Not many footwear models instantaneously go down in history as an all-timer, but the Reebok Classic Leather certainly did. Now over 35 years old, the aptly-named icon became an instant classic immediately upon its introduction in 1983. Building on the success of the timely Freestyle – a trainer that perfectly capitalised on the aerobics craze of the 80s with a terry-lined, leather-constructed silhouette designed exclusively for women – the Classic Leather saw Reebok bring the winning Freestyle formula to the ultra-competitive running sphere. Thanks to its clean lines and luxurious leather construction (which flew in the face of competitors’ moves to materials like mesh and suede), the design instantly ascended to the top of the crowded running crop.
The durable leather build also made the kicks uniquely suited to the streets, and the Classic Leather has been a crossover street style icon ever since. Cheeky print ads came with the tagline ‘You’ve Arrived’ in 1983, and the beloved runners also managed to become a go-to for hip hop heads on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s no wonder that Reebok continued to build on the timeless appeal of the Freestyle and Classic Leather in the years that followed, offering the same aesthetic in silhouettes like the Ex-O-Fit, Workout, Phase 1, Newport Classic (aka the NPC), and Revenge Plus (aka the Club C).
Thanks to the immediate success of that very first drop, the Classic Leather has remained virtually unchanged since – save for collaboratively-led material and colour-blocking overhauls – but even Reebok know that ‘icons need to change it up sometimes’. That’s why the sportswear heavyweights introduced the ‘Alter The Icons’ collection back in 2018. That 80s-inspired drop put a subtle conceptual spin on the tried and true design, turning some panels inside-out – a la The Garbstore celebrated Reebok colabs – while adding semi-translucent overlays alongside prototype-style branding reworks to the EVA midsole.
This year, Reebok have taken the ‘Alter The Icons’ endeavour to new levels, thanks to their latest ATI spins on the Classic Leather. This time around, the drop reimagines the silhouette as the clear answer to a hypothetical question: What might the Classic Leather look like if it had debuted in 1993 instead of 1983? The answer: a whole lot different.
The Classic Leather ATI 90s will bring a distinctly technical vibe to the iconic runner, while still managing to keep its enduring lines intact. While the overall shape and EVA sole unit remain the same, the upper has been drastically overhauled with nods to the technical runners from the last decade of the 20th century. Naturally, the leather base has been swapped out in favour of lightweight and breathable mesh, while a variety of suede and leather overlays provide the requisite support. The eyestay has even been reshaped and gets a dynamic assist from three pairs of nylon loops, while Reebok’s iconic vector branding has been recreated via a series of leather panels and contrasting stitches. Add bold pink, teal, blue, green, purple, yellow and orange hues, and you have the perfect alternative to 90s Reebok classics like the Instapump Fury.
Four different colourways of the altered 90s-inspired Classic Leather can be found now at Reebok.