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Who The F*ck Are We And How Did We Get Here? - A Heartfelt History of T.U.K. Shoes


Owner / Founder / CEO - T.U.K. Inc.


Soooooooo, what do you want to hear, the marketing BS or the truth? I have been a lucky boy from the beginning. I was born and grew up in a small village near Northampton, England, into a family who had been shoemakers, the traditional local industry, for 4 generations. Northampton is a rural town in the heart of the country, a long way from the cities that spawned the anger of punk rock. Working in the family factory for 6 years straight out of college, I learned the sad world of footwear while getting to know some of the amazing people who traveled from around the world to work with us. I was a rugby playing jock living in another world. And then, it all changed………age old story about a young man’s propensity to think with his balls rather than his brain…..met a girl and followed her to San Diego, California and headed in a direction that would change my life, in every way for the better. It was April 2nd 1990.

Having spent a year enjoying the California sun and failing to get a work permit, I decided that the only thing I could do if nobody would give me a job was to start a company myself. Using an immigrant business visa, I opened a shoe shop in the vibrant San Diego neighborhood of Hillcrest, and the fun began. I worked alone for 6 months, opening and closing, 7 days a week. I cannot explain how lucky I was, knowing that so many small businesses quickly fail. I was supported by both the local community and various greater San Diego area rock and alternative music scenes. More luck followed when I hired my first full time employee, Lisa Sanger. It was Lisa who taught me about American music and pulled me into a culture that boasted great people at every turn. She went on to hire others who would play a key part in T.U.K. for many years, such as the sadly departed San Diego rocker Steve Rodriguez, a punk kid who had just been fired by a fledgling ( insert punk / goth mall chain here), Eric Caddick, and together we met Patrick LaHaye who provided the sales engine as we grew from a San Diego retailer into a nationwide brand. Others soon followed. Carly Clayton came for 2 weeks in 1996 to help me out with some paperwork and is still here over 20 years later. In the mid-2000’s, John Clayton, Cara Shreiner, and Mark Smith joined the team to help the growing company and they are all still at their desks today, pushing us forward. There have been too many to mention them all, but to them all wherever you are, I owe a debt of gratitude and a sincere “thank you” not just for what you have done and do, but the way you have done it and the fun we have had along the way.

I started the store with the idea of designing and building my shoes at the factories in England that I had left behind. Within 12 months, the store’s reputation for unique alternative styles grew further afield, and we were approached by several retailers who wanted to also sell the shoes in their stores. This steadily grew until we had a network of awesome independent stores in every major city in America. We moved to a dedicated distribution office and warehouse in ’96, and after steady growth and a second move ended up at our current home on the northeast edge of San Diego, now with our own retail website, a multitude of US wholesale accounts, and a group of distributors worldwide.

So much has happened and so much has changed over the years that I could not even start to tell you about how lucky I have been. More than anything, it is the people who surround me that have brought more to my life than anything. Whether employees, consumers, or retailers, I have met more great people than I can even start to mention. As an immigrant, I have been welcomed in with open arms and supported to the hilt by one and all. I have become an American and my company is 100% an American brand. I hear many of you complain about life in America, but take it from me, this is a great country filled with great people bursting with creativity and the freedom to express themselves. T.U.K. would not exist today without everyone who has touched it and supported it over the past 26 years.

Many of you make believe that we are a large corporation. We are far from it (only 16 employees in the sole US office). I have maintained this family-owned company without the help of any outside investors or corporate governance.  As we have grown, I have tried very hard to maintain the spirit that has fed us from the start. We treat others as we would like to be treated. We provided healthcare for our people for 20 years before it became the law. Fairness and respect are no slogans, they are a philosophy that runs through everything that we do. We started as an extension of my own family, and the T.U.K. family grew we have worked together to maintain that feeling.

My apologies if I have rattled on. T.U.K. has been my baby for so long now, I treasure it and everyone connected with it, but mostly everyone who has touched it. You all adopted me, and I hope you have had as much fun and satisfaction as I have had. As we move forward into the next 25 years, I hope that we can continue to create fun things for great people, and can continue to enrich their lives as much as they have mine.


Ian White, a old cobbler at heart with a lot to be thankful for.

 ian white





Ian W. - Owner / Founder / CEO

Cara S. - Managing Director

Carly C. - Admin Director

Dan W. - Sales / Production

John C. - Logistics

Alma G. - Admin Assistant

Jessy P. - Web Customer Service

Meghan M. - Web Marketing Merchandiser

Mark S. - Marketing Manager

Liz J. - E-commerce Specialist

Carlos P. - Web Developer

James H. - License Division Representative

Arnold O. - Warehouse Manager

Alfredo B. - Warehouse Team

Rodolfo R. - Warehouse Team

Thin B. - Warehouse Team



POWAY, CA 92064




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