Nothing shows a company’s brand management prowess better than a good, old-fashioned controversy. Over the past few months, big-time brands have used social media and online marketing to put out major media fires. This week, shoemaker and apparel giant Adidas extinguished a blaze set by a new shoe — after the public outcry that the footwear was reminiscent of slavery shackles — by pulling the product off the market. But was this a politically correct move to keep consumers happy, a savvy public relations-created controversy to get the line of shoes more press or a little bit of both?
Fashion designer Jeremy Scott is known for being cutting edge and a little bit kooky. His designs are often thought of as cartoonish, bold and whimsical. But rarely is his work thought of as polarizing or racially charged. That all changed on Monday when Adidas announced it was pulling a shoe Scott designed off the market. The JS Roundhouse Mid, as they were called, were a pair of Adidas hightops which featured a pair of plastic cuffs and chains.
A Twitter outrage quickly arose after the shoe’s introduction, with many calling the sneakers “slavery shoes.” The shoes were soon the hot topic among fashion bloggers and political bloggers alike, one of which decried the shoes as “a product of rappers glamorizing criminal behavior & prison for years.” The stink arose when Adidas posted a picture of the shoes on the brand’s Facebook page featuring the caption, “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?” After hundreds of complaints, Adidas folded and announced it was taking the shoe off the market.
But the company stood by Scott and his creativity, saying in a statement, “the design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery.” After all, Scott’s other designs for the brand featured shoes with a stuffed gorilla and silver wings. Scott himself says the shackle shoes were inspired by ’80s toy My Pet Monster.
Many in fashion have poo-pooed the whole controversy, while marketing peeps are rightfully asking when the last time was that anything by Adidas generated so much publicity. But readers, what do you think? Are the shackle shoes racist or just really great for PR? Sound off below!