The Kicks You Wear, Vol 79. — Baseball's big branding problem

Why the MLB's signature stars are all but gone

Good morning, folks! Happy Friday! Welcome back to the Kicks You Wear.

Thanks for spending a bit of time with me to kick your day off. I hope it’s an excellent one and I hope you have an excellent weekend.

Let’s dive right in.

Baseball's untapped potential

(Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash)

I was having a conversation with a homie earlier this week about signature shoes. He was trying to buy a new pair of kicks, but something from the baseball realm.

The problem was he had virtually nothing to choose from — at least not anything from baseball’s modern era.

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are baseball's two signature athletes right now. Outside of that? There's not much. In a league with more than 700 players at any given time, that is absolutely astonishing.

You have to go back to the 90’s to actually find good baseball signature shoes.

  • MLB had some big signature names back in the day. Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton, Frank Thomas, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Hideo Nomo.

  • That’s not a ton of names, relatively speaking. But that’s certainly more than the league has today and they all certainly hold some type of weight to them.

That presence doesn’t exist in MLB today. But it’s not because the players — rather, it’s because baseball itself will not let it.

Signature athletes need two things: Talent and, most importantly, charisma. They need to be interesting. There are plenty of players in baseball with both of those things right now.

  • Here’s another list of names. Tim Anderson, Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto. The list goes on.

People don’t know these dudes because baseball won’t allow them to. They produce, but they're not allowed to be interesting. To be different. They’re explicitly shamed for playing with any kind of joy.

Perfect example: Tim Anderson was just punished for a bat flip just last season. He was hit by a pitch and then thrown out of an actual game. Seriously. This hilarious (and NSFW) tweet breakdown captures it perfectly.

These are exactly the kinds of scenarios that dissuade baseball’s athletes from stepping up and being the sport’s flag bearers. Then, when you ask why Mike Trout isn’t more popular despite being one of the best baseball players ever, they just shift the blame on the player.

Here’s MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Trout’s popularity at the 2018 All-Star game.

"Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn't want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very big. But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort."

Ah, yes, of course.. Trout just has to want to be in the spotlight. Never mind the fact that when he does things to put himself in that spotlight, he might get hit in the face with a baseball. The problem is he just doesn’t want it enough, clearly.

That’s baseball’s branding problem in a nutshell. They have the athletes. Those athletes have the talent. They also have the personality. They just don’t have the support they need to make it happen. MLB squashes personality — they don’t foster it.

Because of that, we’re probably not going to see any new signature athletes in baseball any time soon. And that’s really a shame.

Nike won’t give us numbers on their layoffs

(Photo by Thomas Serer on Unsplash)

Nike began the process of laying some of its workforce off in order to move forward with its direct to consumer approach on Wednesday, but they haven’t released details on how many employees they were laying off.

The numbers we do have, however, suggest that the scale of the cuts is going to be pretty massive.

  • The company is expected to spend nearly $200 million to $250 million on termination costs, per Oregon Live, which generally includes things like buyouts and severance packages.

  • As of May 2019, they documented 77,000 employees. That number will be updated at some point.

Along with those layoffs, the company decided to shake up the executive suite a bit. Part of their strategy is to focus on three sectors — menswear, womenswear and kids. All three of those sectors had new VP’s named on Wednesday.

Nike continues to say that the cuts they made were not a cost-cutting measure, but rather a company restructuring, and that’s 100% true. They’re not in any financial danger.

  • Yes, the company had a disappointing fourth quarter. But disappointment for them was hitting $6.3 billion in revenue instead of an analyst projected $7.53 billion.

  • That should be considered a step back at worse. It’s definitely not a lost. And they definitely aren’t cutting costs.

But that’s why these layoffs weren’t really needed right now. Nike is fine. They’re just moving forward with a new plan. But that plan could’ve waited. Instead, they’ve fired an unknown number of people in the midst of a global pandemic.

More details will come soon. Don’t expect things to look any better.

The LeBron 18 is here

LeBron James’ latest signature shoe is already here. He debuted it on Thursday night during the Lakers’ scrimmage against the Mavericks.

Nike dropped sketches of his shoe ahead of the game with a bit of detail on them.

Here’s an on-foot look, too.

It has a full length zoom unit, that same knit we’re used to from the latest iterations of LeBron’s line and a a heel Max Air unit (!!!!). We’ve never seen a shoe built quite like this — without getting all nerdy on y’all, basically, it’s stiff on the forefront with cushion on the heel.

If this debut feels mad early to you, don’t worry — you’re not out of your mind. It is.

  • Normally, James’ shoes would debut at the beginning of the regular season in the fall but, you know, coronavirus.

  • Instead of waiting until the next NBA season which is projected to begin in December, they just dropped the shoe now.

Still, us common folk won’t be able to actually cop the shoe until September, per usual. In the meantime, we get to see all the different colorways. That helps people like me who haven’t decided if they actually like the shoe yet.

Brons still look like combat boots. I will forever stand by that. Hopefully, though, these are different.

Get these ALL the way up out of here

So, listen. I really like to think of myself as a nice guy. I don’t hate many things at all. Two of the things I do hate, though? Crocs. And KFC.

They’re awful. And, apparently, they’re collaborating together to create my nightmare fuel. Yes, apparently, there’s a KFC Croc coming out on July 28 that you can actually buy, per Eater. No idea why you’d want to do that, but you can.

I mean, fam. Look at these things. They’re the worst thing ever.

Son, come on. And some of y’all claim KFC is better than Popeyes? Please. One did a faux Ivy Park activation. The other did…well, that.

There are levels, people. LEVELS.

Anyway, don’t let me catch y’all in these. You know what type of time I’m on if I do. It’s roast szn — off bucks.


Y’ALL KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS. The Kicks We Wear is back! Leggo!

First, the homie Storm came through with the Air Max 1 Windbreaker and some sweet Pelicans gear.

Then, the homie Greer popped out in some LA special Cortez’s for the Dodgers’ opening day.

Then, the homie Brett hit us with some super dope Perry Co. socks and the UNC AJ1’s. What a combo.

The homie Nola came through with some extremely dope Flyknit Racers on.

The homie Aron came through in the Melo AJ2’s and, fam, these joints are CLASSIX. You hear me!?

The homie George came through flaunting the first SNKRS dub — the Quai 54 AJ6. So good.

The better Mike came through in dem SPACE HIPPIES! Y’all, I love these shoes.

The homie Dap came through in the DMV Indigo joints from the SIA Collective. Another black owned business we support here at the KYW.

Phil continues to absolutely destroy everything here with the Acronym Prestos. Sheesh, man.

Then, the homie Jalen absolutely sends us home with the Travis AJ1 and a dope lace job. HEAT.

Y’all keep doing crushing it, yo. Goodness.

Thank y’all for rocking with your boy today! You could’ve been anywhere in the world for these last few minutes doing anything, but you read this. And I appreciate it.

Have an absolutely fantastic weekend. Good luck with the Grateful Deads today and the Off-White 4’s tomorrow — you’re going to need it! I will, too.

As always, peace and love. Be easy. Be well. Be kind.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯