By: Lauren Saccone
When avant-garde fashion designer Jeremy Scott was tasked with creating sneakers for Adidas, he jumped at the opportunity. The purple and orange design was certainly eye-catching. But why he chose to accessorize the sneakers with bright orange shackles around the ankles remains a mystery – and a public relations disaster.
The controversial sneakers were set to be released in August, and the marketing campaign was just kicking off. Adidas’ Facebook page featured ads for the shoes that hinted at the upcoming worldwide campaign. Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t respond well to the concept of having sneakers chained to their feet.
“Wow obviously there was no one of color in the room when the marketing/production team ok’d this,” said one online commentator. And she was not alone. Thousands of people joined the online outcry, saying that the shoes bear an uncanny resemblance to the chains slaves were forced to wear in the 19th century. Some have even dubbed the shoes as "slavewear".
“What is this, the slavery line?” asked another Facebook user. Others pointed out that the shackles closely resembled those worn by prisoners in jails across the country.
Adidas immediately jumped on damage control. Of course designer Jeremy Scott wasn’t making a statement about racism. Fashion is weird, right? Look at the stuff Lady Gaga wears! Let’s not make this political, shall we? For his part, Scott released a statement insisting the idea for the design came from a 1980s toy called ‘My Pet Monster,’ which came with bright orange shackles.
Unfortunately for Adidas, people were not so forgiving. The onslaught of anger about the design continued, with author Dr. Boyce Watkins publishing a diatribe against the design on his website, ‘Your Black World.’
“Shackles,” wrote Dr. Watkins. “The stuff that our ancestors wore for 400 years while experiencing the most horrific atrocities imaginable. Most of which were never documented in the history books and kept away from you in the educational system, all so you’d be willing to put shackles on your ankles today and not be so sensitive about it.”
“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,” said Reverend Jesse Jackson in an official statement, condemning Adidas and Jeremy Scott.
Faced with overwhelmingly negative feedback put Adidas in an awkward position. Continuing to dismiss the design as just a quirky expression of fashion certainly wasn’t diffusing the situation. In the end, Adidas bowed to public pressure. On Monday they issued a statement that they would be canceling the controversial shoe line.
“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,” said Adidas in the statement. “We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”
When Adidas joined forces with edgy designer Scott, they obviously wanted to make an impression. This probably wasn’t what they had in mind.
[Pic via Flickr - warrenski]