Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Sneaker Gimmicks: The Good, The Bad and the LA Gear!

So I was at my local Supermarket on the weekend, and this little kid comes whizzing past me and rounds the corner of the toiletries aisle, travelling at a decent speed on a pair of those roller shoes with the wheels in the soles. She must have been about 10 years old with more balance than I could muster on my deck when I finally put it down around the age of 15.

I managed to subdue my jealous rage long enough to wonder if I was that age, would I have a pair of those? I was always down on roller-skates because the looked so girlie and Rollerblades made me want to puke. But the wheels on these roller shoes were nicely concealed within the shoe and could be dropped like landing gear. That would have been attractive, but unfortunately, the shoes that housed these gimmicks were pig ugly. That got me thinking again, about all the gimmicky sports shoes that were marketed to me and my generation as kids. Then the nostalgia really kicked in like a hot quilted wave of morphine. The past is my junk, y’all!

First up, I’m not a sneaker ‘Head’, but I do love my kicks! I recently hooked up with a pair of gold and black Yo! MTV Rap’s Puma Clyde MC Shan editions (with the Brooklyn Bridge in black suede around the heel). My girlfriend hated them, but then she got on board Christmas time when she got me a pair of Metallic Silver Nike Blazers. Welcome on board Baby!

Both these shoes are redux versions of models from back in the day, just updated with a bit of colour but keeping the vintage look. However, manufacturers also seem to be keen on updating the gimmicks of the past, which, in hindsight, look ugly and awkward these days. So let’s start with the re-launch of....................drum roll...................................LA GEAR LIGHTS!

Here’s the old ones, remember when these came out? Shit, lights in your daps? That was pretty far out! Although, I feel that I need to add that while the concept of Red LED’s flashing in your shoe every time your foot hit the floor may sound kinda fun, in reality, LA Gear Lights and LA Gear in general, were far from cool.

Here’s the advert for the re-launch of lights. The ad looks good.....that’s about it.

A quick note on the extent of LA Gear’s un-coolness: They had a line of Michael Jackson endorsed sneakers in the 80’s. You’d bet that at that time, a pair of trainers worn by the King of Pop, THE GREATEST ENTERTAINER WE’VE EVER HAD, in his PRIME, would be shifting significant units and would be (amongst the kids at least) getting some props. The fact that LA Gear also had Paula Abdul on the payroll and her Editions for girls (The Sunblossoms!!!!!), outsold Wacko’s ‘Moon Rockers’ goes to show what kind of Rep LA Gear had.

Lately I’ve been noticing lot’s of ‘Smart Shoes’ on the racks. Adidas have their ‘1’ range, which feature a microprocessor that can make 5 Million calculations per second, recognises what kind of ground you are running on and adjusts their cushion systems accordingly! Here they are. I’m not sure I can get behind a trainer that I need to turn on/off or insert batteries in to. In theory, they should make Converse Chuck Taylor’s look like the Swiss Clogs, but instead end up coming off like the supercomputer from War Games. “Do You Want To Play”? No!

Another jogger smart shoe on the shelves at the moment is the Nike + range, which link up to your I POD and send data on your workout to your unit. I’m not sure I need that kind of info from my shoes, but while this sounds a bit space age, Nike weren’t the first shoe manufacturers to develop this concept. Check out the Puma RS Computer Shoe!!!!

Super 80’s! You needed an Apple computer to download your data from the shoe’s onboard pedometer. Check out the 16 Pin Connector. Does that look like the controller connector from the Sega Master System to anybody else? Woof!

Puma also made a hair brained attempt to revolutionise the lacing systems in sports shoes by introducing the badly designed ‘Puma Disc’ system. A friend of mine had a pair of these and the plastic fishing line that they used to pull the shoe tight under the disc snapped almost immediately, rendering the shoe floppy and useless.

Adidas were pretty consistent in their development of the sports shoe as well, offering things like interchangeable coloured Neoprene Socks which slip in to the shell of their basket ball boot (no good for outdoor ballin’ when the rain starts fallin’), the Adidas ‘Torsion Bar’, a cut out of the sole, which was supposed to allow the shoe to bend and twist with the contours of your foot (step in a Dog Egg with these on and you knew all about it!); and the Adidas ‘Predator’ football boot (both with studs and in Astroturf versions). These had cleated blades on and around the toe for ‘Curling’ the ball, as promoted by David Beckham. As far as I can remember, Beckham was able to curl the ball just fine without a boot that looked like Shane MacGowan’s smile.

Of course, we couldn’t go through the annals of Kickology without giving an honourable mention to the Reebok Pump’s! Awwww, bless dear Reebok, their shoes were damn ugly. Even their ‘Classic’ range was dogshit, and that’s supposed to be your ‘Banker Design’. The only thing that Reebok ever did right was the Basketball shoe, and they more than made up for their gross range with the Reebok Pump!

The idea that inflating your shoes was going to allow you serious ‘Up’s’ was always going to be a tough one to sell. But for sheer coolness of the pump idea, Reebok, I salute you! Once these babies’s became super popular with the ballers, Reebok started rolling the range out to other sports like Tennis. Check out the ‘Court Victory Michael Chang’ (remember him?) editions below with the B-Ball Pump replaced with a Tennis Ball. Then they got super gimmicky with the launch of the Reebok ‘Glow’ line, which I thought were Kick-ass (in a Tron way), though I really dug the black, white and red ‘Paydirts’ the most!

Of course, no sports shoe manufacturer can, or ever will be able to hold a candle to Nike. The undisputed KING OF THE KICKS! I guess their association with Michael Jordan was the biggest shot in the arm you could ever get. Their Air Jordan’s, as far as I’m concerned, are the cornerstone of ‘Street Wear’ and should rank as one of the Untouchable Classics of late 20th century fashion. Check out a quick evolution of the Air Jordan below.

Of course there was more to Nike than the Air Jordan. Rollcall: Air Force, Air Max, Dunks, Flights, Zoom, SB’s....the list runs away with your girl and your dog!

I remember when the Nike Air Max 180’s came out like it was yesterday. The cornerstone of Nike development has always been the Air Bubble since they developed it back in 79, but for the 180 they dropped it down from the mid sole until it was flush with the ground and visible from below. Woooooooooooooooooo, that blew my mind. So did the colours, white, blue and PINK! A bold move in ’91. All my friends were crazy over this shoe, but there was only one kid at our school who had a pair. You know those kids who get everything, he was one of those guys. What did the Douchebag do? He used to play football on the tarmac with them on and purposefully drag his shoes on the ground until the toes ripped and the bubble popped. Broke my heart in two!

Forget that guy though, ‘cause I also had a pair of Nike’s that nobody else had, the little known Nike Air Force Command PUMPS! I found them at a market and was blown away by the fact that Nike had developed a Pump, but kept it on the downlow (so to speak) so not to look like they were ripping Reebok off. I snapped them up relatively cheap and then wowed my pals. The pump was on the side of the boot and there was a little black button at the back for deflating the air pockets. They also came in white and (a rad!) neon yellow with black paint splashes. God I wish I still had them.

The shoes developed a cred of their own when ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ was released and Woody Harelsson was the only other guy to be rocking a pair.

It was another Nike shoe that introduced me to one of my best friends, still best buds to this day some 16 or so years later. When I bumped in to this short nerdy kid from my school on a dinner break and saw he had the same pair of grey and red suede Nike Court Force high tops as me, I asked him where he got them. “Vegas” apparently! I got mine in Cardiff and thought he was a cunt. Here’s me and him today, ‘Bro’s Before Ho’s!!

2 comments: said...

The content provided is interesting and I just wanted to add a little more on this as this information may help others looking out for some comfortable sports footwear.

Since I follow a daily exercise regime, I give a lot of importance to the shoes I select. I guess some advice on things to look at while buying shoes may help save one from the wrong choice of shoes they end up with while trying to blend style with comfort.

I would advice that its important to not only go with the style of the shoe but also look at the comfort factor. In the short term your shoes may be the best looking but if you end up with a back pain due to a wrong choice based on looks, then surely you are inviting trouble.

A short and sweet advice would be to buy shoes that are not too tight or too loose and that they are exclusively meant for the sport you plan to use it for. This will prevent any injury to your body and also solve back pain problems.

Anonymous said...

That advert isn't for the la lights- its for Jezign Bubble Cloud Casual Shoe.... JUST TO LET YOU KNOW!!!

i have spent two hours at work trying to find these supposed low top la gears... you bastarrrrrd!

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