Over the years, Palladium boots have been worn by the French foreign legion, famous volcanologists, film makers, and even 90’s grunge rock punks.
Palladium was originally a French company established in 1920 in Lyon, France. The company was established post WWI and manufactured aircraft tires for the biplanes popular at the time with explorers and the budding aviation industry. Palladium tires were made by layering canvas bands underneath vulcanized rubber. The combination of materials created tires that were durable and extremely popular across Europe.
World War II brought Palladium incredible demand for their high quality tires for fighting planes. Once the war came to an end, the demand for tires also decreased. Palladium found a new use for their canvas and rubber by manufacturing durable and comfortable boots for explorers and soldiers.
Why was Palladium chosen to make boots? Inspired by the American “Jungle Boots”, they were one of the first producers of canvas and rubber military boots in France.
Palladium began military boot production in Pont De Cheruy, France in 1947 after obtaining their first government contract with the French Foreign Legion. This was also the same year they created the design for the original Pampa boot. The French Foreign legion contracted with Palladium because their materials were perfect for desert conditions in North Africa. Canvas was a great material for mud, grass, and wetlands because it was breathable and dried quickly. Palladium outfitted the Legion during post WWII reconstruction, the Indochina war, and even the Algerian war. In 1949, Palladium issued the Pallabrousse “For the Bush” boot for military use in rugged terrain.
“Legio patria nostra”—”The legion is our country”
In the 1940’s, the French Foreign Legion was made up of an extremely diverse group of volunteer soldiers from every nation. The legion served in many key battles in North Africa, Italy, and Spain during World War II. After the war, much of the legion was still stationed in Tunisia, Algeria, and other parts of North Africa. Considering the diversity of the French Foreign Legion, Palladium had the unique challenge to create a boot design that could easily be cut to a variety of foot sizes and to be comfortable enough for soldiers to march in all day.
Although the original design has been updated since that first military contract, wearers still find the canvas shoes to be comfortable after hiking many miles and durable in hot conditions. You don’t have to live in North Africa to find this shoe useful. Anyone who enjoys wearing canvas material can attest to the comfort and breathability of a canvas shoe on a hot day. The unique quality of Pampa boots take the comfort of a Converse-type shoe and gives them the support and durability of a well-made boot.
“To capture the beauty of an eruption you would need to be a Van Gogh” -Haroun Tazieff
Haroun Tazieff, a daring volcanic cinematographer, geologist, and French minister of natural disasters was an avid wearer of Palladium’s Pallabrousse boots during his volcanic explorations. He was the type of man that ran towards live lava flows while wearing canvas and rubber Palladium boots in the 1950’s and 1960’s to collect scientific samples and capture film. Tazieff favored Palladium boots for their light weight durability while exploring some of the most dangerous places in the world. This extreme explorer wore his Palladium’s while climbing many of the world’s most dangerous active volcanos. Now that’s what I call rugged!
Palladium sneakers donned the feet of student protestors during the infamous May 1968 protests and the largest general strike ever attempted in France. Fed up with the old regime, students occupied the universities and streets protesting capitalism, consumerism, imperialism, traditional institution, values and order. The students rushed to the street in their agile palladium boots and sneakers, outfoxing the police and bringing forth the winds of change with their wildcat strikes.
The protest shook up the establishment, spurring an artistic movement, style, and punk culture. To this day, the protests of May 1968 are considered a major cultural and social turning point, thanks to the students who were brave enough to don their palladiums and stand up for what they believe in.
Palladium entered the sporting goods market with the Pallabasket basketball shoes and Phoenix tennis sneakers. French basketball star Alain Gilles sponsored the brand on the basketball courts while making history as one of the greatest players in French history. Meanwhile, Patrice Dominguez, known as “Monsieur 100,000 volts” wore Palladium on the tennis courts while representing France in the David Cup between 1971-1979.
The Palladium Pampa boots made a come back on the streets of New York, this time as an all-black military boot in canvas and leather. The black shoes became a staple of the art scene and the avante-garde surround the likes of Andy Warhol. The shoes became popular in the gay and straight community alike, the simple all black classic look bringing comfort and style to the streets of America’s artistic and urban centers.
Palladium’s association with urban counter-cultural movements continued into the grunge rock and rave scenes of the 1990’s. They rose to popularity among youth across Europe and America to become a 90’s icon. Rockers loved the military look and the durability of the boots in city streets. Palladium came out with leather styles that competed against other legacy brands like Doc Martin.
Palladium didn’t hesitate to create one of the very first lines of ecological shoes in 1991. The innovative models made from nature-friendly materials echoed the values of the brand.
In 2009, K-Swiss acquired Palladium and rebooted the brand for modern-day urban explorers, while keeping the classic Pallabrousse and Pampa boot styles for those who love hiking in the wild. In the last 10 years Palladium has partnered with other cutting edge brands such as Stussy and the Billionaire Boys Club to bring more modern city styles to a heritage boot.
In recent years, the brand has expanded across the globe and sent their urban explorers with it. Palladium sent Pharell Williams to Japan in 2010 for the short documentary “Tokyo Rising” after nuclear disaster shook the nation. Later in 2015, Palladium sent urban explorers to 8 cities around the world, illustrating their unique urban subcultures. The brand has continued to align themselves with urban millenials, young rappers, and rooftop daredevils in their off-beat Youtube marketing campaigns. What is next for the brand? Continuing to push the boundaries with their “city-slicker” lines, while keeping the wilderness fans engaged with the re-invented heritage designs of L’Originale Pampa boot and Pallabrousse from 70 years ago.