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Adidas Release Slavery Sneakers

Not a Good Look: Nobody’s Feeling Adidas’ Suspect Shackle Sneakers

Adidas really ought to just be thankful they’re still a somewhat relevant sneaker brand, but of course they’ve taken their creative liberties a bit further than most would like with a new sneaker known as JS Roundhouse Mids.

The issue with the shoe is the shackles that are attached to the heel and expected to fit around one’s ankles. Adidas explains the design with this description on it’s Facebook page:

“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?”

Clever idea, but perhaps poorly executed. Most observers are speaking out against the shackle adornment as an ode to slavery. Personally, I immediately thought of prison cuffs when I saw the sneaker (I think it was the orange color) but either way, neither inference is a good look. Dr Boyce Watkins wrote on 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 and kept away from you in the educational system, all so you’d be willing to put shackles on your ankles today and not be so sensitive about it. There is always a group of negroes who are more than happy to resubmit themselves to slavery.”

He’s right but I think we have to be careful assuming an African American slave reference. For one, Africans were hardly the first or only group of slaves in this country or in the world, so this doesn’t have to necessarily be a “black thing.” On the other hand, African slavery is the most discussed form of captivity in the present day and if Adidas were so bold as to insert this subtle element of racism, it’s certainly not something that should go without being called out. Regarding the prison reference, I think far too many boys and men are already too comfortable with the idea of being arrested and cuffed and wearing a shoe that makes light of that or makes being shackled appear cool just isn’t a good idea. On the surface, it’s not grossly damaging but I think it has the potential to make teens, tweens, and even grown men somewhat desensitized to the reality of being cuffed and the system of racism that often lands them behind bars. To that point, Dr. Watkins added in his op-ed:

“I’m offended by these shoes as there is nothing funny about the prison industrial complex, which is the most genocidal thing to happen to the black family since slavery itself.”

I’ll be honest, this is the most I’ve ever thought about something as seemingly insignificant as a sneaker, but looking at this shoe I can’t help but think of buyers being slaves to consumerism as well. We know how men will set up camp outside of a shoe store for 24 hours at least to get a new pair of sneakers and how those purchases also lend themselves to robbery attempts and sometimes shootings over people simply wanting what someone else has. And though I have no data on this, I can say that the people I see sleeping outside of Foot Locker on 34th street or on the news after a big shoe release are typically black teens and I don’t like the obvious play on our boys being enslaved to this concept.

Truthfully, there really are a number of ways to interpret this new sneaker design but I think the reality is that when it comes to the JS Roundhouse Mids, they’re hardly “just a shoe.”

What do you think about this design? Is there more to the shackles than Adidas is letting on or is it no big deal?