Mickey Mouse, panda bears and themes “inspired by…my childhood” are what fashion designer Jeremy Scott describes as the inspiration behind his sneaker collaborations with Adidas.
His latest design, the JS Roundhouse Mid sneakers, feature orange plastic cuffs and don’t quite fit this cutesy theme. Previewed on Adidas’ Facebook page earlier this month, the shoes have attracted a lot of attention for their unintended similarity to shackles, evoking the suffering of black slaves in 19th Century America.
The now-removed post on the social networking site went up with the question: “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?”
Criticism, and an ensuing media storm, inevitably followed. More than 2,000 Facebook users commented on the post, many slamming the shoes as “slave wear” and asking why anyone would want to voluntarily wear shackles.
One commenter asked, “How would a Jewish person feel if Nike decided to have a shoe with a swastika and tried to claim it was OK in the name of fashion?”
Criticism of the new Adidas shoes spread elsewhere as well. “I literally froze up when I saw a new design from Adidas,” author and economist Boyce Watkins wrote in a post on the website Your Black World. “Shackles…the stuff that our ancestors wore for 400 years while experiencing the most horrific atrocities imaginable, most of which were never documented in the history books.” The Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a statement that “The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive.”
Adidas had intended the shoe to be a reboot of a classic hi-top sneaker with a strap across the middle. In a statement to the press the brand said it was “nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery.”
Scott claimed on twitter that the design originated from his childhood, posting a picture of a furry toy called ‘My Pet Monster”. The New York Observer also posted the picture, and defended the designer as someone who “just enjoys 90s kids cartoons. Case closed.”
But just hours after Adidas originally stood by the design, it decided to cancel the release of the shoes, originally scheduled to debut in August with a retail price of $350. “Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback,” the company said in an email to the New York Daily News. “We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”