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

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

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

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

Not Too Many Pockets

Now that the use of masks are mandatory, there really should be a way to keep them, including those set aside as spares, and those removed temporarily. Nikelab ACG has a jacket that solves the storage problem

 

Nikelab @ DSMS vestNikelab ACG vest. Photo: Nike/DSMS

By Ray Zhang

With increase and compulsory mask use, I found myself with one problem: I do not have a dedicated space to keep them when I am out, but not necessarily about, since I do not think the time is right to be gallivanting. Yet. I always like bringing a spare mask, in case the one I am wearing gets wet (the weather, for example, is so unpredictable) or when I have the misfortune of encountering someone who coughs into my face. And when I remove my mask to eat or drink at, say, the food court, I like to put it away in a proper and clean place; none of the below-the-chin, through-the forearm, or on-the-lap deployments. I usually bring along a Ziplock bag—two, in fact (one for clean masks, one for used masks)—but for those who use fancy fabric masks, a plastic case just won’t do.

Sure, some expensive masks brands offer storage bags that can be purchased separately, such as those by the streetwear-ish brand Profound, favoured by Zayn Malik, Kendrik Lemar, even Rihanna. But I do not know if the expense is warranted. I like a pouch pocket attached to something I can wear and is within easy reach. You can, therefore, understand why I was smitten by this Nike ACG vest at first sight.

This all-nylon gilet with mesh lining comes with an amazing number of highly usable pockets: five. They come in four different sizes, and each of them has zippered opening for additional security. I am also attracted to the triangular carabiner on the the outer corner of the bottom right pocket. For those who prefer to have their mask hanging, this is a good option (there is also an additional carabiner in the interior of the bottom pocket on the left). Additionally, I find the colour-blocking especially fetching—a bi-coloured body of top-half in black and bottom-half in white and the pockets in beige. It helps, too, that the utility vest is on trend, but that is never, to me, a priority. 😷

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nikelab ACG vest, SGD189, is available at DSMS and online, as well as at nike.com

Much Ado About Shoes

Dior has set up a microsite for the launch of its collaboration with Nike’s Air Jordan 1. What was the “exclusive online experience” like?

 

Dior microsite

It was supposed to be the most anticipated sneaker launch. And then it was announced that scoring a pair would be possible online only. Less than an hour before the first-come-first-served arrangement (in fact, a registration exercise) was made known. Dior was certain to emphasise the “exclusive online experience”. In fact, in a press advisory, it stated:

Please use this exact wording for the launch: “exclusive online experience”

We are, unfortunately, unable to highlight the text within the inverted commas in fluorescent yellow to illustrate how it appeared in our inbox. Believing that it would be an experience, we clicked on the link to explore.

Rare is the website that is monochromatic—Dior’s is. Created to spotlight their collaboration with Air Jordan, it is entry into a flat, soundless world. The experience, which would be no more than five minutes, is low-key to the point of  blandness. If you are hoping for song and dance, you’ve arrived at the wrong shoe store.

In the main page, the star sneaker Air Jordan 1 OG—first released in 1985 and is touted by Nike as “the one that started it all”—is spotlighted in two out of the three sub-windows. In the first, photos of four angles of the sneakers and two close-ups of the the monogrammed Swoosh detail; in the second, some stills of the making of the shoes, and in the third, four pictures of the Air Dior capsule collection.

Dior microsite 2

If you are not interested in the marcom of the shoe, you can just click ‘enter’, and you will be linked to the page where you can choose which of the two available styles you desire. Then another page appears, and you select the size of the shoe, and fill in your personal details. Payment is not (yet) requested. You’ll receive an SMS notifying you when you can go to the ION Orchard store (only one) to drool at your kicks.

That’s it. No more experiential than ordering from Nike’s website. In fact, the Swoosh’s own SNKRS app is more explorable (unfortunately the said shoe isn’t available here). Dior’s emphasis on the “experience” aspect of a mere reservation exercise is an over-sell.

We visited the microsite at midnight, five hours after reservations opened. It looked to us that all sizes were still available. About an hour or so after, when we returned to the bookmarked page, we were greeted by a large box above ‘Enter’ that read: “reservation closed”. That was fast! Perhaps an experience prolonged is no experience at all.

Screen grabs: capsule.dior.com

The Shoes That Will Sell Out Before You Know It

Dior launches the pandemic period’s most-hyped shoe. Before talking about it, we have to be sure not to upset “very particular” Paris

 

Dior X Air Jordan 1 OGs

The Dior press office in Singapore recently sent a two-part press release pertaining to two pairs of sneakers that will launch today. The e-mails were distinguished by their stern, instructional quality—the second especially so. Although the follow-up, just received, stated clearly that information provided is protected by an embargo (a restriction evocative of media advisories issued by government ministries), the writer/sender of the directive counselled that “no articles should be out before this timing”. This was 40 minutes before the allowable published hour of 7pm this evening, our time. It did not say what will happen if the rule is flouted.

Getting the news out at the exact moment they wanted was not sufficient. Anyone penning a piece about the online launch event, and sharing “the pictures of the (name of photographer) shooting” (yes, in bold, and yes, as in the Rayshard Broooks shooting), has to use words prescribed by the brand. “Paris is very particular on the wordings used and to avoid any use of wrong words, we strongly recommend for you to stick to the press text shared in the e-news for digital stories,” the order went. It was followed by ‘Press Guidelines’ that came in bullet form, with five points to follow, including words that must be used, highlighted in hi-vis colours.

It is hard to be sure that this isn’t written instruction preceding an O-level exam paper. Not wanting to risk the wrath of Paris and fearing “any use of wrong words”, we decided it is best not to name the event nor the product in this digital story. By now, many readers would know which shoe will be launched (major sneakerhead websites have already published the news days earlier. CNA Luxury ran it six hours ago) and that it’s a strictly online activity (Google for the microsite). The photo above may assist if you are unsure what the shoes in question are. If this is a must-buy for you, we wish you the best of luck. Oh, prepare S$3,500 for the high-cut or S$3,100 for the low.

Product photos: Dior. Collage: Just So

 

Nike Next

Although Nike clearly stands on the side of those demanding justice for the death of George Floyd, their stores, too, were targets of protesting looters

 

Happy lootingA delighted looter running out of a Nike in Chicago. Screen grab: Ben Pope/Twitter 

By now, looting has spread through many American cities. In Chicago, they struck at Nike. One video, posted on Twitter yesterday, showed a Nike store on Michigan Avenue, where the upscale shopping stretch The Magnificent Mile lies, completely swarmed with people determined to take whatever is inside without paying for them. One black woman, running out and hands filled with what she could carry, was shrieking with delight. Her face showed the satisfaction of perpetrating a crime, not seeing justice served. All around her, the happy looters were black—as much as we could see. Their willfulness and total disregard for damage to property and business is difficult to watch.

Is this protest or rampage?

Nike isn’t a luxury brand (although some products are priced as such), yet it is attracting looters as if there’s the equivalent of the Speedy or Capucines in its stores. In another shocking video—also posted on Twitter—looting was in full swing in Rochester, NY, at the Villa, described as “a lifestyle chain featuring brand-name shoes, clothes and sporting goods”. Amid people rushing out of the store, a black woman emerged with two Nike shoe boxes and other packaged merchandise and moved quickly towards a parked vehicle, left in the middle of the street. The person who shot the video asked her, “Sweetheart, is this your car? Did you leave your car to go get some sneakers?” She got into her automobile, said something not audible to the man, and left. About two minutes into the video, the same woman is seen running back to the store, presumably, to swipe more stuff!

Nike smashedCleared out: Nike in Chicago after looters had their haul. Photo: Ben Pope

We are not generalising here. The video posts of looting we have seen so far mainly involved people of the black community. This is perplexing and, for those of us from the other side of the world, incomprehensible. Part of the black issue—and experience—is how they are perceived. Or how they are easily the subject of racial profiling, which is clearly unacceptable. But by purloining while protesting, what are they hoping the world to see? Sure, this reflects the economic divide of the society that they live in, but how will breaking into stores to outright steal put the spotlight on their plight? How will the videos of their act—unimaginable in our part of the world, not even in riot-now-the-norm Hong Kong—widely posted and shared, make more people want to champion their cause?

America’s race issues are complicated and are not the discussion we want to take up here. But Nike has been a brand highly supportive of the black community. It has supported black athletes, named lines of shoes after black sportsmen, and even stood on the side of black NFL stars who stuck to what they believed in, even if doing so would incur the wrath of the White House. If Nike is, to this extent, with African-Americans, and is still the brand that the latter enjoys buying, why are those looters, both the black and their allies, creating such indelible damage to the Swoosh? Or, are we being naive?

20-06-01-17-37-15-287_decoNike’s video message. Screen grab: Nike/Twitter

Ironically, Nike came out just a few days ago to state that it is not sitting on the fence, urging its customers and loyalists to do the right thing. In a simple video message than made no mention of the brand, except a tweak on its 30-year-old slogan “Just Do It”, it adjures viewers to “For once, Don’t Do It”. And at the end, a fade-in of the Swoosh. There’s something poignant about the message, enough to prompt rival Adidas to support the post and share it. If Nike could be moved to sending out something this moving, why are its supposed fans responding by looting its stores, and gleefully so?

Nike is, of course, not the only target of the sneaker-raiders. Reports have emerged to say that other brands, including more luxury stores such as Gucci and Alexander McQueen, have been attacked and ransacked. Los Angeles, we hear, is badly affected, with shopping districts such as Melrose and Fairfax vandalised and marauded. Fashion, as it’s been repeatedly said these past months, is in a difficult place. What’s been videoed, Tweeted, and shared in just one weekend could point to something far more dire.

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

Rodent Stock

This Lunar New Year, brands are scampering to take your money for ratty fashion

 

ChinatownCNY 2020This year’s Eu Tong Sen-facing street decoration in Chinatown

By Mao Shan Wang

Rats! This year will soon arrive. I don’t know about you, but I am, in real life, not a fan of rats. Not one bit, these muroids, with their dirty-brown hair and pesky tails, and their love for gnawing and scavenging. I can deal with cockroaches, however many, but rats just sickens me, even just one. There, I’ve said it. I don’t deny that my distaste for them borders on disgust.

Despite their icky appearance, the Chinese zodiac has a special love for them, placing the rat ahead of the pack. The current CNY decoration in Chinatown best illustrates this. According to my mom, the rat is very smart, ingenious even, so much so that it’s able to outsmart and kick the cat out the race to be right ahead of the 12-animal conga line. That sounds pretty smart to me. But, according to Chinese Zodiac myth, the rat actually hitched a ride on the ox and jumped off the beast to propel him to the front! Talk about stepping stones!

Apart from the rat’s intelligence, the creature is, according to the ancients, also blessed with other anthropomorphic traits: charm(!), quick-wit, diligence, and practicality. I’m not sure what that would make (a good husband?), but I think that many would find such a character attractive, if not endearing. Which may explain why, in the cartoon world, so many lovable characters are based on rats.

Mickey X MangoMickey Mouse at Mango

The shu nian, like many years of the different animals before it, is opportunity for fashion brands to sell merchandise sporting the star creature. They could choose from so many of them, be they from books or screen animations, but they narrowed their choice to one—many chose predictable and bland Mickey Mouse, which, conversely, have been described as, among other qualities, handsome and heroic. I suppose abdominous Mickey is convenient and identifiable. Using him requires no starting from scratch. Why bother with a new delineation when Disney will readily licence a very white black mouse for any use, even for a largely Asian audience? And he’s available in so many forms—old and new.

If they really wanted handsome and heroic—appreciable modern rarities, there’s Remy from Ratatouille or Jerry of Tom & Jerry (to be sure, Etude House used them) or Minute of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (too old?). Or, if muscles are the prerogative, Mighty Mouse (the cartoon character, not Apple’s input device from 2005!). Or, if literary associations vital, Stuart Little. Or, if a female is preferred (in a post-Wonder Woman world, they are), Miss Bianca from The Rescuers. Or, if gender-fluidity is a must, Coney from the wildly popular Line characters. Or, if racial inclusiveness the most crucial, my all-time fave, Speedy Gonzales. No, they prefer same-old and sure-safe Mickey Mouse.

Gucci jeans & track top SS 2020Gucci track top and denim jeansDsneyDisney’s own Mickey Mouse merchandise with local expressionsH&M X Disney SS 2020H&M sweatshirt featuring a 3-D Mickey MouseDisney X Aldo sneakers SS 2020Disney X Aldo sneakers

Mickey appearing on Uniqlo or H&M tees is understandable—expected, even, but as a mascot for a luxury brand such as Gucci? To me, it’s jejune and unimaginative and too convenient. Mickey Mouse is there for the taking, so take it. That’s what it says to me. After all, the brand had already collaborated with Disney; they’ve produced a USD4,500(!), 3-D printed plastic handbag in the shape of Mickey’s head to mark the mouse’s 90th anniversary in 2018. No sweat if Disney’s beloved character is used. Again.

Some other brands do try, with varying degrees of success (authenticity? That’s another point). There’s a blotch of a rat at CK Calvin Klein, accompanied by a message: “TO SEE WHAT OTHERS DO NOT SEE THAT IS TRUE VISION”. Yes, in full caps and WhatsApp-worthy lack of punctuation. That’s probably paraphrasing Jonathan Swift—“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”, but what the saying has to do with rats is anyone’s guess. Perhaps cuteness alone isn’t quite enough; you have to appear smart (isn’t that already a rat trait?), better still, literary.

cK Calvin Klein shirt SS 2020CK Calvin Klein shirt with message and mouseNudie Jeans jacket S 2020Nudie Jeans Vinny Year of the Rat denim jacket at The Denim Store, 313@OrchardBrooks Brothers SS 2020Brooks Brothers sweater and a dressed grey mouse20-01-23-01-36-34-390_decoNikelab’s rat pack for DSM. Photo: DSM

Elsewhere, a pointy-nosed Japanese-esque mouse is seen on a Nudie Jeans trucker. The creature is described as a “metal rat”. They got that right. A small appreciable detail. If CK Calvin Klein’s rat is a literary one, then Brooks Brothers’ affable-looking rodent is probably its sporty compatriot. Given a baseball cap with a pair of unmistakable double Bs, the nameless creature could be Yankee’s (Everyone’s Hero) avatar. To appeal to those who are partial to cyberpunk aesthetics and who care not to be auspicious, the Earn Chen-led (he who founded Surrender and Ambush, and now the guy behind Potato Head Folk)  Singaporean label, The Salvages, offers—at DSMS—a robotic rat with a menacing scowl and red eye. Even Starbucks isn’t leaving themselves out of the rat race, selling a coffee mug in the shape of a rather corpulent Rattus. Not all brands use solo rats. Also at DSMS, Nike’s special capsule features one T-shirts with a quintet of basketball-playing rats of the ’hood. But perhaps most fascinating is one by Doublet: there’s an embroidery of a rat on the chest. If you look closely,  you’d see a loose thread. I was told that if you pull it, the stitches will unravel, revealing an ox—a tee for two consecutive years!

It isn’t yet clear if the pick up rate for these ratty fashion will spike during the CNY shopping season. Frankly, I don’t really know the purpose of luxury brands getting into Chinese New Year symbolism other than to cash in. In fact, I don’t recall the wearing of clothes that feature the animal of the corresponding zodiac year to be common. It’s definitely not traditional! Come to think of it, I remember Marc Jacobs’s men’s wear used to have a mascot/logo featuring a rodent named Stinky Rat. Mr Jacobs had never deliberately released clothing bearing the creature during CNY. Does wearing one’s zodiac animal (or spirit animal?) make things a little more season-appropriate, a little more festive, a little more auspicious?

Ill will unintended, I don’t give a rat’s ass.

Editorial note: for convenience, I use ‘rat’ and ‘mouse’ interchangeably, probably to the annoyance of mammalogists, biologists, zoologists, and the like. Photos (unless indicated): Chin Boh Kay.