Today, after severe criticism that the shoe makes light of slavery from consumers and from civil rights activists like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Adidas has reportedly pulled production of the JS Roundhouse Mid Shackle Shoe, designed by knowingly outlandish designer Jeremy Scott. The sneakers are brightly designed with actual yellowish-orange rubber shackles that fit around the ankles. While initially defending the sneaker that Adidas hoped to be “so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles,” the German shoemaker has now decided against the August store release and recanted its actions with the following 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," the statement said. "We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."
But many people, of all races, are not buying it. Jesse Jackson thinks the shoes are an “attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation.” I agree with him to an extent. I personally think these shoes are ridiculous, and there is nothing fashionable about them, but you can bet your bottom dollar there would’ve been thousands of teens (and I’m sure the majority African American) sleeping outside Foot Locker to pick these up if they were released as planned, and that is what really bothers me.
I feel that brands like Adidas and those that they sponsor that make a considerable amount of money from black youth, should be more responsible in the messages they portray to this demographic, who may not always have the best influences in their day-to-day lives and look to wider popular culture (athletes, musicians, fashion designers, etc.) for their cues on what they think is acceptable (you might not want to be a role model, but you are!). It is not okay to walk around with your jeans belted at mid-thigh and it’s not okay to wear shackles on your feet. . . no matter what color you are!
While I don’t think Adidas or Jeremy Scott’s intent was to be blatantly racist, these shoes do paint a very negative picture that would offend many, and as a major brand, someone at Adidas, sometime along the way, should have flagged this as a potential issue and either scrapped the idea before the concept came to fruition, or preempted the backlash with a solid communications plan where maybe some of this damage could have been mitigated. I have to be honest and say (don’t come for me Jesse!) that these shoes don’t offend me from a racial perspective, they offend me from a fashion perspective. Imagine me or anyone I know wearing these things?? As if!
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