Adidas Cans Horrible "Shackle" Shoe for Slavery Implications

Adidas' new "shackle" shoe has been canceled after a public outcry that they appeared to allude to slavery. Cause they did: bright purple high tops with a road-pattern velcro tongue strap were not hideous enough to distract from the ankle cuffs that attached to the shoe with chain link, which were not only reminiscent of slave shackles, but were also shaded in the same bright orange shade of penitentiary uniforms. Designed by Hollywood-based designer Jeremy Scott, Adidas initially denied the line between the sneakers and slavery, releasing an official statement:

“The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery,” a representative for the shoemaker told by email. “Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted … Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful.”

The New York Observer pointed out that images of the shoe had been on sneaker websites for months, and that clearly (clearly!) the inspiration was not slavery, but the '90s stuffed toy/icon Pet Monster, which was shaded in the same colorway as the sneakers and included a similarly neon orange chain almost identical to the one on the sneaker. The Pet Monster inspiration is believable, because Jeremy Scott as a designer is a suspended manchild obsessed with everything from his no doubt productive youth. (His latest line is full of cliche Bart Simpson nostalgia.)

Regardless of the inspiration—or the series of tone-deaf and apparently historically ignorant people who approved it, from Scott on down the line through Adidas execs—the outcry was such that the company finally pulled it. The Rev. Jesse Jackson:

"The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive," he said in a statement Monday, before Adidas' decision to withdraw them from the marketplace.

As with these issues, there were plenty of people around to tell those offended by the sneaker to "chill out" or that it's "just fashion," from the snotty tone of the Observer piece on down to commenters mentioned in this Today report:

“Jeremy always pushes boundaries,” wrote Hanna Lauwers. “Shoes like these just makes it even more obvious that only people with real guts want and would wear them. This has nothing to do with slavery."

"People with real guts"... and white privilege, perhaps? Regardless of Scott's intent, from a fashion perspective, my friend and writer Timmhotep Aku put it best: "You do realize that them shits still look stoopid no matter the inspiration, right?"

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at June 19, 2012, 7:13am

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