Sneakers, just like music, are an essential part of hip hop culture — their ubiquity on vinyl covers throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s spoke out as a representation of status. As rap music evolved, fans started paying attention to their favourite artists fashion sense and used sneakers as an accessible way to emulate their style. 2015 saw Bally collaborate with Roc Nation rapper J Cole on a collection of hiking boots. ‘Before I really knew about luxury brands, I knew the name Bally, and I knew in the hip-hop world this was something that Biggie was rockin’, Nas was rappin’ and even before that, Rakim, so it’s cool to be in that lineage.” Footwear News, August 2015.
Bally has been creating sneakers since the 1930s. Starting with plimsolls and gym shoes and progressing to football, basketball and golf, Bally catered for the sporting industry like no other shoe brand at the time. As sneakers transitioned from their sporting practicalities to become part of everyday casualwear, the style or brand that you wore began to signal a sense of belonging.
Jumping ahead to the 1980s and there sparked a period of time when the Bally name was synonymous with the urban hip-hop movement, gathering momentum in New York City. The early 80s saw an explosion of Bally within this community and the brand remains a status symbol even today. Bally sneakers rose to recognition as the first designer sneaker in the mid-1980s among rappers on the hip-hop scene. Long before musicians were calling out other sneaker brands in their lyrics, Slick Rick shouts out he’s wearing his ‘Bally shoes and fly green socks’. Doug E. Fresh put Bally where it could be seen when he wore a pair on his 1986 album cover ‘Oh, My God!’, before featuring them in his music video for ‘All the Way to Heaven’ in a Wild West style shoot out with a pair of Adidas Superstars.
The Competition (1983), Galaxy (1983), Vita Parcours (1974) and Super Smash (1965) have all been taken from the extensive Bally archive and recreated as part of the SS18 collection. Bringing back Bally’s best sneaker styles from the past decades, the collection includes four replicas of its most successful lace ups, from hip-hop era classics to tennis shoes and sporty runners.
Last summer LIFE VOCABULARY's LV MAG section featured the latest collaboration by Grammy Award winning producer Swizz Beatz – a capsule collection of shoes, accessories and ready to wear, with designs by Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo – which came about organically from Swizz Beatz’s longstanding respect for the brand: ‘I’ve been a fan of Bally since back in the day, growing up in the South Bronx. Bally used to be the signature of making it, Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh - ‘Fresh dressed like a million bucks/Threw on the Bally shoes and the y green socks,’ - and now to come back years later and be the one to bring things to a new generation...it’s amazing.’ Billboard.com, 29 September 2017
The authenticity of this collaboration was illustrated by the coming together of hip hop legends Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick and Kid Capri at the launch in New York this summer, alongside new generation artists A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, along with DJ Kitty Cash.
Although hip hop is constantly evolving Bally maintains its inextricable link with the music industry. The new collection sees a reintroduction of four of Bally’s most renowned sneakers from past decades, reimaging the brand’s cultural relevance and solidifying the key message ‘Bally is Back’.