Footwear
Feb 08, 2024
by Karl Smith
Reebok’s Club C 85 and Beatnik Receive the Western Hydrodynamic Research Treatment
by Karl Smith
Feb 08, 2024

Based in Southern California and with its roots firmly in the culture, Western Hydrodynamic Research has built its reputation on rethinking what progressive design looks like. Its utilitarian approach has frequently involved the appropriation of materials that might otherwise have been discarded and sentenced to rot (or not) in landfil, resulting in a wave of innovative releases that includes bags made from upcycled boat sails and a penchant for paracord which has become something of a design hallmark.

Previously, the brand has collaborated with like-minded peers such as Bali’s Space Available and comfort-focused footwear specialists Lusso Cloud, but more recently has found itself combining forces with big-name labels like Crocs to bring its waste-not-want-not ethos to a wider audience. Now, though, Pat Towersey’s outfit has taken those efforts up another gear, working with Reebok on a rework of the Club C 85 and the Beatnik slide – not so much reimagined, but reconstitued with WHR’s trademark trinity of form, function and Earth-friendlier materials.

With WHR’s strong California ties and its focus on what the brand refers to as “beach utility products,” it’s not too much of a stretch to see how a shoe like Beatnik might slide into its repertoire – these are shoes practically designed to be ocean adjacent. The Club C 85, though, is a somewhat different proposition with a different weight of cultural capital.

“The Club C 85 is so iconic,” says Towersey, asked about why he wanted to work on this silhouette in particular and how, as a brand with its own distinct identity, WHR might approach that. “It’s a very popular shoe for a huge array or people. Shoes like that become a utility – originally for tennis, but adopted by the masses for everyday use – and every user has a unique connection and their own story. So, the opportunity to put our own twist was fun and it felt like a way to enhance that connection.”

In terms of WHR putting its own stamp on something with such a deep-seated place in both sports and sneaker culture, Towersey points to a process that fans of the brand will likely be familiar with as part of its more mindful USP: “Materials,” he says, rather than messing with the shoe’s instantly-recognizable iconography, “were the main thing that brought it to life,” explaining that a unique combination of recycled and virgin materials are what came to define the collaboration.

 

According to the press release, the collection features “a variety of recycled fabrics and suede to emulate the durability and connection to the environment that WHR pieces have become known for,” further noting that, “To bring the shoes to life, WHR mined Reebok’s library of low impact materials to find pieces that could execute that vision.” All of which, of course, does mean that – for all its positive aspects – this collaboration isn’t a vegan-friendly one and thus won’t be everyone. Sometimes, though, you have to pick your battles and getting Earth-friendlier materials onto a silhouette with the clout and visibility of the Reebok Club C 85 is a win in and of itself.

“Recycled materials are great and becoming much more widely available,” Towersey offers, “I think we’ve created enough material waste to sustain a circular design system beyond our lifetime. It seems inevitable that people will leverage the mountains of waste resource.”

Of what might be considered the collaboration’s imperfect credentials, Towersey is typically thoughtful and considered. “We made the shoe with the majority being recycled material, but it didn’t look right. The reality was there were still materials used that are damaging and unnecessary, so it didn’t feel right to have a boilerplate “all recycled” thing. My favorite shoes have suede & it made the design pop. It gave it a juxtaposition in material which seems interesting & contemporary.”

And in response to that, of course, we repeat our mantra: progress over perfection – a nod to the constant pursuit of better, but an acknowledgement that the journey is more complicated and more nuanced than we might like it to be.

The Reebok x Western Hydrodynamic Research Beatnik – priced at $120 USD – will be available exclusively via the Western Hydrodynamic Research website beginning February 9th, 2024, while the collaborative Club C 85 – priced at $130 USD – is set to receive an initial release at whr.institute on the same date, before a global release at select retailers on February 16th, 2024.