Your Roots are (still) showing
Your Roots are (still) showing
Tracking the history of one of Canada’s most iconic brands.
Few, if any, Canadian clothing brands have had the homegrown fame and international success of Roots—in large part achieved by aligning their brand and products around an understanding of Canada as representing the best of the great outdoors: leather and wool, comfort and durability, recreation and simplicity.
In October 2015, Roots’ founding partners, Don Green and Michael Budman, sold their majority shares to Searchlight Capital, a private equity firm.
Roots told Sway that Searchlight has “no major changes [planned] for now” for the Roots brand, and that minority shareholders Budman and Green will “remain actively engaged” with Roots’ direction.
Time will tell what this means, but for now we can guess that it will mean “Canada as usual” in everything Roots creates.
Childhood friends Green and Budman, who grew up in Michigan but spent their summers at Camp Tamakwa in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, establish Roots as a footwear company in Toronto, with the “negative heel” shoe as their flagship item.
Roots sponsors the first ever Festival of Festivals, which would later become the Toronto International Film Festival.
The Canadian Olympic Team sports Roots’s “Puff” boots at the Denver Winter Olympics, the first of many collaborations between Roots and an Olympic team.
Roots debuts its Entertainment Merchandising and Wholesaling division, which ends up outfitting the cast and crews of such films as Jurassic Park, Days of Thunder, Iron Man and The Bourne Ultimatum. On the TV side, shows such as Friends, The Sopranos, The Office and Saturday Night Live have all used Roots goods.
Roots introduces a beaver into its logo.
The Jamaican bobsled team arrives at the Calgary Winter Olympics without proper jackets. Recognizing an opportunity, Roots saves the day by designing one for the team, which became an international sensation due to, well, the fact that they were a bobsled team from a small Caribbean island, later immortalized in the film Cool Runnings.
Canadian athletes at the Nagano Winter Olympics sport clothing designed by Roots, including the famed “poorboy” hat that goes on to sell in the hundreds of thousands.
Roots launches both roots.com, their first website, and Roots Home, a home furnishing store on Avenue Road in Toronto.
After clothes and home furnishings, the logical brand expansion is ... air travel? Roots unveils Roots Air, a five-airplane airline with service between Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, in March. Roots Air gets grounded just two months later.
The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics mark the beginning of Roots’ partnership with the US Olympic Team. The US team berets become a sensation at the Games, selling hundreds a day at the Roots store in Salt Lake City and eventually selling more than a million in total. Roots also designs the uniforms for the UK and Canada, as well as the “Gold Medal” jackets for the Canadian women’s and men’s hockey teams.
Vancouver artist/author/general creative guy Douglas Coupland teams up with Roots to release a line of clothing that paired his “pop” sensibilities—bold, bright colours, kitschy Canadiana—with athletic wear and leather goods. For some reason, you don’t see many of the products these days.
Roots marks its 40th anniversary.
Green and Budman sell their majority ownership stakes to Searchlight Capital, an international private equity firm.
Roots collaborates with Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry—an American playing in Canada, much like the company’s founders—to launch a line of Toronto–inspired clothing.
Roots employs nearly 2,000 people in Canada, operating 120 retail stores across Canada and the US, as well as 65 in Asia.