Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where have all the BKs gone?: potted history of British Knights (BKs)

British Knights was founded by Jack Schwartz Shoes Inc. (NY). They had instant appeal with a large tongue, stocky sole design, and BK logos on the toe guard, upper part, and heel. Hip hoppers took to wearing them because of their streetwise chic and soon BKs were being promoted in music videos by Public Enemy (US), Beats International (UK), and Technotronic (European). Endorsement for British Knights followed and, the 1991, BK’s advert featured “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. The company took the unsual policy decision not to include sportspeople in their endorsement stable. Some criticism was leveled at the early models which resembled Troop Pro and SPX shoes. In the 90s BKs added a silicone visco-elastic material shaped as a green diamond and this was embedded into the shoe’s sole window. This was called the Dymacel and acted principally as a shock reducing agent. Many manufacturers used human enhancement additions to their shoes to improve comfort but also as advertising novelty. Space Age technology had resulted in the development of new synthetic polymers which when stable could provide unique properties like shock attenuation. BKs now came with a lense shaped tag to hang the shoes through its laces. This was another novelty to appeal to the street wise customers and in particular street gangs like the Crips and Bloods who had evolved an elaborate non verbal form of communication which included ‘lace talk.’ The marketing ploy worked and BKs shoes sold well particularly with Crips gangs who attributed the acronym BK to Blood Killer. (their rival gang). Eventually the association with gang culture had an adverse effect on their sales when authorities banned students from wearing BK shoes on campus at schools, colleges and universities. Keen to expand anf disassociate from criminal elements the company decided to include high profile sportspeople to endorse their new BKs with Dymacel technology. Derrick Coleman (New Jersey Nets) and Xavier McDaniel (New York Knicks) became BK men. But despite their new clean cut image sales dropped and Jack Schwartz Shoes Inc finally leased the BK trademark in 1996 to a German company who manufactured of inexpensive skate shoes. The company released new BKs as running shoes in limited editions but by 2008 the company decided to re-launch the original 1989 range of Leader Hi and Lo, Kings SL in Hi and Lo, and Ultra. The move was successful and now hip hopper enthusiasts are once again clamoring for more BKs.

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