Sneaker culture wasn’t a thing in 1968. Shoes were a utility, not a statement piece, and while companies that were around at the time were certainly spreading their wings creatively in the footwear department to differentiate themselves from the competition, sureley none of them could have imagined where the industry would go in a mere 50 years.
But even while the sneaker industry continues to evolve at breakneck speeds, it’s still the classics that get the most burn. Old shoes given new life dominate the landscape and dwarf any new creations that simply fight for the scraps. And rightly so, the OGs are just better. Even when they’re not, they are. Like classic cars, movies, and music, nostalgia outweighs innovation almost every time.
Never has that sentiment been more true than with the Puma Clyde, a nearly 50-year-old sneaker that couldn’t be more simple if it tried. But it’s the coolest classic shoe there is, or at least the most versatile. We forever tie the cool material things we used to have to the memories of the best times in our lives, like landmarks in our personal journeys. And for so many people from all walks of life, old school Pumas represent everything they used to love — whether that’s basketball, hip-hop, breakdancing, skateboarding, hardcore music, or any of the other cultural pockets the Clyde infiltrated.
In 1973, the Puma Clyde debuted and became an instant hit, five years after the Puma Suede, which the Clyde is based on. The Clyde was the signature shoe of New York Knicks superstar Walt Frazier, who was nicknamed “Clyde” for the wide-brimmed hats he would wear, reminiscent of Warren Beatty’s style in the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde. Frazier was coming off an All-Star season and a championship with the Knicks but was displeased with the team’s official shoe. Puma came knocking and showed Walt an alternative, the Suede. While he appreciated the offer, Frazier simply couldn’t play basketball in the Suede or the Basket, another similar silhouette Puma offered at the time. They were too clunky. Puma understood and still wanted Frazier to be the new face of Puma, so they gave him the opportunity to tweak the design and make it his own, making Clyde the only player in the NBA with a signature shoe. Before Jordan had Jordans and LeBron had LeBrons and Kyrie had Kyries, Clyde had Clydes.
The differences between the Suede and the Clyde are very subtle but make a big difference. Walt Frazier wanted a slightly different weight and shape, so the Clyde is a little bit more narrow and has a slightly more pointed toe. Also, the sole was improved on the Clyde and made more durable for use on the court. You see a small stitch all the way around the top of the Suedes sole that isn’t necessary on the Clyde. In addition, the Suedes feature Puma’s leaping cat logo on the top of the heel, whereas Frazier wanted to keep the backs clean.
Puma’s basketball roots came full circle in 2017 when they resurrected their hoops endeavors, signing their first player in 20 years with Kings rookie center Marvin Bagley III, hiring Jay-Z aka 03 Clyde to run the new division, and debuting a brand new court-ready version of the Clyde. And the ball kept rolling, as stars like Demarcus Cousins and Kyle Kuzma, among others, also joined the Puma squad. Aside from taking the reigns as Puma’s President of Basketball Operations, Jay-Z also unveiled his own signature version of the Clyde to coincide with the release of his album, 4:44.
But Jay-Z’s full-fledged endorsement of Puma is far from the first time hip-hop has embraced the sneaker brand. When the Suedes and Clydes came out in the late-60’s and early-70’s, respectively, they were popular everywhere, but even more so in New York, where Walt Frazier’s endorsement made the silhouette a staple in the city. The sneaker’s explosion in popularity coincided with the hip-hop and breakdancing boom in the Big Apple, meaning the sneaker quickly became a go-to for dancers, DJs, and emcees. And it has stayed that way for half a century.
Artists like Rihanna, Big Sean, The Weeknd, Gunna, Meek Mill and the late Nipsey Hussle have all carried on Puma’s storied relationship with hip-hop, designing their own modern takes on the certified classic. While other brands have struggled at times over the decades to stay culturally relevant, Puma perennially has their finger on the pulse.
In the 90’s, the stiff-soled, soft-topped OG Puma silhouettes found another niche culture that quickly fell in love with their timeless style and solid build: the skate scene. Before skateboarding hit its growth spurt and demanded its own shoe category and brands, early skaters had to make do with what was already on the market. For many, this meant they perfected their craft in Pumas. Like track and basketball and breakdancing before it, Puma embraced these ragtag outcasts and eventually even started an entire skate division within their company.
As Puma Suedes and Clydes permeated early skate culture, the classic sneakers naturally became a fixture everywhere else skaters enjoyed hanging out, meaning the lucious low-tops also gained massive popularity in the punk and hardcore scenes, where flashy was considered faux-pas.
The Puma Clyde became a frequently used sneaker by BMX riders, grafitti artists, parkour… players? Parkourers? Not actually sure what they call themselves but the Clyde keeps them from falling off buildings and whatnot so you know it’s a great shoe.
It’s rare to find a sneaker that appeals to so many diverse sects of the population but the Puma Clyde has remained true and consistent to its roots and people can just flat out depend on it. Sure, they may have more rare or expensive kicks in their collection but at the end of the day, the Clyde gets the job done and looks amazing doing it. There are no bells and whistles, no futuristic technological advancements, and no gimmicks, just pure style and quality.
From the court to the cardboard, from the stage to the skatepark, the Clyde has carved out an iconic resume that will live on in the sneaker history books forever. And who knows what future generations will use it for, it can do anything it wants.
The Hundreds X Puma “Decades” Clydes honor the legacy of the Puma Clydes through all of the eras where fans fell in love with it. Each side of each sneaker represents a different legendary stage of the Clydes’ story. A little leather, a little suede, a lot of love. Get your hands on the “Decades” Monday, December 9th on The Hundreds App and Online Shop.