now though, you can argue that Lugz is on the come-up once again. Skinny jeans are making way for slim cuts, loose cargos and high cropped pants, and oversized clothing has been en vogue in streetwear for the past few years. With it comes the return of the chunky boot as a fashion statement that is both fresh and functional.
Canadian streetwear label Atelier New Regime is the first collaborator to give Lugz the facelift it deserves. Their all-orange reboot brings the vintage silhouette into the 21st century. Thick soles, exaggerated curves and that unmistakable ANR orange give this classic boot new life. Maybe pair it with their varsity sweater and some Acronym cargos if you’re feeling new-wave. Or dig up your Guess denim and that Karl Kani sweatshirt your dad wears to clean out his eavestroughs. Do you.