Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shackled Shoes/Shackled Minds

Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas
So often I'm left scratching my head about what worthwhile subject to post next- and then you get the rarity like today that seems to fall from the sky! The scathingly satirical work of Hank Willis Thomas was recently featured on Lens blog. Work that often highlights the 'peculiar' relationship between  the commercial and advertising industries, and that of the (Black) athletes they endorse and feature. Nothing could better elaborate the historical irony and definitive unease of that relationship more clearly than that of Adidas' up and coming new product pictured below. Contrast that to the work of Mr. Thomas- I'm sure there were many people who thought he just went too far to suggest and compare the (obvious) relationships and juxtapositions between slavery and modern day sports found within his art.

Of course, the brand spankin' new Adidas seen in all their arrogant, flamboyant folly below render that argument disquietingly moot. Not, that there won't be those who will still argue no such connection, real or implied, exists (besides, slavery is so... 19th century- 'lighten' up). And I'm betting designer Jeremy Scott (creator of the Roundhouse Mid "Handcuff" shoe) one of them. His slavery inspired, athletic haute couture shackle shoes at $350 a pop are the epitome of arrogance writ large

Ignorance and arrogance often walk hand in hand (particularly when it comes to racism), but if I'm gonna grant Mr. Scott anything- it's that even he is not that ignorant, though the latter always follow...

Jeremy Scott


Eric Rose said...

Those shackles are an add-on aren't they? I can't see Adidas being so stupid as to offer this as a real product. Anyway for me it symbolizes the disproportionate number of blacks incarcerated in the US.

Stan B. said...

They're very much part of the entire package- which Adidas has now officially withdrawn... (see bottom of updated link).

Jim Johnson said...

I saw a pic of these shoes on the tv news last night and could not figure what the designer or the adidas could possibly be thinking.

Stan B. said...

Sadly, one can only come to one conclusion- since these people are Not Stupid. They are purposely using a direct instrument of slavery (not just a metaphor or symbol mind you) to try and create some kind of ghetto chic buzz. The line of reasoning- if kids can popularize and own the use of the N-word amongst themselves, why not... take it a wee step further, combine it with something we know they already like- and sit back and watch the money roll in.

Actually, I'm surprised they didn't launch in February and tailor their ad campaign for Black History Month. You know, something along the line that if they only had these kicks back in the day, they wouldn't have caught them fleeing the plantation- honor them today by adding some speed to your game!

Stan B. said...


Damn, looka me- I can write ad copy! Hey, there's money to be made here! Adidas- we can still do this, you still listening!?!?

Always said it, racism is so easy- no matter the form, no matter the medium.

Stan B. said...

Of course, I couldn't help but imagine a TV campaign where an escaping slave tries to hack away at the shackles that are impeding his escape, dogs barking and rapidly approaching in the background- and as he gets up to run away yet again, his slave shackles dissolve into the Jeremy Scott Adidas shackles as we now see him leading a fast break in present time, and yes... he's gonna dunk that bad boy!

Anyway, here was my comment (I forget where) to all those who regard ol' Jeremy as just some toy obsessed kid who likes to have fun...

What's wrong with you people!

You really must have a problem if you think that shackles around ankles have anything to do with slavery. It's not like Jeremy Scott grew up in a country that had slaves in shackles for hundreds of years, and lives in a country that fought a war over slavery. I mean the guy just likes toys, he just wants to have fun- it's not like he's an adult who should have the simple common sense to realize that a good percentage of the people in this country were forcibly brought here against their will in chains, with shackles on their feet, to live a life of daily misery where they're most basic concerns didn't matter to those who owned them. Slave owners didn't give a crap about anyone but themselves; they just wanted to have fun and live the good life- just like Jeremy!

'Lighten' up people!!!