Verdict: The Reebok Club C85 is a piece of history. Made to fit in with the cleanest, upper-class circles the sneaker world took hold of the Club C85 and hasn't let go. From skaters to rappers this sneaker has gone the distance and continues to do so, comfortable, durable and stylish it's all you need.
Classic Style at an ideal price point
Durable, comfortable construction
Easy to clean
Not very breathable
Runs a bit large
Lacks modern inner shanks for support
4.6 / 5
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While sneaker behemoths like Nike and Adidas seem to work extra hard on any retro-release sneakers, Reebok’s carefree attitude has paid off. The Reebok Club Champion 85 (Club C 85) has slotted effortlessly into a space that is usually dominated by light-weave knits, promises of electronic lacing, and enough foam to make a mattress.
The C85 is hugely popular whilst remaining pretty true to its initial construction. Soft leather outer and a terry cloth inner were all shoe companies could do in the 80s to make a sneaker lightweight, sturdy, and comfortable.
Subculture in disguise, the C85 still graces grass lawns and cocktail parties
Appearance-wise the Reebok Club C85 is a plain tennis shoe. Made (and rebranded) to sneak through a tennis club dress code. The leather paneled upper adds a more constructed and tough appearance to other tennis shoes of the time like the Adidas Stan Smith.
Now with 18 colorways the C85 initially came in a classic White/Navy, White/White, and White/Green. Most of the colorways are versatile, relying on the lawn tennis purity for a base. In the 80s Reebok held 22% of all tennis shoe sales in the US, which is wild for such a small company in comparison to Nike.
Now those plain colorways take on far more cultural significance. It’s no surprise that the sneaker was a hit in the skater subculture, the silhouette practically introduced the shape of skate shoes for the like Etnies (which began production in 1986).
More than that, while Andre Agassi was the bad-boy of tennis, more down-to-earth and accessible cultural provocateurs wore and wrecked the C85. Even today, rapper Kendrick Lamar has a range of suede C85 collabs.
Regardless of its history, the Reebok Club C85 deserve to be worn today
History and prestige aside, the Reebok Club C85 is a super comfy, minimalist sneaker. Each shoe weighs just over 300grams, making them lighter than most hyper-modern shoes like the Air Max 2090. They’re also half the price too.
The fit is a little loose, but with a style and purpose like the relaxed Club C85, this may be intentional. Either way, I don’t see it being a problem. The C85 is the kind of shoe you want to slide on and kick-off without too much thought.
They don’t make the C85 quite like they used to, but still...
Although a retro shoe, the C85 isn’t made like it used to be. Compared to old images, the terry cloth on the new C85 is much thinner (less terry?), and the leather isn’t tanned to the same standard. That’s okay though, at this price point in today’s market, you wouldn’t expect more.
For this price, I wasn’t expecting watertight construction, but that’s exactly what you get. The Club C85 can handle most situations until you get to the ventilation holes on the upper. Being leather, it’s pretty much fully resistant to stains too.
The shoe is also surprisingly breathable. Compared to the mesh uppers of the 21st century, the holes above the forefoot seem for show. But, for a chunky, leather construction sneaker, the Reebok Club C85 stands out as pretty comfy all day. The terry cloth inner also allows for pretty comfy sockless wear too.
The outer panels are pretty tough, one of the reasons they’re still favored among skaters. As long as you’re not looking at the suede colorways, the leather can take a beating and come out looking a bit better for being trashed.
The Reebok C85 is still here to stay
All in all the Reebok Club C85 deserves to hold onto its popular status today. With solid construction, minimal, no-fuss design, and versatility that sees it as comfortable in chinos as on a skateboard, the C85 is going nowhere fast.
Doug is a Scottish documentary and fashion photographer and filmmaker. Stumbling into the sneaker game later than usual, he started out behind a camera through long hiking expeditions around the world. Seeking a cleaner aesthetic, Doug now works mostly in fashion and sport, opting for outdoor locations rather than a studio.