Slick Rick on His Influence on Fashion and Culture + Why Clarks Wallabees Will Forever Be His Go-To Shoe

Ira T. Martin

Draped in ornate jewelry, rocking an oversized suit jacket, customized Clarks Wallabees and his signature eye patch, on any given day, Slick Rick is hard to miss.

The London-born rap icon, known for his hip-hop classics such as “Mona Lisa” and “Children’s Story,” is easily one of rap’s most recognizable figures.

But don’t confuse his bold fashion choices with a penchant for trying anything once, Rick is steadfast about sticking to what works for him (see: Classic) — particularly when it comes to his footwear.

For nearly three decades the rapper’s shoe of choice has been the Clarks Wallabee — always topped off with his own customized touches, including color enhancements, and most notably, his unusually thick crepe sole. Rick’s loyalty to the brand says a lot as his fame has withstood hundreds of major sneaker collaborations and buzzed-about launches from the likes of Nike, Jordan and Adidas through the years.

“Occasionally, you run across a nice shoe, but for me, [my favorite] is always going to be the Clarks Wallabee,” he said. “It carries a certain swag and looks good on your foot — that goes back to the ‘80s. Until I see another shoe that carries the same amount of finesse on a minority’s foot, I got to roll with what works.”

It’s not to say he’s anti-mainstream or hypebeast. When it comes to fashion, Rick certainly falls in the category of trendsetter over trend chaser — but that has little to do with being different for the sake of it.

“If you see something decreasing your style, then don’t wear it just [because it’s a trend],” he said. “Don’t follow trends that don’t work for you.”

When it comes to putting his look together, Rick describes his approach as craftsmanship: He designs all of his stage-wear from head to toe, including hats, suits, jewelry and his eye patches.

The process often includes customizing garments from niche brands and, in turn, introducing those labels to new audiences.

“I made wearing brands like Bally and Kangol cool and gave them an unprecedented spike in revenue sales,” he said. “I also helped elevate Clarks the same way. Fans are quick to recognize my unique signature flavor.”

Now, amid heightened national unrest over police brutality and racial injustice in the United States, Rick suggests it could be a pivotal time for brands that have been influenced by Black creatives to do some introspection about the need to pay it forward.

“All sorts of companies [have been] promoting solidarity with Black Americans,” he said of the recent uptick in corporate activism. “But are fashion brands standing with influencers and artists like myself when they unilaterally appropriate trends we as Blacks create and cultivate?”

Admittedly, it’s going to be a long haul for marked and permanent change across the full range of injustices and inequalities Black people in America face on a daily basis.

In true Slick Rick fashion, however, the musician sees style and confidence as playing critical roles in the execution of the fight for change.

“Once you got your look together, then you got your mind right — and we can get to work,” he said.

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