In 1976, three friends- Paul Kaufman, Nancy Larsen and Lynn Tyler- opened Na Na in a 100 square-foot former stagecoach stable. Taking Nancy’s nickname , Na Na quickly became the local shop where punk rock ruled. Inspired by the English and US punk subcultures of the mid-to-late 1970’s, NaNa became the first importers of Doc Martens in the US for wholesale. Along with a variety of other shoes: creepers, monkey boots and fetish-inspired high heels, Na Na brought a hard-to-come-by selection of English punk gear, records, customized military surplus and accessories.
.. but, above all, there were the shoes.. glorious shoes, unlike any to be found on either coast. Imagine the late 70s and early 80s, where the choice was to shop in the mall at a mass merchant footwear store offering the latest in.. ummmm.. loafers? .. or maybe some left over disco platforms (ever try stage-diving in a pair of those?). Maybe a department store was more your style… a sea of dress shoes in black and brown.. and all the style of.. your dad! That’s what motivated Na Na to push the envelope. Pushing DIY to the max, Na Na was the kind of place outcasts felt at home; where the outsiders were all insiders.
We were fortunate enough to score an exclusive interview with Paul and Nancy, two of the founders and designers of NaNa, about the brand and the exciting news that we’re bringin’ NaNa back!
“My favorite style was the pole climber, always. It had a tough no nonsense look for the gals, and guys loved the way that it not only looked, but that you could wear the heck out of it, and it actually got better with age. Personally, this was my signature boot, I still wear it now. I honestly look forward to finally getting a new pair in it’s new incarnation, only this time I will have to get several pairs. Most of the people who know me associate me with my pole climbers. My main reason for loving this boot, it has a great vintage look to it, it’s mega comfortable, it lasts forever, and it looks great with just about anything. I love it with super feminine dresses, ultra punk upside down crowd surfing, or just with jeans. This is the ultimate boot that everyone needs a pair of in their lifetime wardrobe..”
- Nancy Kaufman
I tried to find Chloe Sevigny wearing her NaNa boots in Sassy Mag and it led me to a full on editorial obsession. Chloe, Liv Tyler, and Kim Gordon were all sporting NaNa. Do you just like, adorn your walls with 90s mag tear outs? Cause I would.
PAUL: Well, I did once make a studio from all the old issues of Sassy and Slash magazine that I had collected over the years, but a few bad rains and termites put an end to that.
NANCY: Back in the day, we were very very stoked when some of the coolest gals in the world were sporting our shoes and wearing them out into the world! As for our walls, they were always adorned with tear sheets, photos of the employees, and random people who who just sent us Polaroids of their feet.
Your store was pretty amazing. I heard one of the requirements to work there was you either had to be in a band, or dating someone who was- definitely my kind of shop. Are you still keeping it as tight knit to the music / punk scene now?
NANCY: To this day the idea of getting a job at Na Na is sort of legendary. Most of our employees came in through other people working there. But yes, one of the ways we weeded them out was with a very simple question on the employee application…what music do you listen to? Since everyone who worked there got to bring in their own music, it was rotated by a sign up sheet run by employees, it was important to not have to listen to music that was awful.
We totally encouraged everyone to be in bands, and also worked with them completely if they had to go out on tours, had gigs etc. Other than that, we also let them rehearse in our warehouse. We absolutely loved and encouraged all of their artistic endeavors.
How stoked are you to do this collab with us!?
PAUL: I, for one, am loving this collab. I hope we’re going to be able to expose a whole new generation to the boys of pissing off their parents, at the same time as becoming better people for doing it!
NANCY: I cannot tell you how excited I am about this collaboration with Sole Struck. It is the perfect forum to get Na Na shoes back into the world! The Western theme look of many of the shoes is a perfect match for what is going on right now. With lots of focus on the desert and the re urbanization of lots of city scrapes where people are out and about, and most definitely defining their own fashion trends, Na Na and sole struck are a perfect match.
I love the punk and western vibes in the original NaNa shoes. What was your motivation / inspiration for this collab? What elements were most important to you?
PAUL: Actually, the mix of punk and western was really a reflection of the times. Cowpunk music was a growing sub-genre of punk music and I happened to be a band that couldn’t find any boots we liked.. kinda fortunate that I happened to design shoes! It seemed like a logical place to start the collab, because these were the collections that came out of Na Na, reaching a certain level of success in the 80s where we had the freedom and respect from the factories to experiment more.
Can we agree right now to do a full on 90s revival and never let it die? Pinky promise me.
PAUL: I’ll pinky promise to never stop creating and pushing for the same freedom and expressiveness that made the 90s so wonderful! The internet has brought access of info to so many people that almost everyone can know about everything, and in some ways, could grow to take it for granted. Back in the day, that info was hard to come by; we learned about bands by someone returning from England with a new album, so things were really special and very tribal in that respect.
Click here to shop our NaNa x Solestruck collab.
Just in time to treat yourself to your own super rad xmas present!