Adidas "Shackle" Sneakers Create Controversy

Joanna Douglas, Senior Fashion and Beauty Editor
FashionJune 18, 2012

A new Adidas sneaker has sparked outrage, with sneaker fans accusing the brand of promoting racism. The Roundhouse Mid "Handcuff" shoe, created by controversial New York designer Jeremy Scott, features a plastic orange shackle that attaches to each ankle. The $350 sneakers hit stores in August, but Adidas promoted them on their official Facebook page on June 14 with this quote: "Tighten up your style with the JS Roundhouse Mids, dropping in August. Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?" While the brand may be making a cheeky statement about shoe theft, many are equating these binding devices with slavery and prisoners. At press time the "Handcuff" sneaker image has over 36,000 Facebook likes, but many of the comments are angry and disapproving.

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"Please tell me this is FAKE. I am not hearing these Adidas Amistad Originals," one woman commented on Facebook, referencing the ship famous for an African slave revolt in 1839. One man is prepared to boycott the brand out of respect to his African heritage. "I for one will NEVER don another pair of Adidas if these shoes see the light of day in the sneaker market," he wrote. One Facebook user reasoned that "corporate business has a social responsibility above all to consider these perceptions before releasing a product like this." Another flabbergasted person wondered, "This has to be some sort of prank right?"

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But the reactions weren't all negative. One guy viewed the handcuff as a creative and lighthearted design component. "I just see this as a shoe so fly you better chain em to ya!" Several commenters said the shoes reminded them of the popular '80s toy My Pet Monster who wore identical orange plastic handcuffs. Many said they weren't offended by the shoe, but still felt they were ugly.

For those unfamiliar with the Jeremy Scott, his designs for his own collection and his Adidas partnership are typically surprising and unusual. Previous designs for Adidas have included shows with playful plush teddy bear heads and leopard tails, giant wings, and even miniature tuxedos. Madonna, Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Rihanna are all avid Jeremy Scott fans. Some may dislike his outrageous designs, but the new "Handcuffs" model is the first one to ever be dubbed offensive. Initial images debuted in January on blogs like SneakerNews.com without any criticism, but the Adidas Facebook post made the shoe a larger public issue. The sneaker controversy is still ongoing with over 2,000 Facebook comments along with many websites and bloggers discussing their unique perspectives.

Yahoo! Shine reached out to Adidas for comment, and received this response. "The JS Roundhouse Mid is part of the Fall/Winter 2012 design collaboration between adidas Originals and Jeremy Scott. 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. Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful."

For some sneaker heads, though, this statement is not enough. One commenter wrote on their Facebook page, "Wow Adidas, you had an opportunity to fix this and you defiantly decided to go the racist route. Good for you. I hope your stock falls off a cliff."

What do you think of the new Adidas sneakers? Do you find them offensive, or do you think the company's explanation is satisfactory?

Related links:
Italian Vogue apologizes for slavery trend piece. Digs hole deeper.
Fashion that makes us sad: Jeremy Scott's $424 underwear clutch
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