Saturday, September 09, 2017

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

British Knights was founded by Jack Schwartz Shoes Inc. (NY) in 1983. 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. Unlike their rivals, the company took a bold policy decision by not including sportspeople in their endorsement stable.

Space Age technology resulted in the development of new synthetic polymers which when stable could provide unique properties like shock attenuation. 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 so called, human enhancement additions to their shoes to improve comfort but most proved to be advertising novelties with no particular worth.

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.’ For a time in the '80s the slang name for BK's was Bitch Kickers. The marketing ploy worked and BKs shoes sold well particularly with Crips gangs who attributed the acronym BK to Blood Killa. (their rival gang). Eventually the association with gang culture had an adverse effect on their sales when some authorities banned students from wearing BK shoes on campus at schools, colleges and universities.

Keen to expand, as well as disassociate from any 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.

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.

No comments: