Founded 25 years ago, T.U.K. Shoes creates unique footwear inspired by individuals with eclectic tastes. We [UO] went behind the scenes at their San Diego, CA headquarters to see how they make their designs a reality.
Originally from Northampton, England, T.U.K. founder Ian White moved to the sandy shores of San Diego, CA in 1990, and a year later, the brand was born. White, whose family had been manufacturing English footwear since the 1890s, brought with him the distinctly British sensibilities of family’s business and found tremendous inspiration in the blossoming So-Cal punk rock scene. The result: a one-of-a-kind brand of footwear that channels punk roots across continents.
The brand opened its first retail store in 1991, selling its own shoes in-house. Demand quickly took off, and soon T.U.K. was selling worldwide. T.U.K. creates everything from women’s high heels to sneakers, but their most popular design is, without a doubt, the creeper.
History of the Brothel Creeper: First developed during WWII, the thick creeper-sole was made from crepe rubber that helped soldiers in the North African deserts traverse hot, sandy terrain. As is often the case, fashion followed the functional developments of war time, and the thick-soled boots worn by returning soldiers caught on in England. In London, the decades following the war gave way to a kaleidoscopic cultural underground with subcultures sparking, growing, clashing, and fizzling out. One such, The Teddy Boys, laid the groundwork for the Mod culture of the ‘60s.
Inspired by the Edwardian dress of the Dandies, the Teddy Boy style grew alongside the introduction of American rock n’ roll music. Teds wore larger, draped jackets, and high-wasted trousers. Their wore their collars loose and often adorned their outfits with exocentric detailing like Bolo Ties and velvet trim. Greased hair pervaded. And if you were to look down, you’d be sure to find Teds wearing slickly polished oxfords, or the crepe-soled classic, creepers.
Of course through the ‘60s and ‘70s as the rise of the Rockers and the Mods took hold, interest in traditional Teddy Boy-centric garb ebbed and flowed, and it wasn’t until the rise of punk in the mid ‘70s that the creeper once again found footing, an uptick that continued well into the ‘80s, survived the ‘90s, and exploded with the advent of the internet.
Now more than ever, outsider styles and subcultures wield style influence around the globe, and with its foundations steeped in English style and a West Coast punk way of life, T.U.K. manages to perfectly embody the culture clash of the last decades.
Photo courtesy of T.U.K. Shoes / Jono White