Commentary

Slave To Fashion?

While Europe teeters on the brink of insolvency, the Middle East teeters on the brink of chaos from Cairo to Damascus, and the ad industry teeters on the brink of implosive self-absorption at Cannes, we are amused to see that there is still time and attention to ponder why Adidas greenlighted a new sneaker design equipped with plastic ankle-cuff “shackles” joined to the shoes by a short chain. Previews of the shoes drew so much criticism for their resemblance to equipment used to restrain slaves, that plans to start selling them in August were canceled.

Initially Adidas defended the kicks as "nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion... [with] nothing to do with slavery" -- but then the company hit some heavier turbulence when none other than the Rev. Jesse Jackson issued a statement that said in part, "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."

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You be the judge.

With or without racist overtones, the shoes are arguably pretty ugly -- and I thought the chains were to help prevent bigger kids from stealing them off the feet of smaller kids, something that has happened to popular styles in the past. And wouldn't that plastic ankle-cuff chafe  after about 15 minutes of movement? Whatever, it seemed like a stupid idea to begin with before overlaying the "doesn't-this-makes-me-look-like-a-slave" implications.

In the comments sections of one story about the shoe, someone amusingly recounted another "prisoner-fashion" faux pas: “A few years ago, there was a fashion fad of jump suits which looked very much like prison issue. The fad didn't last very long because people were getting pulled over for driving while looking like an inmate. There was one man who was pulled over because he looked like an inmate, it turns out that he had two warrants, then he was an inmate. This guy deserved to be locked up for being 'just plain stupid.’"

One of the things that makes America a great consumerist nation is that if something offends you, you need not buy it (with the possible exception of Obamacare, if it ever survives to see the light of day). Personally, I am offended by the prices that accompany nearly every fashion item for men featured in magazines like GQ or Esquire (they ARE still being published, I assume). Dolce & Gabbana tank top for $295? Bottega Veneta blazer for $2,180? Pierre Hardy sneakers for $520? I think not. And there are lots of "fashion" items I find immoral, but not because they could somehow be interpreted as "slave-like," but rather because they are ugly, such as suit pants that come up to the ankle and tux shirts you can see through.

Perhaps, since Adidas is a German company, it should get a pass for making a mistake with the shackle sneaks. After all, they are pretty busy worrying about what will happen when Greece and Spain tank (taking all of those bailout euros with them). This is no worse a crime than Nike trying to separate impressionable kids from $210 for a pair of basketball shoes.

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