Hip-Hop Fashion 101: Was TROOP Made by the KKK?

Back in the early 80's there was a twenty-something year old jew named Teddy Held who had a store in the South Bronx called "The Jew Man". The philosophy was you could come in and bargain for a better price. "You wanted a pair of $30 dollar sneakers? You came and gave me $28 or $27, and I let it go", said Held to HighSnobiety about his retail shop. 

In 1985, Held created the very first clothing brand that designed their clothes specifically for a Hip-Hop audience. The name of the brand was Troop and it was made to be a high-end brand with prices thereafter. And the motto was more of what is dope. "My customers wanted only the best. When Nike brought out the Air Bubble, they didn't think much of them, but I had three bubbles", said Held.

This particular jacket was possibly an attempt to show the brand was a "good" company that cared about the environment, and not some white supremacist group. A special letter and packaging came with this jacket listing various eco-goals.

It was a dope brand that had really made it in New York and one of its biggest fans was LL Cool J. It was a total surprise to Held when he saw LL rocking his sneakers. While in Korea to work on manufacturing, a kid at the American army base there, showed Held a photo "he showed me a pic of LL Cool wearing TROOP [sneakers] on top of a Bentley. I couldn't believe it, it was unbelievable!". 

Although, LL was never paid to wear Troop, he loved it for the same reasons that everyone else did, which was the total package, Held explains, "I had jackets to go with it, I had jeans to go with it. People loved to be fancy, and this was perfect."

This photo shows a Troop leather track suit. Many claimed to have seen LL Cool J on the Oprah Winfrey Show denouncing the brand and tearing up in his jacket

So what was it about Troop that made people believe the rumor that the brand was used as funding for the Ku Klux Klan? Was it because its founder is Jewish? No, the KKK is notorious for their strong anti-semitism. Was it because their marketing director was black? Obviously, no. But, you know how rumors are, they usually stem from jealousy and we'll leave it at that. 

So what exactly were the rumors at the time? Word on the street was that the letters in TROOP stood for "To Rule Over Oppressed People". According to their sales manager, "over 95% of our business was black or hispanic", so it's  obvious how this rumor could become so popular. In addition to the acronym, it was claimed that the company hid small pieces of paper in their luxury jackets with the note "Thank you Ni**ers for making us rich". It was supposedly also inscribed inside the soles of their sneakers if you cut it up. 

Troop started as a shoe company and here is one of their shoes with a gash in the sole where someone likely was looking for nasty messages from white supremacists

So why did this company face such suspicion and wild conspiracy theory? There are five reasons in our opinion. Firstly, the parents of the teens buying Troop (or wanting Troop), saw the brand as a cash sink. Understandably, they were not exactly loving the brand for its price point which was pricey (but not unattainable). Also, the "conscious" types in New York, who are pro-black and not adverse to a good conspiracy theory, may have had a beef with the brand for a couple reasons. The first being the fact the founder/owner is jewish, and jews are the de facto group to blame for almost all conspiracy theorists. Besides that, it may have been the visual imagery of the brand, which looked "patriotic" and unabashedly American. They sometimes used eagles and the words: duty, honor and country on the inner label (see photo below). All that can be triggering for a "woke" mind. 

But the bottom line should be, TROOP was an extremely dope brand for the 3 years that is was hot. The owner seems to be someone who really enjoyed being around black culture and talking to the inner city kids about what they liked in fashion. At a time when many high-end stores didn't even want to have black and latino kids as customers, Held and TROOP made it a person-to-person relationship with these very same kids. Nuff said. 


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