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Timberland celebrates five decades of its original boot with designer collaborations

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: Timberland; 'Future73' collective

2023 marks the 50th anniversary since the original Timberland yellow work boot was first created, and the brand is celebrating with the creation of the 'Future73' collective, featuring designers including Christopher Raeburn and Samuel Ross reimagining its 6-inch premium boot for the future.

The ‘Future73’ project features six “future makers,” including A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross, Christopher Raeburn, and Humberto Leon, alongside contemporary artist Nina Chanel Abney, Netherlands-based knit researcher and footwear innovator and founder of Knit In Motion Suzanne Oude Hengel, and Canadian-born Hong Kong actor and Clot founder Edison Chen.

Each of the collaborators has worked in partnership with Timberland’s design team to create a 6-inch premium boot through “their own lens of bold innovation,” explains the brand. This will include incorporating new and unexpected knit technologies, exaggerated features like super-chunky rubber soles, and the first-ever premium 6-inch boot to be designed for disassembly through the brand’s Timberloop circularity platform.

The capsule collection from the six “future makers” will also include complementary apparel pieces and will drop between March and October 2023. Each drop will have its own launch “moment,” added Timberland, and will be available at the world’s most influential fashion and streetwear retailers, as well as Timberland flagship stores and timberland.com.

Drieke Leenknegt, chief marketing officer at Timberland, said in a statement: “What an honour it has been to work alongside these amazing creative minds. Each has taken the Timberland premium six-inch boot and transformed it through the lens of their own bold innovation and design ethos, giving us a view of what the icon of the future might look like. It’s our legacy, with their vision, and together we’re forging new frontiers of boot culture.”

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Edison Chen

Timberland taps Samuel Ross and Christopher Raeburn for ‘Future73’ collective

The first capsule launches this month with Edison Chen, who took his passion for eco-innovation to create the first-ever premium 6-inch boot that has been designed to be disassembled and the parts recycled at the end of its useful life. The Timberland x Clot ‘Future73’ Timberloop boot also features uppers made of Regenerative Leather, sourced from farms committed to regenerative agriculture practices and tiger print panels.

Chen has also designed an apparel capsule featuring traces of the same tiger print made from mono-fibre regenerative organic cotton with no hardware, minimal water waste, and natural dyes.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Edison Chen

Commenting on his ‘Future73’ capsule, Chen said: “Being able to work with Timberland has been an exciting adventure, especially on the Future73 capsule. Trying to figure out ways to create products more intellectually; from a perspective of loving the Earth; that not only speaks to the kids but also to the kids’ kids.

“I incorporated a tiger print on the shoe and apparel because the tiger is the king of the jungle. The cut of the clothes references historic Asian culture but is more modern. Together with Timberland, we worked around the idea of an urban safari ninja.”

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Samuel Ross

For Samuel Ross, the British designer has stripped back the original yellow book to reveal clean, minimal lines and a side-zip closure, laying bare Timberland’s half-century of boot-making know-how. The Timberland x A Cold Wall Future73 capsule will drop in May and August and will include an apparel collection inspired by Timberland’s archives to reappropriate never-before-seen pieces. Ross also designed a fresh new take on another Timberland icon, the Heritage 3-Eye Lug boat shoe.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Suzanne Oude Hengel

May will also see a drop from knit engineer, technician, and designer Suzanne Oude Hengel who has reimagined the iconic boot in a sculptural green knit, complete with a one-piece seamless upper, gusseted tongue, and contrasting blue lace closure system. This will be complemented with a knitted slip-on clog and a capsule of knitwear designs in vibrant Italian yarn.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Suzanne Oude Hengel

Humberto Leon, Suzanne Oude Hengel and Edison Chen collaborate with Timberland

For autumn, contemporary artist and painter Nina Chanel Abney will bring her vibrant and contemporary artistic sensibility to Future73 in September with a 6-inch boot featuring two reversible, interchangeable quarter panels to allow the wearer to customise to their style. One panel is made with wheat debossed Timberland art: the flip side is a ripstop fabric with Nina’s special camo print. The second quarter panel is canvas; the flip side is made of leather with stitched puffer detail.

Abney has also chosen to add her own flair to Timberland’s 1978 Hiker, a style from the vaults that she has long admired, as well as develop apparel including a cardigan sweater that incorporates the same outdoor artwork featured on her Future73 6-inch boot.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Nina Chanel Abney

This will be followed up with a collaboration with Humberto Leon, who co-founded Opening Ceremony with Carol Lim, in October. For ‘Future73,’ Leon was inspired to reinvent outdoor protection with heritage style precision and comfort, creating a 6-inch boot with an exaggerated rubber outsole and wrap for a bold and original look. The soles are made using recycled rubber for durability, paired with an anti-fatigue footbed for bounce and comfort. The style also has added functionality with a dual-branded hangtag that doubles as a pouch.

For his apparel capsule, Leon offers the Timberland consumer “the perfect trans-seasonal wardrobe for traveling the world” with convertible, zip-off styles for versatility and function for the outdoors.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Humberto Leon

Explaining his vision, Leon said: “Timberland represents function and protection, and it is these qualities I wanted to draw on for Future73. As I was designing the capsule I was always thinking: How can I create something that has the same long-lasting effect as Timberland products? Will what I’m making now stand the test of time for the next 50 years or more?

“With the 6-inch boot, I broke down all the ingredients and decided what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to push to the next level. The apparel component was about creating the perfect trans-seasonal wardrobe you can travel the world with.”

Timberland x Christopher Raeburn

The final drop in October will be with British designer Christopher Raeburn, who was the brand’s global creative director until March last year before taking on the new position of collaborator at large. For ‘Future73,’ Raeburn has imbued his ‘Remade’ ethos to the project, by dissecting and reassembling the premium 6-inch boot with innovative and unexpected materials such as authentic parachute fabric and original Tyvek digital snow camouflage.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Christopher Raeburn

The result is a futuristic silver-grey men’s slip-on boot that has been designed to be disassembled and the parts recycled at the end of its useful life through the Timberloop circularity platform. Raeburn has also extended his responsible design ethos for the apparel, with each piece made using regenerative organic cotton, sourced from farms committed to regenerative agriculture practices.

On his relationship with Timberland, Raeburn said: “Back in 2007, the year after I graduated from London’s Royal College of Art, Timberland released the Earthkeepers boot, one of the most progressive thinking pieces of footwear to date. From a production standpoint, it was eons ahead of other designs that were out there; Timberland was really considering material choices and the longevity of products. I was really impressed and inspired as a young designer to see a big brand work like this and in a way, it further validated the work I’ve been doing with Raeburn.

"To start working with Timberland a decade later was amazing, there are people at the headquarters that know more about sustainability than I ever will – all of a sudden, I was on a steep learning curve. It’s been really exciting to bring my own creative vision to the brand.”

Timberland plans year-long 50th-anniversary celebration for original yellow boot

Image: Timberland; premium 6-inch boot

In addition, as part of its year-long 50th-anniversary celebration, Timberland will also invite consumers to customise and personalise their Timberland boots like never before, in both digital and physical spaces. The first will be unveiled this spring, at the soon-to-open Timberland flagship store in New York City (Soho), offering everything from boot cleaning and repair services to design customisations.

While later in the year, Timberland will unveil a 30-minute documentary film chronicling the innovation, fashion, and cultural moments behind the original Timberland Boot, as well as two special 50th Anniversary Boot collections. It all culminates in October, with celebrations and film screenings in cities central to the Timberland story, including London, Shanghai, and New York.

Image: Timberland; 'Future73' Samuel Ross
Christopher Raeburn
Humberto Leon
Samuel Ross