The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 15 — Under Armour still isn't cool

The brand is in trouble again and just can't seem to get right

Gooooooood morning! Happy Monday! It’s Thanksgiving week, y’all. Get them turkey friers heated up. Travel safely if you’re on the go.

Shoutout to all the TSA agents who are about to go mad dealing with all of our shit this week as we travel across the country. Be kind, y’all. Remember.

Anyway, lets dig in.

Under Armour’s house ain’t protected right now

(Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash)

Three or four years ago, Under Armour was the industry's prized jewel. They were growing fast and becoming a powerhouse, mostly driven by the sudden success of Steph Curry and the Warriors.

That unplanned success is exactly why the brand is in the position it’s in right now with slowing growth. Growth came maybe a little too fast. They weren't prepared to sustain it.

  • Numbers from Q3 2016: “Footwear net revenues increased 42% to $279 million from $196 million in the prior year's period, driven by strong growth in running and basketball,” per a release from the company.

  • Numbers from Q3 2019: “Under Armour said footwear revenue tumbled 12% to $250.6 million from $284.9 million a year ago,” CNBC’s Lauren Thomas reports.

Curry’s success was a Band-Aid that covered up massive issues the brand needed to face. It’s been three years since the apex of Under Armour’s Curry boom and they still haven’t figured out how to market themselves outside of performance.

Under Armour needs a change in philosophy. Even now, as the brand struggles, CEO Kevin Plank says the company is still going to lean on performance gear to dig them out of this whole.

“Building product for [athletes] that will help them train, compete, and recover in is going to really be our difference, I think,” Plank told reporters on Q3 earnings.

Newsflash: It won't make a difference. Remember the problems every brand is having with basketball? Well, it’s not just basketball. Performance, overall, is suffering. Running, training, football — you name it.

  • There’s a limit on how far a strategy built on performance can go. You can’t market the Curry 7’s to an audience not interested in hooping. The same goes for The Rock’s trainer shoes. Under Armour has never made a real commitment to the lifestyle game.

  • They flirted with it in 2018 — remember that A$AP Rocky shoe? Returns weren’t big, so they turned away instead of building it out (subscription). They’re suffering for it now.

That’s the difference between UA and the rest of the major sneaker brands. Nike has a built out lifestyle category that is fueled by tradition and timelessness. Adidas’ lifestyle backbone runs through Yeezy. Puma made a return to the game on lifestyle and big cultural influencers alone.

Under Armour’s biggest names are Stephen Curry, The Rock and…Tom Brady? Probably not going to cut it for the fashion forward casual.

By the way, along with their lifestyle issues Under Armour is also being investigated by the S.E.C. for faulty accounting practices related to its 2017 fiscal year. Not great news, all around.

Leaning on what you know can be good when it’s time to try and bounce back. That’s what UA is trying to do here. But when what you know isn’t working, it’s time to adapt.

That’s what they’ve never been able to do. Their numbers won’t grow again until that happens.

Adidas has finally recycled the Futurecraft.Loop

(Photo by George Evans on Unsplash)

Adidas has been a champion for the environment since 2015 when they partnered with Parley to create shoes out of actual plastic waste polluting the world’s oceans.

They also had the brilliant idea of creating a 100% recyclable shoe and having people send the shoe back for a different one after wearing it for a certain amount of time. It was the Futurecraft.Loop.

The company distributed 200 pairs out to influencers and media this year for a test run before a public debut in 2021. Seemed like a great idea, but…let’s just say they ran into some kinks along the way.

  • The influencers and media that they sent the shoes to? They weren’t sending them back in a timely manner, Marc Bain of Quartz writes. So it took a while to create generation two of the shoe.

  • Once they did recycle them, it turned out only 10% of generation two kicks could be made from the recycled materials of generation one. Adidas found that it took more time, Bain writes, to turn those materials into the Boost midsole cushioning the shoe comes with. Using new, untouched materials was just faster.

  • Adidas says that 10% is a win for them early on in the process — especially considering the condition some of the shoes were returned in.

Things are off to a solid start. Adidas’ goal with the Futurecraft was to create a one-to-one system between the consumer and the company that has one person send their shoe back to get the same shoe back in 100% recycled form. They’re not quite there yet, but this is good progress.

One thing we have to remember is that no one has ever tried doing this on a massive scale before. There are logistical issues as well as technical issues that are going to have to be worked out.

Shoutout to Adidas for even doing this. I can’t wait to cop mine next year.

Nike’s FlyEase tech is a game changer

Nike’s FlyEase technology was finally put on a pedestal with the FlyEase AJ1 in the “Fearless” collection, but it certainly didn't feel like it.

That shoe should’ve been a bigger deal than it was. It was shoehorned in with the rest of the collection, but it had so much more to give. The functionality of it is so important.

  • Nike’s FlyEase system features a wrap around zipper on the back of its shoes near the heel counter that allow the wearer to just slide right in without tying traditional laces. It was originally made for athletes when it debuted in 2015, per Footwear News, but now it’s expanding.

The Jordan 1 was Jordan Brand’s introduction to the technology. It still looks like a normal shoe — anyone who didn’t put it on wouldn’t know the difference. Take a look.

Official images of the Air Jordan 1 Flyease have emerged! Combining the “Banned” and “Black Toe” colorways, Jordan Brand debuts this easy-entry solution in spirited fashion. Hit the link in our bio for a detailed look.
October 22, 2019

The Jordan 1 was a big deal. It was Nike’s first big FlyEase expansion into the lifestyle game. Typically, the tech has been used for athletes. But, obviously, athletes aren’t the only ones with disabilities. Everyone likes dope kicks.

It’s also a smart business move on Nike’s part. The adaptive fashion market is about to be worth billions, Erin Clack of FN writes.

“The global adaptive fashion market is forecast to swell to nearly $350 billion by 2023, according to Coresight Research. Not surprisingly, Nike is at the forefront of the movement with its groundbreaking FlyEase technology, which continues to produce new, more exciting innovations.”

It rarely happens, but it’s always cool to see big business and the greater good for people align — especially when it comes to sneakers.

As y’all know, I’m generally very cynical when it comes to things like this. But this is objectively good. My only question is which brand dives in on adaptive fashion next.

Ronnie Fieg does it again

Look, we all know how I feel about Air Forces, right? They’re fine shoes — a tad bit overrated, but fine. Still legendary. I’d wear them but they’re not my first choice.

Except these. These are DEFINITELY my first choice. Ronnie Fieg has outdone himself with these KITH Air Force 1’s.

(Kith AF1’s via Sneaker News)

No idea when these are dropping, but I gotta cop em. They’re so clean. The golden aglets, the golden lace jewel, the KITH logo in the swoosh, the undefeated combo of red, white and blue with a splash of green. It’s a perfect shoe.

As soon as I know when these are dropping, y’all will know. Just don’t try to buy them, please. If you do try, make sure you get me a pair, too.

What’s droppin’, bruh

Talk to you Friday! Peace and love. Don’t forget to tell a friend to tell another friend about the Kicks You Wear. And keep up #TheKicksWeWear entries. I’m loving it!

Have a great holiday! Be kind to one another, always.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯