|Founded||New York City, United States (1980)|
British Knights is a shoe company founded in 1980 by the Jack Schwartz Shoes Inc, based in New York City, United States. Currently British Knights is divided in BK Europe licensed in the whole world, except America, Canada, Chile and Peru. BK America is licensed in America, Canada, Chile and Peru.
The first footwear range was released in America in 1986 and in the United Kingdom in 1989. The footwear was distributed in the UK by Empire Sports and BK Sports Inc and available at stores such as Blanc Leisure Limited, Cobra Sports, Allsports, Dolcis, Jack Shah, M Bros, Grattans, Foothold, Geminder Bros and John David Sports. The footwear was licensed and distributed in Australia by Pacific Brands. During 1992, the company turned over more than $32m and was advertised prolifically on Channel 4, MTV - through sponsorship of the MTV Movie Awards - and Nickelodeon, primarily as a prize on Legends of the Hidden Temple and other shows.
British Knights footwear and apparel was popular in the U.S., Canada, UK, Europe and Australia during the early 1990s, particularly within the hip hop scene. The brand was similar in design to SPX and Troop footwear and posed a market threat to established rivals such as Reebok, Nike and Adidas.
The shoes were recognizable by their chunky sole design, large tongue and inclusion of multiple "BK" logos on the heel, toe guard and upper. The principal stylists used for BK were also employed by SPX and Troop. Several models including BK's "Director High" are almost identical to Troop models. The brand was featured prominently in hip hop and dance music videos by artists such as Public Enemy, Technotronic and Beats International.
Musician MC Hammer did commercial spots for the shoe during the height of his career. The British Knights shoe company signed him to an endorsement deal for an undisclosed amount of money.
Dymacel was an enhancement in BK shoe models of the early 1990s. The technology consisted of diamond shaped green silicon cushioning embedded within a sole window and was a feature intended to compete with Nike's "Nike Air", Puma's "Puma Disc" and Reebok's "Reebok Pump". Like most shoe enhancements of the period, the actual performance improvement as opposed to the aesthetic aspect was debatable. Dymacel was first released in Australian and Europe models. Shoes were accompanied with a lenticular tag intended to hang off the laces.
For many years, the company resisted endorsement by a professional athlete, a popular practice of many modern day apparel companies. Instead, they focused on being something of a hip hop lifestyle alternative. This policy ended, however, with the endorsement of their new "Dymacel Technology" by Derrick Coleman of the New Jersey Nets and Xavier McDaniel of the New York Knicks.
- 1988: "How ya like me now!"
- 1990: "Get off on the right foot - get off on BKs"
- 1991: "U Cant Touch This" (featuring MC Hammer)
- 1992: "Choose Change"
In the early 1990s the Crips street gang wore the shoes and took the "BK" logo to indicate "Blood Killer," in reference to the rival gang. The rumors are reported to have contributed to the decline in popularity of the brand at schools and universities moved to ban the wearing of the footwear in an attempt to curb gang-related violence.
In the late 1990s British Knights had begun re-advertising in the U.S., most notably in the Source Magazine, and had built a new website. However, due to unknown reasons, the shoes were not distributed to retail outlets and the "comeback" never eventuated.
During 1996, Jack Schwartz Shoes Inc licensed the BK British Knights trademark to a Dutch company which marketed British Knights as a discount skate shoe. The styles differed from the original American brand and were available for sale in department stores. During 2005, several of these models appeared in Australian and New Zealand discount stores - invariably leading to confusion among sneaker collectors seeking the original brand.
As of 2003, the U.S. company began producing new models in limited runs, although the new models are less chunky in their design and based on running shoe trends.
In 2008, British Knights made a comeback and re-released their 1989 models such as the Leader hi & lo, the Ultra, and the Kings SL in both high-tops and lows. These sneakers are currently being sold at their official website as well as others such as Dr.Jays.com and Karma Loop.