The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 1 — What are those?

Diving in to LeBron James' sneaker struggles and more

Welcome to the first ever edition of The Kicks You Wear! Thank you all again for subscribing and taking this journey alongside me. It’s going to be a ton of fun, I promise!

First, though, I want to give a big shoutout to the folks at Sports Illustrated who were laid off by TheMaven last week. I hope every single one of you lands on your feet somewhere. Read more about their situation here.

Now, let’s dig in.

“Don’t wear LeBron's to the club the shits ugly.”

This bar from Dom Kennedy’s Platinum Chanel was the only thing running through my mind as I watched LeBron James showcase the LeBron 17 on Instagram a couple weeks ago. I mean, look at it.

(Via @KingJames)

Dom was right. I’m sorry, but this looks like a combat boot. And the sad thing about it is it’s more of the same with Bron. His shoes just aren’t wearable for most people — folks like you and me. And it’s been that way for a while.

  • Despite the bad aesthetics, James led all athletes (including Michael Jordan) in signature sneaker sales from October 2018 to June 2019, per Matt Powell of the NPD Group.

  • That’s cool and all, but there’s one huge caveat: Signature sneakers don’t sell anymore. “Total sales of signature basketballs shoes declined 10% for the period and accounted for less than $500 million at retail,” Powell told me. It’s not just a blip either — since mid-2015 basketball shoes represent less than 5% of total athletic shoe sales.

James’ sneaker problem matters because he’s the industry leader. If his shoes do well, basketball does well. But at 6’8 and 270-something pounds, James needs protection for his feet that the average Joe doesn’t and that makes the shoe difficult to wear.

Sneaker Politics owner Derek Curry summed up things up perfectly to Footwear News.

“There’s better technology [today] and they’re great on the court for basketball. But guys don’t wear them in the streets. They’re too hard to wear with things like jeans.”

Nike has to fix that because they have to do this again. Zion Williamson is due for a signature shoe at some point with Jordan Brand. However, he has the same problem as James — he’s huge.

  • Sleek won’t work — he already busted out of Nike’s PG 2.5. And, as we can see, heavier shoes work on the court but don’t connect with the consumer.

  • Finding a happy medium matters. Nike can’t go another 20 years without an heir apparent to the Jordan Brand as it slowly continues to lose its cultural weight.

Maybe Williamson is the key. Maybe basketball’s time has just come and gone. Who knows? Hold on to hope, though. If 90’s fashion can come back, basketball sneakers can too.

Sneaker politics — literally

(via Vans)

Vans is looking funny in the light after it removed Canadian artist Naomiso’s submission in their Custom Culture shoe art contest. His piece was created in support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

  • The problem is they were too late. It blew up with more than 140,000 votes before they found it, per The Business of Fashion.

The company released a statement defending the move.

“We have never taken a political position and therefore review designs to ensure they are in line with our company’s long-held values of respect and tolerance, as well as with our clearly communicated guidelines for this competition.”

Cleaning this up made sense fiscally, but it also pissed just about everyone off.

  • On one side, China’s supporters were already up in arms about the artwork existing in the first place. And with the Chinese government controlling the country’s commerce, among other things, Vans couldn’t risk losing out on a massive sneaker market. Just ask the Houston Rockets.

  • On the other, folks in the comment section of their post are calling the company feckless. It’s 2019 and playing both sides of the fence doesn’t work anymore. People have preconceived political notions surrounding their favorite brands and also expect them to take political positions that align with their own.

This is a great case study that shows us how easy it is for companies to be “woke” when everyone agrees — Vans has a Pride collection and a Black History Month collaboration. But when there’s even a tiny bit of controversy, the bottom line becomes a priority. It’s sad, but it’s true.

The main thing here that we can’t forget is that there are real people in Hong Kong fighting for freedoms that were promised to them by their government. This is something that should be easy for everyone to get behind, yet here we are.

Try on your grails through the phone

GOAT’s new augmented reality feature is a huge tease for any sneakerhead. I tested it a while back when they unveiled it with Travis Scott’s Jordan 1s and, boy, let me tell you, I was so mad when I closed the app.

All jokes aside, this is a great way to get a legit look at sneakers on foot before you cop ‘em. For someone like me who consistently falls crisp sneaker photoshops, it’s great.

  • Stay tuned because more of this is coming. Nike started experimenting with AR this year through the Nike Fit app and it’s only a matter of time before stuff like this hits a retailers like Foot Locker or Finish Line across the country.

I’ve got my eye on…

These “Safari” Nike Dunks are it — I’m telling you. Talk about fusing two classics. This low dunk riffs off of 2002’s Atmos x Nike “Safari” Air Max 1. If there are two things in this world I love, it’s dunks and cheetah print.

Y’all know the vibes. If you know somebody who knows somebody that got the drop on these, let your boy know. I’m sold. Somebody get me these. I’ll pay you. I’m broke but I’ll figure it out.

What’s droppin’, bruh

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to share and subscribe if you haven’t already! If you need any recs, I got you — just hit me.

Love you guys! Take care and see you Friday.

Signing off,