Just for kicks? These shoes are a disgrace
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2012 12:32AM
The new adidas JS Roundhouse Mids, debuting in August.
Updated: July 20, 2012 6:22AM
Slavery isn’t the only image that Adidas’ “JS Roundhouse Mid” gym shoe brings to mind.
The shoe has orange ankle bracelets and chains and is being marketed under the provocative tag line: “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles.”
I don’t know what that means. But you can go to any jail that serves an urban population and see a parade of black men in shackles come through the courtroom.
If you’ve never witnessed such a sad sight, gym shoes with an ankle bracelet and a chain won’t conjure any disturbing images.
But like too many other African Americans, I’ve seen it, and I was reminded of every image I’ve seen of Africans being herded into slave ships.
That doesn’t mean I believe the designer of these controversial shoes sat at his drawing board and was inspired by black people in slave shackles. The shoe design appears to glorify so-called “thug wear.”
Here’s where having a culturally sensitive black person on staff would have helped. Someone should have pulled Scott’s coat on this project before his vision became a reality.
The JS Roundhouse Mid shoe exploits the same ignorance that made showing one’s underwear in public a fashion trend when it really is an assault on public decency. The disgusting practice exposes more than boxers. It exposes a lack of self-respect.
Unfortunately for the people who are already fed up, young males who are shuffling down the street holding up their pants are going to love this latest fashion trend.
Besides, nothing gets a brand out there faster than a Facebook controversy.
By Monday afternoon, more than 2,000 comments were posted on the company’s Facebook page:
“Adidas must not care how or who they disrespect. This company must be runner up in the contest of how to pretending [sic] that the past don’t matter,” wrote Marcus Ford.
“It’s not the shoe that’s racist, it’s the designer. This does make people think of slavery. I think of imprisonment or slaver[sic] when I see it, and I’m not black,” wrote Christian Lorenzo.
Linnea Emery wrote: “I don’t see the issue. They have convict Halloween costumes and nobody pitches a fit.”
Adidas defended the design against the criticism that it was based on slavery but didn’t say a word about prison garb.
“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 spokesperson said.
But there is a problem.
Shackles and chains, not to mention the dreaded monitoring bracelet, are still perceived by many as powerful symbols of slavery.
In fact, shackles will be at the center of a local Juneteenth Day celebration Tuesday.
Juneteenth Day commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865.
Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, Illinois state senator-elect, has organized a march by African-American women who will be shackled in chains to bring attention to the staggering level of violence in some Chicago communities.
This “March of Lamentation” will commence at 10 a.m. at the James R. Thompson Center Plaza.
“Violence keeps us in bondage, keeps us from being able to function properly,” Watkins told me in a telephone conversation on Monday.
“We are restricted in our movement, restricted in our ability to grow and build our community and we are restricted in the area of education,” she said.
Frankly, Jeremy Scott’s, shackle shoes can be construed to symbolize the plight of too many African Americans.
We are, indeed, shackled, and I’m not talking about slavery.
Too many of us can’t move out of neighborhoods that have become unsafe because our homes are underwater. Too many of our children are still attending poor schools, and we can’t get them into better ones. And in too many neighborhoods, the biggest employer isn’t government or private industry. It is the drug dealers. Too many of us are suffering from post-traumatic stress because of deplorable violence.
As one commentator on the Adidas Facebook page put it, “all the people chanting racism can’t afford these shoes anyway.”
That’s probably true. (They will cost around $350 when they hit the stores in August.)
Still, the chains on the JS Roundhouse Mid aren’t nearly as offensive as the chains on the minds of black consumers who will line up to buy these shoes.