Search #Teva on Instagram and, at the time of writing, you will find 16,967 posts which mostly show cool Japanese kids showing off their practical, watersport friendly summer sandals. I can’t read Japanese so I can’t report the exact nature of these comments but I’m guessing that it is mostly along the lines of “Wow, finally got my hands on these awesome Tevas”. As with so many trends, the Teva craze which is currently taking Japan by storm is set to hit the UK any week now. That may sound alarmist but they’ve whetted palettes with a recent Opening Ceremony collab and will be landing at Topshop any day now.
You will probably recognise Teva as the sandals which intrepid friends and relatives wear as their default summer shoe. They’re great for camping and adventuring but also a no-brainer for gardening at weekends. They are stereotypically practical and unselfconscious, their design borne of pure necessity. It was Mark Thatcher, a keen Californian river rafter who hit upon the idea in the early 80s. He had taken to using string to tie his flip-flops to his feet to keep them on when he was swept off his raft. He decided to develop a shoe which would do this job for him and what turned out to be millions more outdoor enthusiasts.
30 years later and it’s stylish early adopters who are going mad for Teva, though presumably not exactly for their hardy qualities. “I’m more used to hiking up a mountain than having breakfast on a balcony in Shoreditch” laughed Giles Cundell, European Sales Director, when I met him at the brand’s Ss14 launch at The Boundary last week. He sums up beautifully the mild bemusement of those brands which previously operated completely outside the fashion world, but which insiders are now clamouring for. “I’ve never rolled up my jeans for anything other than paddling but it looks like everyone does it round here,” he continued.
Teva’s move into the fashion marketplace has been pretty much accidental admit Cundell and his UK counterpart Steve Dyer. Although they’ve clearly been clever in picking up on this entirely untapped and big-spending market. “We’ve seen over the past few years that more young people have adopted outdoor brands like ours for their urban lives” Dyer explains carefully, citing Patagonia fleeces (whose HQ is just down the road from Teva’s in Santa Barbara) as a brand who’ve been on a similar journey of late. “It’s not been intentional really, but we’re just responding to the demand we had from Japanese boutiques a few years ago” Cundell pinpoints. They also mention that they’ve attracted many younger customers through the gap year phenomenon- a fact reflected in their campaign imagery which focuses on wholesome, beautiful young people on what could either be a camping trip or a festival jolly.
The initial Japanese interest has since swept West with Prada doing a jeweled version of the sandals for SS14 and Eva Chen posting Instagram pics of herself in an an all-black pair. In London, designer Thomas Tait wears his with white socks. Now, Teva are hosting parties at Coachella and Glastonbury and talking about hook-ups with all the right retailers (think Selfridges, ASOS) as well as concept stores like Hostem. Obviously they’ll always be in Black’s the camping shop too, vows Dyer. For SS15, expect printed, leather and colour-popping Pantone color Tevas.
So, why should you get a pair? Well, as with all the ugly chic/ normcore shoes which are dominating our footwear choice this summer, Tevas are super, super comfortable but what I love most about them is that they are more minimal and less obtrusive than a Birkenstock. A bit of a non-shoe shoe which will go with just about anything. As good as wearing barefoot. Ironically, that’s probably exactly why water-sports enthusiasts love them too.