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The GEM Debate: Shackle Shoes… REALLY Adidas?

UPDATE: According to CNN, Adidas has scrapped plans for these shoes. Wonder how much that cost them?

Upon seeing this, Good Enough Mother had to take a deeper breath than usual and you know how much that pained me. Some ultra-bright creative type came up with these shoes, shackle shoes and convinced themselves that they would be a big seller. Not only did they convince themselves, they were able to get someone in upper management to sign off on them. I wonder if they’ll have jobs much longer?

Now some of you might think I’m being overly sensitive. Maybe. But part of the African American experience in this country is that there are things that immediately make the hair on the back of your neck, stand on end, given our inauspicious beginning in this country. Among those; a noose swinging from a tree, burning crosses with sheet-clad individuals standing nearby and shackles.

Shackles, whether metal or yellow rubber, whether attached to ripped up bare feet or expensive athletic shoes, are strongly symbolic. Think enslaved, unable to move, held in place. Is that the kind of message you want for shoes? Aren’t they supposed to power you to perform better as opposed to keep you confined? Man, this is so head scratching I’m not even sure where to start.

Of course, Adidas says the shoes have nothing to do with racism, that they are merely the collaboration between the German company and designer, Jeremy Scott.

And you know something? I believe them; I do not think believe the company, in its collaboration with Scott did  this overtly. But I do fault them for being insensitive.

This and so many examples illustrate why diversity is critical for companies. I’m not talking about putting a black or brown face, or a gay or lesbian on boards so you look good in the annual report to shareholders. This is about empowering people, all people, to stand up and say, “Um, hey, yo… this is not such a great idea.”

Okay your turn. Shackle shoes as a statement, good idea or no? Was this a misstep by the shoe giant or something more sinister? Lemme hear ya!

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7 Comments

  1. Smarty P. Jones

    June 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

    This is the worse idea and I don’t have to go all the way back to slavery to make my point. Look no further than your neighborhood jail or prison. Why is it a good idea to make a sneaker that mimics shackles? It’s almost like there was an attempt to desensitize kids, of all races, to these criminal (and slavery) symbols.

    I’m with you, GEM. If ever there were a need for diversity in companies, it’s now. There need to be people of all cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Racism isn’t the only discrimination that we have to contend with.

  2. Stacia

    June 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I’m not African-American…I’m Cherokee, Irish & German. Some of my Irish ancestors were sold to the English and brought to America in shackles. These shoes make me sick to my stomach. Sad thing is…white, black, Mexican, Asian…kids of all colors would have bought and worn them. Yuck.

  3. Deon Smith

    June 19, 2012 at 10:50 am

    You are gonna hate me for this, but I believe many are getting a bit sensitive over this. As I state this, as I black male, I recognize that shady aspect of our history where families were torn apart from each other, black women were casually raped by White masters, and BLACKS as a whole were treated “LESS THAN”. With that said, without forgetting our past, we must over come not to focus much on these aspects and get our feathers ruffled easily. As a child we played cops and robbers and simulated many times cuffing a playmate. And since we are all ADULTS here, Im sure there a few of us who perhaps may have engaged in bondage to spice things up a little. None of these scenarios have nothing to do with slavery. I agreed with your 5th paragraph. Much of this is cultural and I dont believe it was done intentionally. Was it it done in poor taste? Perhaps. Other creative ideas could been a more artistic idea for sure. Does this bother me? NO. Its almost analogous to everytime I see I see the CONFED flag. Yes It stands for that period, but I wont cringe everytime I see. People will at times will not think things through just like the person who developed this idea. Thats life. The artistic part of me however think its not good to contain creativity. Thats my take.

  4. TechyDad

    June 19, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the “genius” behind this (likely some overweight, 40 year old white guy*) presented the idea: “With these shackle shoes, kids can show how ‘street’ they are by strapping on our shackle shoes. It’s rad and hip and far out cool. (Kids these days say all that, right?) Why these’ll sell like hotcakes. Then, we can move onto our sneakers with bright, yellow, six pointed stars on them which we’ll market to Jewish teens. ”

    Of course, then there’s the other approach. Their tagline is “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?” This implies to me that these shoes are so poorly designed that they won’t stay on your feet. The shackles are needed to keep them from flying all over the place.

    So which is it Adidas? Poor taste or poor construction?

    * I’m a slightly overweight, nearing 40 years old white guy and even I see how horrible an idea these are.

  5. Will Jones

    June 19, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I’m trying very hard to remember that Adidas is an international brand. I’m trying understand that there are cultures that know and understand very little about slavery and it’s affect on African Americans as well as blacks in other countries that might think this looks stylish. I’m even trying to think that there are ball players who would want to wear a basketball shoe that looks heavy, clumsy, and even mimics a ball and chain tied your foot.

    I’m trying to see all of that… but I still keep seeing a slave shackle.

  6. m.e. johnson

    June 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Smarty Jones, you nailed it. Corporations will indeed employ subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) machinations to condition people into accepting things that are not in their own best interest.

    Think of the frog: Put him into a pot of boiling water, he will immediately jump out. Put him into a pot of tepid water over a low fire, he is quite comfortable and adjusts to the water as it gets hotter and hotter and hotter until….

    Scientists performed this study, much ~ I’m sure ~ to the pleasure of the corporate robber barons.

  7. Tiffany T

    June 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    These shoes just look ridiculous. In my opinion, they have nothing to do with racism or slavery. They look like they are promoting a gangster or criminal lifestyle.

    Adidas is an international company (like Will mentioned), so I’m sure that they didn’t have slavery in mind. I do think that people are getting too sensitive about this though.

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