The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 7 — Puma's rise to the top

Why you should be taking Puma seriously and more

Good morning! Happy Monday! Welcome back to the Kicks You Wear. Thank you so much for taking the time with me this morning. I really appreciate it. If you’re new here, remember to subscribe!

Today’s shoutout goes to my brother, Bryson, who turns 16 years old today! Happy birthday, big dog! You ain’t driving my car. Don’t ask.

With that said, let’s dig in.

Introducing sneaker culture’s newest big player

(Nipsey Hussle via Puma)

The footwear industry has blown up over the last few years up with brands like New Balance, Reebok, FILA, and a handful of others trying to work their way back into the sneaker game.

But nobody has transitioned quite like Puma. You’d be hard pressed to find an operation having more success right now — even among the giants like Adidas and Nike.

By the numbers:

  • Nike and Adidas are both bigger than Puma. Its worth noting their 2018 sales at over $30 billion and $22 billion, respectively, were both vastly larger than Puma’s $5.1 billion.

  • But Puma has been outpacing both in growth. Puma’s fiscal third quarter sales jumped 17%, just passing their 15.7% second quarter mark. They dusted both Nike (10%) and Adidas (4%) in their most recent quarters.

The obvious caveat here is once you get to a certain point, things stop growing so quickly. There’s only so much money out here. Puma is starting from scratch, which makes a big difference. However, growth numbers that monstrous show Puma is on its way to the upper class.

It feels like we’ve seen this before, right? A few years ago, Under Armour became a major player behind the rise of Steph Curry and the Warriors’ dominance in the NBA but they were never quite able to take advantage.

Under Armour never made Curry a cultural icon in the way Nike did with Michael Jordan or even with LeBron. The shoes weren’t cool enough and Kevin Durant coming to the Bay also put a damper on Curry’s rise.

Puma doesn’t have a Steph Curry yet, but they’ve already laid out the groundwork to build a solid platform for whoever becomes that star for them — in or outside of sports.

  • They’ve tapped into basketball in a meaningful way with deals for potential household names in the NBA like Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, RJ Barrett and Kyle Kuzma. The NBA is also the most trendy sports league in the global market. Attaching your shoes to it isn’t a bad idea.

  • Puma is also extremely for the culture. They’ve tapped in with hip hop and pop icons like Jay-Z, Rihanna and even the late Nipsey Hussle. And they’re not just slapping their names on shoes. They’re involving them in actual important business decisions.

That last bullet point is the biggest thing here. In 2019, superstar influence is at an all-time high. Those are the keys that allow a brand to shape conversation — look at Adidas and Kanye West. That’s something Under Armour couldn’t tap into and that’s why their bubble didn’t last.

I don’t know who the next Kanye West is in the sneaker industry, but I’d put my money on Puma being the brand to figure that out. When they do? Watch out.

The Vans and China situation isn’t going away

(Vans of Hong Kong via Hypebeast)

The first returns on the Vans and China situation a few weeks ago are in. The situation has skated a bit under the radar, but watching it has been fascinating. (Did you catch that pun?)

If you recall, a few weeks ago we went over Vans looking silly after it removed Canadian artist Naomiso’s Custom Culture shoe art submission that supported protestors in Hong Kong. Go back to Vol. 1 for a quick recap there.

Turns out, like we said before, they may have been a bit too late.

  • VF Corp shares dipped by 10% on Friday in the S&P 500 with revenue growth slowing down to 14% from 26% this time last year. Slowed growth normally isn’t a big issue, but that drop is enough to raise a few eyebrows.

Vans had to make a choice when this situation unfolded — either stand up against a foreign power or protect your pockets. They chose the latter and it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Obviously, these situations are fluid. Could they rebound from it? Maybe. It won’t be easy to get back into favor with China, but it seems doable. They’ve already removed the sneaker and issued a statement separating themselves from it. That was the first step in repairing this relationship and I’m sure there will be more.

With that being said, I have a number of questions here. Unlike the NBA situation, we’ve seen the early losses from the rift between China and Vans so we can evaluate what’s happening in real time. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • There’s no guarantee that the relationship between China and Vans will ever be the same, so is it worth even trying to repair at this point?

  • Even if you could repair it that means falling in line with China’s Communist Party and that’s a dangerous game. Is it worth playing?

  • What does this mean for Vans in America? This is a dangerous tightrope to walk. The NBA has been hit from all sides trying to do it. Does Vans get the same treatment? Especially as a company touting self expression as part of its greater marketing strategy.

I don’t ask these questions facetiously — I sincerely would like to know these answers or at least what Vans thinks about them. We’ll find out over time, but I wonder if that process is sped up now that we’ve seen this dip.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot of money to be made in China. And that’s why these these questions exist in the first place. Companies will always follow the dollar, regardless of right and wrong. That’s just the bottom line.

Long term, though, I just question the viability of any company’s relationship with China. That goes for Vans, the NBA and everyone else. This is bound to happen again, and the situation might be worse.

There’s been a clear line here set by China and, if you’re working with them, you have to toe it even if it reflects poorly on you back at home. It’ll be fascinating to see how companies balance that because, again, China is a massive resource with lots of capital.

I don’t have the answers here, but I’m keyed in on seeing what Vans does next. I hope they don’t lose their soul in the process.

Travis Scott for the win 🌵

Travis Scott hasn’t quite reached Yeezy level with his Nike collabs, but he’s definitely on his way there. Every Jordan and Air Force 1 he’s dropped with the swoosh has been a hit.

In a few weeks, they’ll add another one to the collection.

(Travis Scott AF1 lows via Sneaker Bar Detroit)

These AF1 lows will officially go down as the 8th pair of kicks the Houston superstar has released under the Nike/Jordan umbrella since 2017. In my opinion, these are the best pair of Air Forces Scott has released by far.

This shoe will do numbers just like the rest of them. There’s not a single Travis Scott shoe on StockX right now with a lower ask than $283 (The Jordan XXXIII). But I do wonder what the next step is for Scott and how Nike chooses to expand this partnership with him.

  • We’ll probably see him customize another model. I’d pay for a good pair of Travis Scott Dunks or some type of Air Max. He’s rumored to have an Air Max 270 on the way next year, so that’s exciting.

  • Letting Scott design an original sneaker seems like a logical step up here, but I don’t know if it’s coming. Does he have a penchant for design like West? I have no idea. That’s definitely something I want to see though.

Regardless, I probably won’t be able to get these before #TheBots do — just like the rest of his shoes. I’ma still shoot my shot tho.

The fall rotation 🔥🔥🔥

A look at the fall rotation, y’all!

These are the staples that I’m (planning on) wearing this fall. Every year I do this and I end up breaking the rotation with joints I’ve been wearing all year, but I’m hoping y’all can hold me accountable this season.

Bear in mind that I’ll probably add to this as time goes by. Yes, I am copping pleas already.

Here’s what they are:

  • Bottom left: Adidas x Bodega Sobakov

  • Bottom right: Nike Dunk low “Black Pigeon”

  • Top left: Nike Dunk low “Salmon Ladder”

  • Top right: Nike Air Max 200 “Rasta”

Let me know what y’all think! Am I trash? Do I need to add a few more? I had six up initially but cut down because I know there are at least a couple things coming out in the next few weeks I want to cop. We’ll see.

Anyway, let me see your rotation! Shoot me your pics. Share with me, y’all.

What’s droppin’ bruh

Alright, y’all! That’s it for your boy! Thanks so much for reading. As always, I appreciate every single one of you. Y’all are what keeps this going — I truly mean that.

Don’t forget to share and subscribe if you’re new here! Tell a friend to tell another friend about the Kicks You Wear!

Have a great, productive week. Talk to you Friday.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯