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article imageNew Adidas shackle sneakers — slavery symbols or quirky fashion?

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 19, 2012 in Lifestyle
Adidas Originals and Beverly Hills designer Jeremy Scott are in the eye of the storm over a new shoe design due out in August that features bright orange shackles for wearers to snap around their ankles.
When Adidas posted a picture of its new JS Roundhouse Mids on Facebook recently, many fans couldn't believe it. Critics are saying that it epitomizes the rampant insensitivity to the painful memories of slavery in some quarters.
Los Angeles Times reports that the picture of the new shoe design comes with a tag line on Adidas's Facebook page that says, playfully: "Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?"
According to The Huffington Post, Adidas Originals is promoting the $350 "kicks" with witty "lock up" puns such as:
Tighten up your style with the JS Roundhouse Mids, dropping in August.
But many Americans are not going along with Adidas's facetious humor, and many of these are expressing strong feelings. Los Angeles Times quotes a post on Adidas's Facebook page: "Our ancestors fought blood, sweat and tears just so fools can turn pain into an accessory?"
Another post said: "These should be taken off the market."
A Twitter post read: "Any designer that's nostalgic for slavery will Never have my support."
According to The Huffington Post, a commenter wrote heatedly: "Please African Americans don't line up for these, Where does the Respect Begin and End for our people. Boycott Please!"
Another wrote: "Please tell me this is FAKE. I am not hearing these Adidas Amistad Originals." The Huffington Post explains that "Amistad" refers to the "famous African slave ship that was the site of a slave revolt in 1839."
MSNBC reports other comments on social media:
“What is this, the slavery line?” Christopher Daniels asked in the photo’s comment section.
“Why would you want shackles round your legs that’s just like back in slavery days #sillyidea,” commented Shakira Allen.
“Wearing them you can feel like real prisoner,” wrote Pawel Lisowski.
Aamir Ali also saw a jailhouse connection, writing: “Sorry but I'd rather not look like someone who just broke out of prison.”
FoxSports reports that many are calling for a boycott of Adidas:
Antonio Leche posted: "Slavery isn't a fashion example. Everyone involved in this show should be fired ASAP! This is the new reason I won't buy any Adidas anymore!"
Kay Tee wrote: "It's offensive and inappropriate in many ways. Not to mention ugly."
Another comment asked: "How would a Jewish person feel if Nike decided to have a shoe with a swastika on it and tried to claim it was OK in the name of fashion?"
The Huffington Post notes the shoes had not attracted much attention since it first emerged last winter, but since Adidas Originals posted a preview picture on Facebook, the blogosphere came alive with strong reactions that generated over 2,000 comments. Many insist that no matter what Adidas thinks, ankle shackles, in the context of American history and culture, are potent symbols and reminders of the recent Slave Trade.
According to Los Angeles Times, an Adidas representative has defended the design, saying: "The design... is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery."
Shackles have nothing to do with slavery?
Some seem to think so. Los Angeles Times reports a comment on Addidas's Facebook wall reads: "It's fashion. Just shoes. That's all it is. And they are dope."
The Huffington Post reports another Facebook commenter wrote, "Not every thing with a chain is related to slavery people....."
MSNBC reports that a comment by Hanna Lauwers, said: “Jeremy always pushes boundaries. Shoes like these just makes it even more obvious that only people with real guts want and would wear them. This has nothing to do with slavery."
But MSN Now comments on the cultural insensitivity of designers who can afford not to appreciate that it will inevitably remind many Americans of what their ancestors were forced to wear: "The shoes... for some, are a plastic-and-Velcro reminder of the chains that slaves were forced to wear."
IndieWire wonders, "Maybe inspired by 'slave-movie-fever' perhaps? Adidas brass looking to capitalize," and asks: " this just entirely unintentional on Adidas' part, although ignorant of what the design of these new kicks might suggest to some? Or not even worth discussing?"
According to David M. Carter, head of the USC Sports Business Institute, controversy over the Adidas sneakers could block the release in August. He said: "As offensive as the shoe may be to many, ultimately, 'distaste' is in the eye of the shareholder as they will weigh in -- if not determine -- the appropriateness of this product. Public sentiment, pressure from advocacy groups, and media coverage will also contribute heavily to management’s decision to continue to market or pull the product."
The controversial design comes soon after Nike's recent "Black & Tan" controversy.
Update: CBS News reports that Adidas has canceled plans for the "shackle sneakers" after it received criticisms that the sneakers were symbols of slavery. According to statement by Adidas, "Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, Adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."
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