September 1, 2012

Sneaker Hot Potatoes

After doing the article on the Barry McGee exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum, in which I mentioned the Adidas/McGee controversy, I started checking around and discovered this was not the only controversy Adidas has been involved in and, in fact, is not the only sneaker manufacturer to have had controversies.

In 2006, the Y1 HUF, a shoe for which McGee provided the artwork, generated quite a buzz all over the internet and a protest campaign by Asian-Americans who claimed the picture on the shoe's tongue depicted a racist stereotype. As a result, Adidas pulled the sneaker from the market. In a press release in March of 2006, McGee stated that the drawing was a portrait of himself as an eight-year-old child; he is half Chinese. A performance piece by Philip Huang during the opening reception on August 23, 2012, at the Berkeley Art Museum referenced that controversy.

(click on any image to see larger size)
photo of Y1 HUF tongue image by Wooster Collective

This year Adidas again generated controversy and once more created a buzz over the Internet with its shackle trainers. These had been especially created by fashion designer Jeremy Scott with an extra special detail on them: a bright orange plastic cuff, designed to look like a shackle, with a chain connecting the trainer and the cuff, on each ankle. It's slavery connotation was not appreciated by many. The shoe was pulled from the market in June of 2012.

photo of Shackle trainers by Adidas/Facebook 

Adidas has also had issues over labor problems regarding "sweat labor" and worker's rights abuses in the Honduras and Indonesia.

However, Adidas is not alone in the sneaker controversy. Nike's Black and Tan controversy earlier this year kicked up quite a stir on the Internet. For St. Patrick's Day, the Oregon sports apparel giant released a seasonal sneaker named after the Black and Tan drink made by mixing stout and lager. However, it's also the name of a brutal British paramilitary force sent to suppress Irish revolutionaries in the early 1920s. 

Nike, the London Olympics' official supplier, also had a problem earlier this year when in August, they released what has been called the “Gold Digger” Olympic T-shirt designed for women with the words, “Gold Digging”, printed across the chest as reported by ABC News. It sparked outrage for selling a t-shirt, that  retails for $24.99, and is only sold to women; some people argued that it's unfair to associate successful female athletes with the stereotype of money-hungry "gold diggers." Read more.

 Nike "Gold Digging" T-shirt photo from Nike store

In addition, there was a controversy with much Internet buzz that same month over Nike's LeBron X sneaker as they were considered too pricey. The Wall Street Journal reported in its Tuesday editions that the LeBron X shoe, scheduled to hit stores this fall, would retail for $315.

 LeBron X sneaker photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 It would seem August was not a good month for Nike.

Styrous ~ September 1, 2012


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