New to Number Six for SS18, Finnish footwear gods Karhu are showing us how to do super functional, well-designed footwear right. The buying team here at Number Six like to make sure they’re bringing in heritage and authenticity where they can. It doesn’t get much better than Karhu for some real history you can get your teeth into.
“Run on Olympic tracks all over the world”
Starting back in 1916, a sports equipment company called Ab Sport Artiklar Oy founded a small woodworking shop in downtown Helsinki. They based their craft around developing high-quality javelins, skis, and discuses out of repurposed, locally sourced birch trees. Keeping with their sporting foundation, they quickly branched out into footwear development. By the early 1920s, the Karhu name was born, and the shoes were being worn by Finnish athletes across the globe. The ‘Flying Finns’ were making a name for themselves, and the shoes were being run on Olympic tracks all over the world.
“A long way from their small-town beginnings”
Karhu supported Finland during WWII, their factories turned to manufacturing anything they could harness. Including camo uniforms, platoon tents, army boots, rucksacks and skis for their army. The brand went on to sell their signature three stripes to a ‘now well-known athletic shoe company’ who still use it nowadays. It’s a long way off from their small-town beginnings, but it’s something they’ve never forgotten along the way. The full story tells us that they sold the three stripes trademark for ‘two good bottles of whiskey and about 1,600 Euros’. We’ve got a lot of time for this way of thinking.
“Karhu was taking off: people were taking notice”
During the 60s, Karhu trademarked their signature ‘M’ logo, which stands for ‘Mestari’ and means ‘champion’ in Finnish. This process took the brand to a new level of demand in the athletics industry. The Karhu brand was starting to take off, and people were taking notice. For the next few decades, they pioneered more footwear innovations than anyone else in the game. From the first fully air-cushioned midsole to Fulcrum technology they developed with the help of the University of Jyväskylä.
“It’s about moving forward”
In 1986, Karhu decided to scrap their iconic Air Cushion after realising it’s about moving forward rather than up and down. This started a revolution ahead of their time, while their competitors were still working with padding and gel, Karhu were focused on fine-tuning their craft. The Champion trainer was the first to sell over a million pairs across the world, the efficient, lightweight design proved itself with athletes globally.
“One of the best bits of footwear we’ve seen in a while”
Karhu have been around for over 100 years now, and they’re still going strong thanks to their continuous forward-thinking innovations in footwear. For SS18 the Number Six buyers have brought in what we reckon are Karhu’s two strongest designs. The Synchron Classic made its first appearance in the 80s and made a big impression thanks to the unconventional lacing. The brand developed a better fitting upper by using the toebox to create more durability and comfort in one smooth move. The Karhu Synchron Classics are a crossover between track running and outdoor exploring. Combining premium suede, nylon, and mesh to give us one of the best bits of footwear we’ve seen in a while at Number Six.
Karhu makes sure they still put in the same heritage and craftsmanship into each shoe they produce today as they did back in the early 1900s. Respect for what’s come before is always a good thing in our eyes, it’s why we’ve also brought in the Karhu Fusion 2.0 trainer. We originally saw this model in 1996, when it became the most technical running shoe on the market.
Shop the entire collection here.