Two Of A Kind: The Transparent Mid-Sole

Is Prada doing a Nike?

Can a certain mid-sole technology come to an extreme ubiquity that even if you are not the inventor of that technology, you could adopt a similar and simply join the fun? When Prada’s Linea Rossa revealed their newest kicks, the Collision 19 LR (top left), they potentially set themselves on a collision course with the thinking of sneakerheads who have a fanatical love for Nike Air Maxes, noted for their “visible air” mid-soles, in particular Air Max 97. That the similarity of Prada’s sole to Nike’s, especially its full length, and also called “Air” has encouraged talk of likely copying is not the least surprising. People expect more and better of Prada, the originator of some truly pioneering ideas in shoe design and, to us, the first on the trail of delectably ugly footwear.

While transparent mid-soles filled with air are seen in many kicks these days, they will always be associated with Nike. The first was introduced in 1987, in the silhouette of the Air Max 1, then applied to the back half of the sole of the shoe to, primarily, support the heel. Air, in fact, had earlier been used as cushioning, trapped within the foam frame of the first Tailwind running shoes of 1978. According to Nike’s telling, the NASA aeronautical engineer Frank Rudy had suggested to Phil Knight to use air in the manner Nike is now known for, based on the work Mr Rudy was doing for the space agency at that time. We don’t how much of this account is lore since it seems strange that an employee of a government institution could share the tech that did not really belong to him with a commercial enterprise. But the story is interesting and the NASA link lended gravitas to the usefulness of the sole and added heft to the early marketing efforts in launching the Air Max 1.

The subsequent success of the Air Max and the family it spawned need no recounting here. The most amazing thing is how Nike could, in recent years, used the air sole with other cushioning tech of theirs to yield some arresting hybrids (Air Max 270 React, to name one). This attests to the air sole’s solidness as cushioning, as well as its longevity, both in practical and visual terms. Although there seems to be a shift, trend-wise, to more retro, less tech-obvious styles, such as the Daybreak (so expertly and charmingly reinterpreted by Undercover in 2019) and the recent ‘Type’ series, the air sole is still crucial in Nike’s bag of tricks for shoes that are bombastic, and will lure hypebeasts, such as the more recent Air Max 2090.

It is, therefore, rather curious that Prada has chosen to build a sneaker, based on a mid-sole so associated with the biggest shoe maker in the world. And one that is full-length, with tiny pillar support, and visible. But the sole isn’t the only part of the shoe that is evocative of the Air Max. At first look, we saw the Air Max 2003 SS Triple Black (top right), originally with a Japan-made carbon-based fiber upper. The Prada Collision 19 LR has an oddly similar moulded-looking upper (which, according to the brand, is “technical fabric”), making the sum even more inexplicable. As SOTD contributor Ray Zhang said, “I like the Prada, but it looks too close to one of my all-time favourite Nike shoes for me to even consider my feet in them.”

Prada Collision 19 LR, SGD1,580, is available at Prada Stores. Nike Air Max 2003 SS Triple Black id currently unavailable. Product photos: Prada and Nike respectively

Pussycat, Yes!

Animals have inspired designers for as long as fashion has looked to the zoic kingdom for ideas. One creature stands out: the cat. No less than four of what are worn or used in fashion today are named after them

After watching the Dior pre-fall 2021 show recently, we got hooked to the remade and remixed Deee-Lite dance hit What is Love? from the 1990 album World Clique. This new track also has snatches of the feline-themed, vinyl-only single Pussycat Meow from the second album Infinity Within. It was the purring and the “pussycat… no!” cries of the band’s lead singer Lady Miss Kier that did it for us. For most of the rest of that week (and the week after), we allowed that groove to get into our heart. Two tracks on loop, however, became monotonous after a while. So we looked into our CD collection (yes, for some, they still exist and are played!), and found one of our favourites: Takkyu Ishno’s highly danceable 2017 song Kitten Heel. This whole afternoon, we had three tracks on loop, pumping through our Sonos One, allowing the bass to course through our willing body.

The dancing—and Lady Miss Kier purring and then rap-calling “here, kitty, kitty, kitty” and then tease-pleading “kiss me, you fool!”—also got us thinking of the influence of domestic cats (yes, those you keep as pets) in fashion. No, there won’t be references to Karl Lagerfeld’s too-famous Choupette. Or, the countless cat videos on YouTube and TickTok. Or, cute cat-faced accessories to wear around the neck. And not a clowder of cats on a T-shirt either. Rather, we’re looking at something more subtle—those articles of fashion inspired by parts of cats or the whole animal, or just suggestive of those things we associate with felines. And, like the cats themselves, these fashion items seem to have many, many lives! Here, we name four. If you know others, do tell.

Cat Glasses

Photo: Celine/24s

Cat glasses, or rather sunglasses with frames that supposedly mimic cat eyes, are not really inspired by the-cuddly-creature-that-meows. According to fashion lore and the documentary Altina, based on the life of the multi-hyphenate Altina Schinasi (1907—1999), they were inspired by Venetian masks. In fact, the first cat glasses, introduced in the ’30s, were known by the more mysterious and glamourous descriptor, Harlequin. At that time the designs of glasses for women were hardly fashionable, and reflected what Dorothy Parker famously said, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses,” originally a two-line poem News Item.

But, that didn’t deter Ms Schinasi. She related in the documentary: “I thought, well, something better can be done than just these awful glasses that look like the time of Benjamin Franklin. Then I thought, what would be good on a face and I thought of a mask, a Harlequin mask.” By the ’50s, when the glasses really took off—worn by movie stars such as Audrey Hepburn and, unmistakably, Marilyn Monroe (especially as Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire), they became mostly known as cat-eye glasses (now, just cat glasses) due to the shape of the frame, with the outer tips pointing upwards and alluringly, feline-like.

Catsuits

Photo: Warner Bros

Long before there was Michele Pfeiffer as Catwoman (in 1992’s Batman Returns), there was one Black Wild Cat, our mothers told us. This was Connie Chan (陈宝珠) in the titular role of 女贼黑夜猫 (Black Wild Cat), in the 1960s Hong Kong film that saw Ms Chan as a sort-of female Robin Hood, masked in a flat-top half-balaclava that was, presumably, like a cat’s head. To augment her feline mysteriousness, she leaves messages by throwing darts on walls on which her masked identity is reveal by, well, a Harlequin mask (see a recurring theme?). Ms Chan was so successful in playing these mysterious do-gooders operating under the cover of darkness that other characters emerged: The Black Rose (黑玫瑰) and The Black Killer (女杀手). And with each role she wore something black and close-fitting—not quite the catsuits we know today, but enough for her to move with the stealth and style of cats.

It wasn’t until Michele Pfeiffer’s campy interpretation of Catwoman (aka Selina Kyle) did we come to associate the catsuit with those that totally outline the body and in gleaming latex (a silicon-based top coat was used to effect the shine). Sure, Halle Berry’s titular turn in Catwoman (2004), too, saw her in a catsuit, but they appeared to be a part of it—the bikini dominatrix top didn’t cover enough, at least not the torso. Interestingly, Ms Berry’s Catwoman wore a full head mask that looks uncannily like what Connie Chan wore as Black Wild Cat! In fact, the catsuit was very much at first a costume, often linked to the Catwoman character, first introduced in 1940 as simply The Cat. The term catsuit didn’t come into popular usage until after 1955. Its origin is unclear although it wouldn’t be immoderate to assume that, once suited up, the slinkiness immediately accords the wearer a cat-like grace.

Pussy Bows

Photo: Saint Laurent

The pussy bow comes from something more extraneous: it’s not in anyway part of a cat. Or look like anything that might be akin to cats. According to media speculation—Vogue among them—the pussy bow probably got its name from a time in the late 19th century, when cat owners would tie a bow around the neck of their feline pets to prettify them before the arrival of guests. In French couture houses, they go by a less animal-linked description: lavallière (also the noun for a pendant, centred on a necklace, and hangs pendulously). Some fashion historians trace the pussy bow to the cravat, although the connection is hard to discern. Most of the pussy bows we now see can be linked to the versions first introduced by Chanel, and later, Yves Saint Laurent (paired with the Le Smoking). And in the past ten years, the popularity of the pussy bow has not waned, and (still) well loved by designers such as Hedi Slimane and Alessandro Michele.

However fancy it is tied, the pussy bow is essentially a strip of fabric, with the middle portion, lengthwise, stitched to the neckline of the blouse, leaving the rest hanging, and to be knotted. For many women, the pussy bows were very much a ’70s thing. A decade on, “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher made it her thing, and claimed the pussy bow softens her public appearance. A mere feminine flourish it, therefore, is not. Cut to 2016, Melania Trump wore her Gucci crepe de chine pussy bow defiantly (triumphantly, too?) against her husband’s self-confessed predilection for grabbing the female genitalia. Pussy bows today have long shed their dowdy Gibson Girl image. Just see how Anthony Vaccarello styled them for Saint Laurent (above). As in the past, there is power in them bows.

Kitten Heels

Photo: Prada

Interestingly, these heels weren’t originally worn by women, but by men—at least in Versailles, France. To be sure, the kitten heels that we now know is not quite the same as those the guys wore, in particular by Louis XIV of France and his courtiers. Those in the 17th century were a lot clunkier, at least where the heels were concerned, not the pin that they are in present times. According to common belief, the smallish Sun King chose heeled shoes to give him extra height (he was, reportedly, only five foot, four inches—or about 162cm—tall). This new-found stature caught on with the other royals too, but did not impress the monarch. He banned them outside his court, effectively denying himself as the footwear trend setter.

The kitten heels today can, perhaps, be more accurately traced to the 1950s. Many people associate them with Audrey Hepburn or more specifically her in Billy Wilder’s 1954 movie Sabrina, with (some of) the costumes by Hubert de Givenchy. Like the cat glasses, the kitten heels have come to represent the ’50s and a certain elegance that need not require a statuesque carriage. Another name linked to the kitten heel at this time is Roger Vivier, who was, conversely, more prolific with the stiletto, but in the ’50s, Mr Vivier created a more tapered and stout heel for “girls”, so that they can get used to the elevation and grow into higher shoes. In fact, in the US, kitten heels were also known as “training heels”, since they were bought for the (very) young high-heel novice who had yet able to handle the forbidding stiletto. For some, so well trained they were in kitten heels that they never truly graduated to the taller kin. Kitty, as it turns out, truly has a long, comfortable life.

Illustration: Just So

Underscored With Denim

Nike’s new Air Max Plus Tuned 1 is a jolly mix of patterns and a strip in the texture we associate with jeans

Although Nike makes shoes for sports, many of their iterations of classic styles are, in fact, destined for the fashion crowd. Case in point: the Air Max Plus Tuned 1 (part of the Tn-labeled series, “tuned for running”, available only at Foot Locker). Among all the Air Max series of running shoes, the timeless Air Max Plus often enjoys rather interesting—even surprising—uppers, frequently in mixed media and quirky colourways, even bold text. We are especially drawn to this version, simply known by their chromatic combination: multi-colour-white-university-red. They wouldn’t look out of place with a pair of White Mountaineering’s draw-string ‘Sarouel’ (or sirwal, also known as Punjabi pants) or the reconstructed denim jeans by Junya Watanabe and Levis.

In fact, the Japaneseness of the shoe is unmistakable to us, in particular the use of the plaid upper on which a camo-ish print runs over, and on top of that, the Air Max Plus’s unique skeletal-like marks. That would have been good enough for most sneakerheads, but Nike gave the shoe one more detail: a denim border (with gold top-stitching, no less, as in jeans), just above the mid-sole, underscoring the fabric above it. The plaid and denim might be somewhat country and western if they were clothes, but Nike has managed to combined the two in a way that is part old-fashioned grunge, part modernist rodeo. To break the overall monochrome, the top-most lace loops, lining of the tongue, and the arch of the mid-sole (that supports the plantar fasciitis) are in Nike’s famed ‘university red’.

Nike Air Max Plus was designed in 1998 by Sean McDowell, who said that the general idea for the design of the sneaker came about when he watched palm trees sway in the breeze as the sun set on some Florida beach. Early versions, with uppers of colour gradation, certainly had a Miami spirit about them. But, as the years went by, Air Max Plus became a lot more sophisticated. And some of the Tn iterations, created for Foot Locker, seem to come with elements evocative of clothes-making that a fashion follower would not be able to walk away from.

Nike Air Max Plus Tuned 1 multi-colour-white-university-red, SGD249, is available at Foot Locker. Photo Zhao Xiangji

The Tassel’s Moment

One 2021 trend for guys is the use of tassels. Yes, the pendant ornaments. You ready to dangle one?

One of the danglies shown at the recent pre-fall 2021 Dior show is not some Kid Cudi-esque necklace or chain. Rather, it is a tassel—the pendant ornament (we’ve never heard it referred to as accessory or jewellery) that is essentially a column of quite tightly packed strings (referred to as a ‘skirt’) topped with a fancy knot or cap. Dior’s (left), fastened to what could be a belt (or waist bag?), has the girth of Chinese ink brush and the length of a man’s forearm. This particularly thick one is gradated, as if the yellow of monks robes is dipped into a vat of purple cabbage. It is fancy, for sure, and, an IG-worthy exaggeration. They are nothing like those leather tassels sometimes affixed to the vamp of loafers. From our perspective, Dior’s seems to glean from the world of Chinese wuxia, or perhaps scholars.

For those with less progressive leaning, we are, admittedly, putting a more masculine spin here. Since the Dior tassels look Chinese (or Oriental, definitely not those on English academic caps—Oxford or Cambridge, take your pick), we’ll look at China, where Kim Jones engaged local embroiderers to create the two-thousand-year-old seed embroidery (繨子绣 or dazixiu) for the Dior collection. Whether this was to expressly cater to a Chinese market or Mr Jones expressing his love for Eastern craft and exotica, it is hard to say.

Anyway, tassels were once used ornamentally on swords (剑 or jian). Broadly speaking, the sword tassel (剑繐 or jian sui) appeared at the end of the hilt of what was known as the scholar’s sword (文剑 or wen jian), used mainly for self defence and dancing, rather than at war, or to project an elegant image—possibly the same motivation as Pharrell Williams in pearls. The tassel was less evident on the martial sword (武剑 or wu jian), which was used on the battlefield. Historically, the tassel mostly hung from the scholar’s sword. If a sword was designated for offensive use, it unlikely came with a tassel, since it would get in the way of a duel. However, the swordsman blessed with cunning might use a long, deceptively limp tassel to target his opponent’s eyes!

But the Chinese tassel did not only hang on the hilt of the sword, it dangled from the waists of men too. These were known as waist accessories (腰佩 or yaopei)—the Dior belt above certainly qualifies as one. In ancient times, both men and women wore carved jade pieces from which hung a tassel (but never as thick as the Dior version). These were known as jinbu (禁步) or ‘forbidden steps’, which, in the case of women, may make sense, since the jinbu was used to hold down the skirt (including the men’s) and possibly preventing the wearer from striding. How this eventually became a check on female deportment isn’t clear. The men did not, however, appear to need to be held back (guys today who wear extra-long canvas belts left dangling from the box buckle could be mimicking the wearing of a jinbu). Apart from the jinbu, both men and women also wore the xiangnang (香囊) or a fragrance pouch. Made of silk and embroidered, they were often attached to a tassel. The xiangnang was usually stuffed with cotton and aromatics, and were used as personal perfume, air-freshener, and even to ward off evil spirits.

A few days after the Dior show, Nike announced the release of the Air Jordan 1 for Chinese New Year 2021 (no drop date was revealed). This basketball shoe—that Dior (again?!) made massive in June—sports one of the style’s most popular colour combo: ‘university red’ (and just as hongbao bright) and black. That the upper would partly come with a brocade fabric sporting oxen is hardly surprising, but that the shoe comes with a tassel is quite unexpected. The cord, red, is fasten along the collar of the sneaker, like a choker, and the tassel, gold, hangs to the side, near the eyestay, like an earring. This tassel, unlike Dior’s is really quite small. Its short fringe body is topped with what looks like a Chinese button knot. Pendant to a necklace. A neat way of wearing an anklet without actually wearing one?

Photos: Dior and Nike respectively. Collage: Just So

They Totally Ignored Social Distancing For This Shoe

Yeezy madness strikes. Again. What pandemic?

It was a COVID-19 day. If the virus was indeed circulating in Orchard Road yesterday evening, outside the Foot Locker flagship at Orchard Gateway (the other half opposite 313@Orchard), they would have seen a delectable buffet. Such a shocking number of people (videos circulating online showed mostly kids) were crowding the entrance of the sneaker retailer that at some point, the police were called in. One SOTD reader who, was going to Uniqlo across the street, saw what he thought were personnel from the anti-riot Police Tactical Unit. Seriously? Apparently, even social distancing ambassadors could not manage the crowd. People didn’t care. Treasures and profiting were to be had inside Foot Locker. Coronaviruses, be damned.

The said covetable shoe was the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350—released for the umpteenth time. Yesterday’s launch was the V2 Core Black/Core Black/Red (first released in 2017). The Adidas website had announced weeks earlier that the sneaker would be launched yesterday, and by Thursday morning, had declared on their Facebook page that their online ballot had closed and that “winning entrants” would have been notified by e-mail. “For those who were unsuccessful,” it added, “you may stand another chance to purchase—our Pacific Plaza store will be contacting unsuccessful balloters in the case of drop outs on collection day.” And if even that couldn’t help the Yeezer lover, “…fret not. We will also be launching the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Core Black/Core Black/ Red on adidas.com.sg come 5 December, 12pm.” Adidas didn’t think there would be this many who love the Yeezy Boost so much and want to touch a pair so desperately, they’d risk falling sick—seriously sick—to jam a store front for that chance.

Back to the old normal: The unbelievable crowd outside Foot Locker. Photo: solesuperiorsg/Instagram

But the staggering and disturbing Orchard Road turnout was not the only one. Apparently, over at Foot Locker’s Jewel outlet, close to 200 people crowded the store this morning, hoping to cop what they could not last night. A cheerful but perplexed staff told us that by eight, there was already a long queue. “We told them we don’t have the shoe,” he said helpfully. “Many left, but some still hanged around.” Why did he think people were so crazy about this pair of kicks? “I don’t know; I don’t get it. I think most who buy are re-sellers. I don’t know how they knew we had the shoe (at the Orchard store). We didn’t announce it. When we told them the shoes were sold out, they insisted we still had them.” What spell did Kanye West and Adidas cast on this unsexy sheath of sneakers?

The guy at Foot Locker Jewel continued, understandably on the side of his employer, “Actually, the people who came, they were out of control. We did our best to tell the people to social distance, but no one bothered. Actually the space (including the kerb) that they were crowding did not belong to us. The mall security didn’t help us; they let us do everything ourselves.” When we said we understood, just as we know how hard it has been for F&B outlet operators to tell people not to enter their premises in groups larger than five and not to mingle, he added, “These shoppers didn’t think about those working in the store. When we were asked to close for ten days (as instructed by the authorities this afternoon), all those people would have no work. But our company did not stop them working. The staff were shared among other stores.” Whatever, happened last night, Foot Locker alone should not have to shoulder the blame solely. However much you covet a shoe—any shoe, do not let COVID-19 win. Yeezy Boost is not a talisman.

Illustration: Just So

Make It Sustainable

Nike gives its popular Daybreak a midsole that will appeal to eco types

By Ray Zhang

Sneaker giant Nike is taking sustainability seriously. Clothing has been getting the bad rep for what its production and discarding can do to the environment. Sneakers, even with more than 20 billion of them produced annually, is not getting as much flak as the garments you have been buying, especially cheaply. But the truth is, we dispose many pairs of worn shoes that end up in landfills. More than three hundred million in the US alone, according to reports. The biggest problem, it appears, is the ethylene vinyl acetate—considered thermoplastics—that is commonly used for making the midsole of sneakers. This particular material apparently won’t break down in a landfill for as long as 1,000 years!

Now, I do not know if that staggering duration has budged Nike into doing something, but the introduction of the sustainable Crater foam midsole this year is indication they’re heading in the right direction. The Crater foam, according to Nike, is “Recycled Grind fabrication”. That’s marketing speak for a sole made from discarded soles. The Crater foam has already been seen in the Air Force 1 and the Cortez (as well as the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Crater), but they have not appealed to me. Until its appearance with the Daybreak. Truth be told, I have a weakness for this OG Nike running shoe since Undercover reimagined it last year. So this time, the Daybreak is even better since it’s fitted with the delightfully light Crater foam (speckled too). And that contrast-colour heel grip!

Not to be half-hearted about it, Nike has given this Type iteration of the Daybreak an upper that is made of “recycled canvas”, and in a handsome grey. I, too, like the stitched outline of the Swoosh (rather than an appliqué), meaning less material is used on this sneaker, meaning less waste. The all-grey upper—a cooler shade than warm—pairs well with sweatpants (okay, we really should retire them), as well as tailored slacks (I am thinking pinstripes!). This old-school sneaker is really a comforting sight. Enough of bombastic kicks.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nike DBreak Type, SGD159, is available at Nike stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay

Bright And Happy

Farrell Williams has brought his brand of joy to Adidas again

 

Pharrell Williams X Adidas Boost slidesBy Shu Xie

Few celebrities have brought Happyness to footwear as Pharrell Williams has. His collaboration with Adidas since 2014 has been about projecting a positive vibe, whether in the clothing or footwear. At the launch of the collab six years ago, Adidas said that much of the designs “revolve around Pharrell’s idea of equality”. And, let me add, sense of colour. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of their collaborations, but I do find the hues used and the colour pairings appealing.

Now the two names are back at it again. This time the output are slides, but not quite the Adilette. Instead, Mr Williams took Adidas’s most recognised slide and came up with something that might have been destined for the bedroom. The positively comfy-looking version, and brightly dyed, is now identified as Boost, no doubt named after the Three Stripes’ popular mid-sole. At first sight, the padded, triple-layer, adjustable upper looked a tad bulky, but once you slip your feet under, they look pleasingly proportionate. Appearance aside, these are, in fact, as comfortable as bedroom slippers.

Slides, once known as pool sliders, are now worn anywhere away from bodies of water. When I first encountered this anomaly, it was in Hong Kong a few years back. A Chinese mainlander and his girlfriend were flip-flopping in identical white pairs through Dior on Peking Road. Shortly after, as I became more aware of their popularity, I started noticing slides worn by those queueing outside Louis Vuitton or those shopping in The Hour Glass. The humble slide has clearly acquired some vestige of status, and splayed, open toes are welcome in posh places.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pharrell Williams X Adidas Boost slides, SGD140 a pair, available at select Adidas stores and online, and Limited Edt Vault. Product photos: Adidas

The (Humbler?) Beginning Of Air Jordan

 At the start, Air Jordan 1 was not the light-coloured shoe that the Air Dior is, nor as madly hyped

 

Air Jordan 1 MidNike’s most popular shoe right now: Air Jordan 1 Mid

By Ray Zhang 

Trending last week was the reveal that Virgil Abloh had gifted Kim Jung Un’s friend Dennis Rodman with a pair of customised Off-White X Air Jordan 1 sneakers. This generous act could be the result of the current obsession with the shoe named after another basketball star that was co-created by Mr Abloh’s colleague Kim Jones. I do not know what was the occasion that required a gift—and a customised one—to be offered to Mr Rodman, thought to be an “informal basketball diplomat of sorts”, but it sure did direct another spotlight on a shoe already enjoying dazzling exposure. Hot cakes really can’t get hotter than this. And more so, after the broadcast of the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, in April.

No matter the iteration, Air Jordan 1 attracts many who feel deeply connected to the OG. Despite the designer name now associated with it, the AJ1 did not boast a bombastic design (not, at least, by today’s standard) at launch. I can’t say later versions of the shoe kept to the simple lines and graphic composition of the very first. Collaborative ______________(choose your favorite name) X Air Jordan 1s tend to up the game by adding superfluous elements to an already handsome shoe, such as Virgil Abloh’s take (including a Swoosh cut-out, bar-tacked to the upper, as well as some charm-like danglies), which Mr Rodman now has and, probably, will wear.

Air Jordan 1 lowThe Air Jordan 1 Low, although more comfortable for our weather, is not considered less OG than the mid

The early history of the AJ1 is rather shrouded in mystery. There were no 5 million desperate people showing their covetous interest online, mostly just the followers of NBA games, in particular those that Michael Jordan had played. They did, of course, eventually buy a lot of AJ1s. But the unanswered question till today is, did he or didn’t he or, perhaps, did they or didn’t they? I am no basketball player and I do not follow the NBA, so what I know is what have been said. And a lot have been uttered, and they depend on who did the uttering. Even staunch basketball watchers can’t entirely agree on what actually happened. And Nike was happy to not stop the myth-making in its track.

The AJ1s were apparently banned at its debut. Nothing works better for a marketing department than a ban. As the story goes, Michael Jordan wore the shoes and was immediately told not to as the colours—red and black—went against the league’s uniform rules. But he endured, and every time he wore them, a reported USD5,000 fine was imposed on him. Nike, it was said, happily paid for those fines. The league apparently even wrote to Nike in 1985 to explain that those colours were prohibited. “Banned” was good for the AJ1, and in particular the offensive red, which led to the nick name “Bred” Jordan 1, a moniker that added to the forbidden-fruit allure of the shoe.

Farfetch ad

Farfetch ads that disrupt social media news feed showing the ridiculous prices (in USD) of Air Jordan 1 Low in various colours

What made everything more confusing is that there have not been any photo posted showing Mr Jordan in the said colourway during an NBA game of those early years. Some speculated that he was wearing the similar-looking, little-known, hence grailed, Air Ship. To add fuel to that speculation, veteran sports agent Aaron Goodwin posted his pair of the black and red Air Ship from 1984 on Twitter in April, after the broadcast of The Last Dance, encouraging the believe that the sneaker that kicked off the red/black colour craze was possibly another shoe altogether. That’s hard to follow, I know.

Whatever the truth, including the alternative, Air Jordan 1 in the “banned” colours started what we today surrender to and know as hype. No to be outdone—although in less striking colours—was the recent launch of Dior’s take on it, conceived by Kim Jones. I suspect that the drastically toned-down colour story of the latest, luxury version is deliberate, so as to create the kind of madness the brash OG did back then. It is doubtful that anyone who bought the Dior version of the kicks care about the backstory of the original AJ1, but with the hype machine cranked up, hypebeasts would lust after them. To me, the Air Dior, to call it by its official name, built on the solid design of the first version and did little else. Even if money was no issue, I’d stick to the OGs. Better value, too.

Air Jordan 1 Mid P2The Air Jordan 1 Mid is now the sneaker to be seen in

I have never been big on basketball kicks. In fact, the only ones I own have been the older Air Force 1. But I am now looking at the Air Jordan 1 with renewed interests. This could be due to a desire to return to more streamlined footwear after the ridiculous dad shoe craze of the past seasons. In fact, when Nike re-issued the Daybreak a year or more ago, and with this season’s Killshot, I sensed that sneakers closer to the shape of our feet will be making a huge comeback. Back in the early ’80s, the AJ1s were probably Nike’s first colour-blocked sneakers, therein lies their appeal to me. Sure, colour-blocking is no longer special now, but back then, when sneakers were either white or black, or grey, the AJ1 colours were a symbol of defiance, or as they like to say now, attitude.

If you look at the later Air Jordans of the last ten or so years (34 versions and counting!), attitude meant bigger form factors and bolder colours. In fact, admiring the AJ1s now, it is hard to believe that they had, in fact, a far less bombastic design language than today’s wearers are used to. The ‘1’ was a rather simple, sneaker-looking shoe, not the ship-load that it became in later iterations, which may explain their appeal today. People could simply be sick of wearing sneakers that scream for attention for the sake of screaming for attention. The irony is that the AJ1, with its past-era simplicity and innocence, now garners attention for its clean-cut looks. In the present, I am not shouting, and certainly, not my kicks.

Air Jordan 1 Mid, from SGD179, and Air Jordan 1 Low, from SGD159, are available at select Nike retailers. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

This Big Kick

The confirmed return of hype

 

Air Dior July 2020

One thing that the pandemic has not been able to touch is hype. No matter how bad things have become, hype has been able to cut through the noise, except its own. Hype can fly with the sailing clouds, speed alongside underground trains, and dance with the daffodils, or lalangs. Hype can run with serious political news and reside amid tabloid gossips; it is, after all, news itself.

One particular sneaker has emerged as the undisputed king of hype. So hyped these kicks are, they don’t need to be named. They are Hype itself, beastlier than any hypebeast. They stand taller too, punching above the troposphere. They can even survive a bad PR communique.

Sure, talking about it here is fueling the hoopla, but perhaps we won’t be. WWD just reported that 5 million people signed up for Hype. That’s nearly the size of our population, but not the electorate! Reportedly, 13,000 pairs were produced, but only 8,000 pairs were available to the public as 5,000 were reserved for “top clients”. These probably include the celebrity friends of the designer, ballooning an already inflated hype.

Hype is expensive: (from) S$3,100 a pop. And Hype does not last—they just won’t. Hype is not about fashion or trends. Heck, Hype isn’t even trendy; it isn’t groundbreaking. It’s an old silhouette, an OG from 1985. But Hype can do no wrong because Hype is hype. It can’t help itself; it’s conceived that way.

Illustration: Just So

They Stick Out, Don’t They?

More and more, heels now come as shelves

 

TheSoloistXConverse vs SacaiXNikeProduct shots: (left) Converse and (right) Nike

By Ray Zhang

Two sneakers are launched this week, and both share a common feature: the heel sticks out. Or, to be more precise, the upper half of the rear mid-sole protrudes. Like a shelf. Or, like the mountain ledge of Trolltunga in Norway. Okay, I’m off track. Running shoe lingo has it as “flared heels”. I don’t know about you, but when heels jut out like that, they don’t increase the shoe’s appeal. Yet, this seems to be the trend. Maybe it’s rather like jacket trends: shoulders stretch to there. Anyway, succumbing to my limited knowledge, I checked with my friends who run and an instructor at my gym, and they say these stick-out points may delight the fashionista, but they do nothing for the athlete. That’s what I thought.

The two kicks with similar heels are the Converse X TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX (yes, a mouthful) and the highly anticipated Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle, which, you would have guessed, is sold out as soon as it’s launched, which is today (my fellow SOTD contributor Shu Xie tried scoring a pair for more than 2 hours since midnight, but came up nought). Other similarities, I should, perhaps, add: both are by Japanese brands collaborating with shoes from the same American company: Nike. Could that explain the similarities in heel detail?

20-03-11-15-40-40-263_decoLeft: Converse X TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX. Right: Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle. Product photos: Converse and Nike respectively

Between the two, I choose the TakahiromiyashitaTheSoloist’s take on the Converse, if only because the said protrusion is shallower in depth. The Sacai remake of LDV Waffle scores less because it is basically a reissue of the “reconstruction”—hybrid, actually—of the Nike classics LDV and Waffle Racer, now with nylon uppers. Both the All Star Disrupt CX and the LDV waffle are, in terms of silhouette, fetching, but since the Sacai became the most hyped and desired and, as a consequence, the most jelak shoe of last year, another release doesn’t send my pulse racing. And not that back corridor. Despite its peplum rear, the All Star Disrupt CX looks sleek, with the clever declaration “I am the Soloist. Since 2010” on the lateral and “Hello! I am the Soloist. Since 2010” on the medial. Admittedly, I have a weakness for text.

The big-welcome-to-MRT-commuters-to-step-on-your-heel sneaker is, to be sure, not a new trend. If I remember correctly (nowadays, there are, of course, other more important things to remember, such as regularly wash your hands and do not touch any part of your face!), Rick Owens was the earliest to introduce them protrusions in his collaboration with Adidas. At first, it was the Runner, introduced way back in the spring of 2014. The shoe with the split mid-sole has a rear that looks like a pebble is affixed to trip the person who walks too closely to you. And then later that year, the Tech Runner, with a mid-sole that’s a catamaran. Was it not asking other shod feet to come onboard?

Adidas X Rick Owebs Tech Runner 2014Adidas X Rick Owens Tech Runner. Photo: Adidas

Truth be told, I have never tried any of the Adidas X Rick Owens Runners or the Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle. But I have worn kicks with kindred soles. Okay, not as prominent as those two out now. I once took the Nike React Infinity Run for a stroll in a mall, and even when the amble required no heel striking (unlike when you run), I could feel something back there. As I got off the MRT train on my way home, a corpulent woman stepped on the left heel and as I moved forward, the shoe came off. It all happened in a split second. When I turned back to look, another dozen passengers had stepped on that footless sneak, isolated on the station platform.

I thought my feet would be less of an obstacle if I wore the Nike Vapor Street Peg SP, with less of a flared heel (but flares, no less). Again, the rear attracted those who like to pull up to the bumper. Toe box on mid-sole: could that be some kind of Tinder pick up line? Fed up, I finally put the Nike X A Cold Wall Zoom Vomero 5 to the test. Now with this pair, it was not so much a protruding mid-sole that was the problem. What the shoe came with was an AirPod case for the heel counter! Walking down a staircase was hard because I kept scraping against what was the front side of the steps. When I made it to the concrete pavement, I felt a smack: someone had kicked my heaving heel!

Converse x TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist All Star Disrupt CX, SGD200, is available from 12 March at Club 21 and DSMS. Nike X Sacai LDV Waffle, SGD239, was available at DSMS, and sold out

Lame Once More

Who’s lazy: Supreme or Nike?

 

supreme-nike-air-force-1-low-2020-release-date-price-07

By Ray Zhang

What’s with no-effort white (or black) sneaker collaborations these days? Or was Prada and Adidas really on to something?

Supreme and Nike has just revealed their next collab in the form of the Air Force 1 Low. It is the same shoe you have worn since Sec 2, black or white, but now with that logo. Why bother? Sure, I am not their target customer. One red box-logo isn’t going to make be a convert. Or turn me into a hypebeast right away. Still, can these really make feet walk on cloud nine? Or encourage a pair to queue for hours to score them?

Frankly, I am getting a bit fed up with collaborations that merely want to reprise the pristine—keep them as intact as possible. Why change anything if the original has worked for so long, I hear you ask, and with earnestness. Because just slapping a logo on a shoe, however popular its silhouette, is an exercise in branding, not design. I have a brand, you have a brand, let’s go for it. But, as branding go, a massively passive effort. Logo placement alone requires no mulling over.

These are the Supreme X Hanes tees for feet!

I don’t know why something more can’t be done, even slightly more. A different coloured mid-sole? A contrast Swoosh? A patterned tongue? For goodness’ sake, at least try.

Photo: Supreme/Nike

Chuck Goes Psychedelic

Specifically the Converse Chuck 70 Ox. It’s delectably indescribable!

 

Pigalle X Converse

By Ray Zhang

I have been getting this vibe that sneakers shall soon be over until they’re back. People are telling me leather shoes in all their sensibleness will be 2020’s dad’s shoes. Really? Who knows how this prediction will pan out. I look at all the non-sneakers I own and I am not certain I want to wear them in place of my Air Maxes, all the time. In fact, I think it’s unfair that after weening us sneakers for more than ten years, those who have the power to wield are not telling us that the kicks we have so loved aren’t quite cool anymore.

I am not giving up on my sneakers. Nor looking at them, such as this pair of Pigalle and Converse collab, fashioned on the decidedly low-brow Chuck 70, a basketball shoe that’s now mostly not seen on courts. Truth be told, I am not much of a Converse fan. They are, to me, just too school-shoes-like, with little to no personality, making basic kicks such as the Adidas’s Stan Smith decidedly charismatic. But occasionally, someone (or some brand) comes along and gives the Converse a much appreciated makeover—these by the America-leaning French brand Pigalle, too.

The first thing that strikes is the colour. Rare is the Converse that is this multi-hued—gradated, too. The lightning streaks on the Chuck somehow make the mixed colours less hippie while the upper’s technical fused film (which gives the cotton canvas a nice touch) make it rather of the present. That most of the mid-sole comes in this bright lime green augments this Chuck 70’s deliberately anti-white appeal.

This is not the first time both brands have paired up. Pigalle, founded in 2007 in the French neighbourhood of the same name by Stéphane Ashpool, has become one of Europe’s rare streetwear brand that has found international fame. Its Converse collaboration, coming after major success with Nike, was widely noted in last September’s All Star Pro BB, as well as the Chuck 70 Ox, which, if I remember correctly, was a lot more pristine.

There is a palpable sense that sneakers, for those who still worship athletic kicks, are losing the exaggerated silhouettes of the past years. This Chuck, not chunk, is suitably streamlined and adequately forward. With its marine-coloured upper, this is the shoe to go with those printed pants we’re told will be big this year. I, however, have other ideas in mind. 😎

Pigalle X Converse Chuck 70 Ox in ‘Lightning Storm’, SGD179, is available at Lmited EDT. Photo: Zhao Xiangji