“Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?” Adidas asks. Nope, not so much.
So a new line of Adidas sneakers with orange shackles attached has sparked controversy on the Interweb. Some are crying racism over the JS Roundhouse Mid line, reportedly dropping in August. Upon first glance, I just look at them and kind of want to cry.
From a purely fashion and function-based standpoint, I’m not sure why would you ever want or need orange cuffs attached to your ankles, unless you’re Allen Iverson in his prime, or you’re defending Allen Iverson in his prime. Is this an effort to reduce theft by making a sneaker so unattractive no one will want to steal it?
Because let’s be honest, the sneaker itself is pretty damn fresh, but the carrot-colored cuffs are ghastly. Beyond fashion, though, there are some important issues to consider, especially in light of the fact that sneakers are marketed, in large part, to black men.
I understand that as a designer, you’re being wild and creative and taking risks and maybe taking the breaking ankles metaphor a little too far. I understand that you personally do not look at the cuffs and see any connection to prison or slavery, most likely because neither institution has played a major role in your life.
What I don’t understand is how, as a designer, you are not able to step outside your own mindset and viewpoint and consider the mindset and viewpoints of others, who may, like I did, take one look at these fetters and think prison, or who may, like many others, take one look at these fetters and think slavery. It’s not a major stretch: They’re the two institutions that cuffs are most closely associated with, and they’re the two institutions that have had the most profoundly negative impact on the black community.
Ultimately, I don’t think these sneakers are evidence of corporate racism. I do think they’re evidence of insensitivity and ignorance, and a deep-seated lack of awareness about issues affecting the black community. It’s quite obvious to me that all of the many yes-men and women who gave these sneakers the nod were not black. If any black Adidas executives had seen these shoes before they landed on Facebook, I believe red flags would have been raised prior to the blizzard of bad press.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for Adidas to beef up its diversity initiatives and conduct some sensitivity training. It seems the company has some work to do in this area.
I’m curious to know if Adidas will keep these shoes on the market, and if so, how they’ll sell. What’s your take? Will you be running out to your local Foot Locker to cop these new kicks? Would you be caught dead wearing orange shackles around your ankles? Do you think Russell Westbrook will scoop them up to go with his bright red glasses?
UPDATE: CNN reports that Adidas is canceling its ‘shackle’ sneaker line after the public outcry. Adidas issued a statement on Monday night, shortly after this blog was posted — coincidence? I think not — announcing that the shackle shoe is no more and explaining away any connotations to slavery.
“The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery,” the statement said. “We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”
Now maybe they can focus on hiring some black people.