Troop was the ultimate '80s/'90s hip hop brand – crazy hightops, gold badges, huge branding – their sneakers certainly had a presence that defied good taste. In our eyes, the brand is immortal, but build quality was poor, meaning vintage Troops are pretty sparse these days. In May this year, we were contacted by Randy Scurlock who informed us that the old dinosaur was back in town! Holy calamity... Troop lives! Hurrah! Our initial excitement was tempered when we saw the roll-out models – they’re well made and look good, but the selection could have been a lot bolder and closer to the brand’s vibrant heritage. Where are the true Troops? We threw down some Q’s and let Randy do the talking.
Hey Randy... how are you involved in this business and when do we see Troop in full effect?
Innovative Custom Brands (ICB) bought the trademark from Hyosung a few years ago. I licensed the brand for footwear from ICB in October of 2007 and we have been working hard since that time to hit retail in October 2008 with our first collection. We plan to limit production and distribution so you will not see the full Troop force for some time.
You’ve been reading Sneaker Freaker haven't you?
I’ve been reading Sneaker Freaker since you started it, and I know you have been a brand supporter and I really enjoyed the last feature on Troop.
What made you think Troop could be revived?
Timing is everything. Retail has looked boring for a couple of seasons. Many of the smaller brands are doing very well at retail and I saw Troop as an opportunity to recreate the first true urban brand – Troop recognized the need for urban fashion and to utilize hip hop artists and the music industry as a marketing vehicle. Back in the day, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Ultramagnetic MCs, Stetsasonic, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flava Flav all supported the brand. More recently Ghost Face Killah, Cool Kids, Mickey Factz and the Teriyaki Boys have worn Troop.
What process do you need to go through to recreate a brand that has been dormant for so many years?
First I secured the brand, then I made a business plan. This was the important part because we had to stay true to the brand and its heritage, while at the same time twisting the styles to work better in today’s market. What I mean by that is that the quality of the original shoes wasn’t that great. This time around we are using all full-grain leathers and nubucks and paying much more attention to the small details. Next I assembled a team (some of which actually worked on Troop product back in the ‘80s). After that we had to search for the original samples, catalogues, articles written about Troop on websites, anything we could find to help us put the pieces of the puzzle together. Every time we found something new we got excited. This process actually took some time and finding original samples to work with actually played a role in helping us decide which styles to release first. Most everything is set up and running and now we are trying to create the buzz.
Did you put any thought into why the brand died last time?
I’ve heard many stories about why Troop died, everything from the KKK rumors to embezzlement rumors to just bad management. The only one I know isn’t true is the KKK rumor. It seems awful convenient that several times through the last 20-30 years, whenever a young, upstart, small sneaker brand gets hot, the rumors start flying. BritishKnights (B.K.) was rumored to be an acronym for Blood Killers and Reebok was accused of being a supporter of apartheid.
I haven’t actually heard that one before. Nelly is widely reported as being behind the brand... true or false?
It’s true... the owners of Apple bottoms and Vokal, Nelly, Yomi Martin and Ian Kelly are now re-launching Troop apparel. They have the license for the apparel, and are re-launching with outerwear for Holiday 08.
Troop shoes are rare even on eBay... did you find a source for vintage Troops so you could study the brand?
Yes, finding anything Troop wasn’t easy. We searched the internet daily, shopped at retailers that we heard had Troop shoes and searched blogs, forums and other specialty websites. We came up with catalogues, samples and enough to get started but we are still checking every day.
You might wanna keep that under your Kangol or you’ll light up the Bay. When will we see the Cobra, Defender and Destroyer?
Yes, we are working on some of them now. It has been difficult finding some of these, watch for the re-release in the future.
Sounds a bit vague... And the big gold badges?
The gold medallions were found on several old styles such as the Pro Performance, Destroyer and the TRA. We have plans to reintroduce some of these but we want to do a collaboration and have a famous jeweler design a new medallion. This is a future project we are working on.
Ok. If you don’t mind me saying, from what I’ve seen, it seems that you are sitting on the fence. Why recreate a dormant brand if you don’t release the proper models? Couldn’t you just start a whole new brand?
Our plan is to release the old stuff. We made the decision to limit the amount of styles offered at any one time. I’m calling these styles fresh and new, but they are actually old and classic. Our first three styles are all copies of the original shoes. The IceLamb is a direct copy except we added the airbag to the inside shank area. We have also used all full-grain top quality leather on the upper, something the original shoes didn’t have. The Pro Edition is also a copy of an original style. The ones with the elephant print are the same colors, materials etc as the original.
We can live with the airbag, but there’s another model that is clearly a copy of the Nike Windrunner. Why this shoe?
The style you’re referring to is called Born in the Bronx. The influence from this shoe actually came from an original Troop called the Fleet Runner. We tweaked it to make it more relevant to today. If you look at the outsole design you will see a detailed street map of the Bronx. The perforation pattern on the upper is also an abstract street map of the Bronx and the Troop arrow is pointing to the exact location where Roses Dry Goods was located. Thus the name.
OK, it may be an original Troop but considering the amazing shoes you had to choose from, why would you start with a copy of a competitor?
Well all I can really say is that it is a genuine Troop, and we needed a runner, and I’m real happy with how it came out.
Fair enough, I’ll let everyone decide for themselves. How do you make sure history doesn’t repeat itself?
From the beginning I have had a plan and know exactly what I want to do with the brand. Strategic planning, consistent fresh product roll-out, limiting the amount of styles and pairs offered, staying out of the brand-killing retailers and most of all, being true to the name and respecting the heritage.
This article appeared in Issue 13 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here