Wednesday, June 20, 2012

adidas Shackle Shoes - the Internet stomps on Brand's product launch

I've never worn an adidas product but I have to admit these Shackle Shoes in Inmate Orange are kick-ass. In fact if a pirate edition turns up in a local Chinese night market I will be tempted.  Of course I would prefer my plastic shackles in Canadian Taxpayer Red. ... I'm acutely aware of who my masters are.  I've never worn a prison jumpsuit  but millions of Americans have, and that's the point. adidas was hoping to cash in on the bravado of inmates past and present, and make a bundle.  On June 14th the foot-ware conglomerate began promoting a new shoe, the "JS Roundhouse Mid" on its Facebook page. (I'm not into sneaker semiotics, so I don't get any of that.) The teaser line read "Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?" The product is already manufactured, in China of course,  and was slated for an August 2012 release. Then something interesting happened.  A few shrill agitators (the likes of the felonious Jesse Jackson) mouthed off about the Shackle Shoe, forging spurious links between the gaudy foot ware and the American slave-holding era which ended 147 years ago.  adidas lost its nerve.  Read "Adidas 'shackle' shoes cancelled amid slavery controversy".

So where did the idea spring from?  Credit is given to Jeremy Scott, the Tim Roth lookalike scowling at us in this photo.  Mr. Scott and adidas were planning to cash in on the fact that more millions of U.S. citizens have done time in prison or jail than have served in the military. For a quick take on the staggering numbers read United States incarceration rate on Wikipedia.  A D.O.J. report found that in 2006 over 7.2 million Americans were in prison on probation or on parole... that is 1 out of every 32 U.S. citizens!    If you are a trend watching bunch like they are in the fashion sneaker biz, that is a juicy demographic.  And don't you believe that inmates aren't consumers of trend-ware.    

There are many articles I could point to profiling inmate fashion in the exercise yard, but for a one-minute taste, read "Croc-style shoes proving popular in local jails". It's HERE.  In the past year inmates of just one jail bought 215 pairs, at $15.99, to match their issue jumpsuits.  I'm reminded of the title of a book I read twenty years ago, IF EVERYBODY BOUGHT ONE SHOE.  It is about doing business with the Chinese, and although the book is long out of date, the sentiment applies.  If even a fraction of the American inmate population got the point (the joke?) and bought a pair of Shackle Shoes, adidas and Scott would make out like bandits.

Then there is the super-cheapo variety of shoe. The real thing - prison issue.  Inmates housed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation wear these slip-ons, imported from China and which cost that nearly-broke State  less than a bag of birthday balloons at your local Dollarama.

Since the U.S. Government activated the infamous prison camp for Muslim militants at Guantanamo, Cuba the market has been flooded with an array of new-fangled restraints, masks and gags, some of which are produced in Inmate Orange. The Yanks force their Muslim detainees to wear Inmate Orange to emphasize they are CRIMINALS and not POW's. This photo shows a prisoner sporting felt-bottomed orange slippers and cushioned leg irons with non-pick locks.  

These gals are wearing a similar type of slip-on footware into court. Notice that their legs are also shackled, a rather odious form of restraint which has become a matter of routine in many jurisdictions south of the border and, which will probably become routine in Canada before long. 
And finally, a graphic borrowed from Wikipedia which shows another wretched statistic from 2006.  That year nearly 5% of American Black males were in prison or jail. If you extrapolate these annual figures you come to understand that far, far more American Blacks have been imprisoned by the courts than were ever held in bondage by slave owners.  "Inmate Orange" and shackle shoes are an obvious pairing and I was amused to discover that one author boldly discusses colour politics in her "Orange is the New Black - My Year in a Women's Prison". Check it out HERE  on