Long before the squeaking metrosexuals and stuffed shirts of modern sport got hailed as icons, there was a man who really did look the part.
In fact, he looked like he was up for the part of Shaft, but in the 1970s in New York that was the height of cool. Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier has not only played guard for the New York Knicks basketball team, he was a style hero to kids throughout America. With his big fur-lined leather coats, Fedora hats, extravagant suits, wild facial hair and ‘getthefugouttahere’ stare, he looked damn fine on and off the pine.
Puma saw his obvious class and signed him up to wear their products, which was groundbreaking at the time. When it premiered in ’73, the Puma Clyde — essentially an updated version of the existing Puma Suede — was the first endorsed basketball shoe. They weren’t as technical, practical or effective as modern basketball boots but, like the man himself, they were far cooler than modern offerings.
Upon their release in the UK in the late ‘80s the name was changed to Puma States, as by then few people had any idea who he was outside of America, and along with the Adidas Gazelles they became the staple cheap footwear for indie kids who rejected the obviousness of AirMax or Jordans After a brief spurt or popularity (thanks largely to one-tune-fits-all-albums musicians The Beastie Boys and Jamiroquai wearing them) they vanished from stores worldwide.
When they were re-released in 2005, Puma didn’t have an original blueprint, so designers meticulously dissected an employee’s deadstock pair to recreate the exact specifications. Walt was there to help launch them and do in-store signings as a limited edition went on sale.
Now, they’re back on general release and in a world where genuine cool is a rare commodity, the Puma Clydes have a heritage and class that few can match.
From Men’s Fitness, February 2009