I really, really enjoyed this.
Now I know.
Via Look Both Ways.
I really, really enjoyed this.
Now I know.
Via Look Both Ways.
I love this. And not just because I love Ice Cube (see below, where my cousin painted ‘Cube on my aunt & uncle’s living room wall) but also for the production quality, the ease-of-use and general look of the site, and their plainly awesome embeddable player. I am a big ‘ol sucker for little details.
EDIT: Just wanted to also mention that I love just how CALIFORNIA the P-Rod ad is. Love it. If you wanna hate on LA, go out there and drive around on a summer day with that song playing. Drive down the 110, drive to Santa Monica, whatever. And then tell me how you feel. Those are some of my best memories.
Nice work, Adam. Nice work, Nike.
I just got a new pair, thanks to my good buddy Kevin Panke, and I’m going through the incredibly painful break-in process with them as I type. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Rainbows are the most rewarding kind of footwear possible. The break-in is rough, bloody, and long, but the comfort you get after those two weeks is unparalleled. My current pair has lasted since my original post three years ago, and I’m reluctant to retire this pair entirely. But these fresh, Sierra Brown ‘bows await.
I’m always intrigued by brands and products that can overcome relatively large barriers to use. In Rainbow’s case, the sandals are far more expensive than other alternatives and they take what seems like forever to break in. And they don’t seem to do much in the way of promotion for their brand, yet they’ve garnered a pretty significant distribution network. As far as I can tell, the reward for use is so high that the barriers mean little to fans of the brand. Pretty fertile ground for those of us in the communications industry.
On a similar note, I’ve just come into possession of an awesome new pair of Red Wing boots. They’re model 1907, and the color–get this–is “Copper Rough & Tough”. They look broken-in already, due to the tanning of the leather, but they’re still quite stiff and are just now beginning to become comfortable. But I’m sure they’ll give me years of service, and they’re a pretty big step toward completing my lumberjack aesthetic. Check out the Norwegian welt (where the sole attaches to the upper). Instead of hiding part of the welt underneath the upper as with a Goodyear welt, it wraps up onto the upper, and making the whole boot rather stiff and supportive. Not a bad thing in a work boot. So cool.
So cool. Gonna start writing a bit more about clothes, shoes and such. Hope you don’t hate it.
Nice. Easy integration. Looks like the proposition (Made of Japan) made its way through to the ad.
Via Freshness. It’s a collabo between Gary Baseman and Marcel Christ.
Reader beware: I’ve been a fan of Nike for my entire life. Dang you, brand loyalty, and the fog that you put me in. Below are two photos of my most recent loves, my Air Force Ones. I’ll get to these later. This is an enormous post. Apologies.
Birth and Acceptance
So in 1972 Nike was born, as I understand it, out of Phil Knight and Coach Bill Bowerman’s desire to make good athletic shoes. Bowerman was a bit of a nut about running and running shoes, according to runners’ mythology, and his principle innovation was the lightweight running shoe with the now-famous waffle outsole. Yadda yadda yadda, they become the biggest sport brand in the world, thanks in no small part to Mr. Michael Jordan, his Airness and their ability to consistently market their innovations.
Oddly enough, their growth hasn’t ever really been about the technical superiority of their product, besides perhaps in the basketball category. In almost every sport, Nike isn’t the choice of the “serious” athletes. If you’re a serious basketballer or American footballer, it’s likely that you wear Swooshes. But serious runners typically choose something that is appropriate for their stride (New Balance, Saucony, Mizuno and Asics lead here, perhaps not in sales…). And most serious cyclists ride with Shimano, Sidi or Carnac. Serious backpackers and hikers stick with Asolo or some other specialty brand. Until recently (with the Joga effort and its ancestors) Nike played second fiddle for adidas in soccer. I’m not that familiar with baseball but I’ve seen a lot of logo diversity on the mound, suggesting that Nike’s hold here isn’t that strong. Nike rose to great heights with Agassi and stole Sampras away from Sergio Tacchini, but other specialty brands were still considered superior by many serious Tennis players. And in Golf, Footjoy and others lead (at least in perception of quality and appropriateness) Nike despite their ownership of the Greatest Of All Time, Tiger.
So Nike’s success, as far as I can tell, been founded on their ability to win over weekend warriors and to provide fashionable designs that can be worn outside of sporting activities. As I recollect from my middle-school and early high-school days, most every kid wore some sort of Nike (or Nike-inspired Payless knockoff) athletic shoe, typically of either basketball or running varietal.
Brown Shoe Movement
[Note: Not sure if I have my timing right here. Can anyone help?] But as the 1990s came to a close the so-called Brown Shoe Revolution started to threaten Nike’s hold on our collective feet. The rise of Doc Martens and their
Bleatheren (get it? God that’s stupid) ilk introduced a new “look”…a new fashion possibility/sensibility that stole a significant share of foot from Nike. As trendsetters started to wear more “adult” footwear, the role for Nike (and other athletic footwear) became diminished. Nike wasn’t “about” the serious athlete and wasn’t fashionably relevant anymore. Big worries, I’m sure, in Beaverton.
A New Aesthetic
I remember in about 2002/3, my cousin Adam called from Italy and told me that everyone was wearing tight jeans tucked into wrestling boots. If you’re not familiar with wrestling boots, they are tall boots with a very spare midsole (the foam part) and a thin outsole. This helps wrestlers grip the mat; in this case, supportive foam is a detriment…you want as much “mat feel” as possible. About this time, Nike’s design really started to suffer. Their shoes became too technically garish, too over-the-top, too self-celebratory.
In the above graphic I’ve shown the style progression that occurred over the past 10 years that resulted in Nike’s current position. At top left is the Air Max 97. It arrived on the heels of the Air Max 95, which at one point (in the gray and green colorway) was selling for several thousand dollars a pair in Japan. This, I would say, was the height of the technically advanced, athletic Nike design aesthetic. It’s probably the most tasteful of the highly athletic genre. Note the thickness and prominence of the midsole (again, the foam part), and the weight/thickness of the upper (the fabric part), as compared to the middle shoe. In the middle is a typical wrestling boot. As mentioned above, note the lack of midsole and thin outsole and the high-top construction. These were very in for a while, and continue to be among particularly daring types. This spare, almost retro aesthetic led to the rise of the driving shoe (bottom right), which has a decent midsole for practicality but maintains the same general design idea as the wrestling boot. The shoe pictured here is the Puma Speed Cat. Certainly you’ve seen these on the feet of trendy types. It was this shoe style that helped to usher Puma and adidas to the front of the line for people looking to pair athletic shoes with their casual outfits.
So, to re-cap, the Brown Shoe Movement gave people the idea that hyper-athletic shoes didn’t really go with casual clothes. This, along with Nike’s push toward shoes that outwardly celebrated their technical advancement, with big air pockets and such, resulted in a movement to a spare, retro footwear aesthetic. Puma and adidas raced in to satisfy this need with their wide range of driving-oriented shoes that looked good but weren’t quite as outlandish as the trendy wrestling boots.
So that brings us up to the present. Recently, a trend started in the hip-hop community a few years back has resulted in a growing desire for retro sneaks with crazy colors. I’m not sure when this really started, but I’ll track some key events for you.
Jordans have always been popular, somehow since day one. And Nike produced some rare colorways of Jordans on a few occasions that grew to extreme popularity. One particular example was the Space Jam Air Jordan XI, pictured above. But in about 2002, factory variants started to become available on the internet (some real, some fake, many desirable no matter their provenance). For example, check out these Louis Vuitton Jordan XIs:
These are almost certainly fake. But it became very cool to have a unique, rare colorway of a popular shoe. And this trend is currently exploding. Nike’s doing a brilliant job with this trend, and it may help them achieve fashion relevance again. As far as I can tell, it started in hip-hop, with Nelly’s Air Force Ones:
Seriously, watch it.
It’s a tribute to Nike’s Air Force One shoe, originally made in 1982 and still worn in the NBA by Rasheed Wallace. The song is all about having rare, custom, or one-off Air Force Ones (like the ones pictured at the top of the post). But at about this time, there were some limited-edition (or painted-at-home) versions of the Ones showing up on the street, as evidenced by this lyric from the song:
Now if you looked, and seen lime green forces and kiwi
You couldn’t get this color if you had a personal genie…
I like the limited edition to khaki and army green
Patent leather pin stripe you should see how I do the strings
Size twelve with the strap
Red and white with a cardinal cap…
And once it crossed-over into the general public, it went crazy. For example, check out Sneakerplay, Freshness, NikeLab, Kicks Finder, and Nike SB. And in New York, they’ve got an invite-only Nike store where you can customize to your heart’s content.
In the end…
So Nike, through their moves with iD and by picking up on the customizability trend, has been able to win back some ground. And they’ve picked up some of their slack with the serious athletes. The Shox technology has been well-received by runners (and by Runner’s World, for what that’s worth), serious footballers are wearing Nikes, and the rise of LeBron James has been helpful.
Over at Adliterate, they were talking about Nike’s big brand idea. I’m not so sure what that is anymore. You used to be able to define it as Just Do It…but I’m not so sure that’s applicable. I think it’s more a collection of small ideas that work for specific niches. And that may be a big brand idea in itself.
The LeBrons are back. Watching football on Sunday, this stopped both myself and my roommate dead in our collective couch-potato tracks.
Firstly, the music is great. UPDATE: It’s “Summer Madness” by Kool and the Gang.
Secondly, LeBron is a character. Or four.
Thirdly, those shoes look amazing.
And finally, Nike has a great site to go along with it. Quick-loading, flash-tastic with a really functional interface. Click here. Nike provides a little behind-the scenes look for good measure. The last line is hilarious…
I’ve started another blog, this time about shoes. Specifically, I have always wanted to make shoes, and I’ve always talked about having a shoe company, and it really excites me, so here I go. I dunno which path lights my fire the most… brands or shoes? We’ll see.
exitkicks is going to chronicle my journey from now (raw substrate) up to the point when I achieve enormous success and am running my own shoe business. ‘Cause that’s definitely gonna happen.
Nike’s One Time Only. I’ve got some commentary to go here, but for now, rejoice in the images. Delicious Nike goodness.