Article by Jordan Snowden
A screaming trumpet. The tick tick tick of a hi-hat. Bust Down’s 1991 song “Putcha Bally’s on” opens like any quintessential Southern hip hop song of that era. But what makes the song different is that it was an ode to the massive popularity of Bally Animals shoes, a designer collection that became even bigger after the track’s release. And now Bally and their Animal collection are having a huge resurgence in Louisiana as the brand has rereleased the collection.
Vibrant and available in low or high top sneakers, the Animal collection features the image of two men on the side. One is playing an alphorn, or an alpine horn - an instrument used by mountain dwellers in the Swiss Alps, Austrian Alps, Bavarian Alps in Germany, French Alps, and elsewhere - while the other waves the Swiss flag. They are both standing on a semi-circle of traditional Swiss flowers. At the bottom, the rubber sole features the repeated imprints of cows and goats. So how is it that these folk-inspired shoes became so popular in the culturally rich Big Easy?
Bally created the Animal collection in 1991 as a way to mark the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Federation. It was different from any other shoe they had made before, and the footwear was distributed across the United States. Before the Animal Collection, Bally’s were known for their sturdy dress shoes, which were deemed a ‘dad’s shoe.’ When Animals debuted, it changed the game. The sneaker was one that could be dressed up or worn casually. A fashion sneaker and a streetwear sneaker combined. They were a statement.
“We looked up to them old heads and the OGs from around my way, and to be able to wear the same thing they was wearing? Sh*t, n*gga couldn’t tell me sh*t,” said Hollygrove Stunna, a business owner in the 17th ward, in a documentary by Benjamin Simmons about the Animals collection.
At the time, Bally’s were big in the U.S. fashion capital, New York City. But when the Animal collection hit New Orleans, the city seized the shoewear as its own. So much so that at one point, the Bally store in NOLA had to start requesting this shoe from all the other Bally stores in the United States because they couldn’t keep their own supply in stock.
Even before the popularity of “Putcha Bally’s on,” the sneakers gained popularity in New Orleans due to their bold colors and use of country images. They were a status symbol, and in New Orleans, your shoes said everything about you.
Throughout Black American history, clothing historically would say a lot about a person. In times of slavery, clothing could tell the difference between someone who was enslaved and free. At different points in history, it was the only thing Black humans actually owned as a people.
One could even go as far as to say the country imagery on Bally Animals reminded the Black community of the small, but monumental time in New Orleans history when they were able to call the shots, setting trends across America through the music, art, and fashion that came out of the city. But either way, Ballys spoke to affluence, and everyone wanted to seem a higher class than they were.
Time passed, and with it came white flight, and the devaluation of Black culture. Fashion, especially high end brands, became a way for Black communities to feel valuable. And when Bally Animals collection landed in "The Big Easy", it stuck. The shoe became a commodity, showing that no one could dictate how those in New Orleans dressed. They created their own style and trends.
Now, 30 years later, Bally Animals are back. And with it, a whole new generation can enjoy the luxury brand show with a rich history in NOLA.Get a pair of your own Bally Animals now by checking out our Animal Collection!