Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Did someone mention shoe laces/strings?

The role and rhetoric surrounding shoe laces (strings) has come on leaps and bounds since the earliest materialisations of the sneaker game. To this day, cynics hold out that these developments - for the perceived worse - are not unique to laces but applicable to the bigger picture of sneaker culture as a whole. For the sake of this exercise though, our attentions will primarily focus on the developments of shoe strings and their evolutionary pathway as a separate journey, and a subject matter in their own right. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

More Than What Catches The Eye - Part 1

Phil Knight's last words before retiring were: 'never forget to hear the voice of the athlete'. The relationship between the shoe and the athlete is one of the most important aspects of sneaker design, especially in the designing of a signature shoe. I have discussed previously the marketing and design importance of the Air Force One (in 'where is my complimentary poster') and furthermore touched upon some aspects of the sneaker's relationship with the athlete. Much has been said about the 'Original Six' and what they represented for Nike. The word silhouette, however, has become a synonym for the Air Force One. In its literal context, the white on white of the sneaker's composition leaves the the main body of the shoe devoid of interest and detail, so by focussing all attention upon the outline. Little further study as such has been made on this silhouette beyond its aesthetic qualities, undisputed performance and role as a cultural symbol. The genius of the design of this silhouette lies in its referencing of something singularly more efficient than the performance of an athlete. It is the incorporating and reinterpreting of the evolutionary traits of nature's own perfect athletes. I am specifically referring to nature's best predators. 

To avoid confusion over this subject matter, it is useful to unearth the extent to which selected examples of sneaker design have incorporated this ruse. In the case of  Kobe Bryant's signature Nike Air Huarache 2K4 shoe, the initial preconception was first realised by the athlete. Kobe, when interviewed as to how he conceives himself on court, described himself as something of a predator. His further elaborations  expressed an interest in the behavioral characteristics of predators, especially sharks. It is from this brief interview that designers from Nike took Kobe's ideas and incorporated some physical characteristics of a shark in the designing of the shoe. This may be initially illustrated in the images below:

Nike Air Huarache 2K4

Close up detail of the shark tooth pattern
Close up detail of the herringbone pattern

Monday, 7 March 2011

The various languages of design

Too often, the sneaker game begins to fall back upon its old habits; habits that fail to see much beyond the finished product of the sneaker. We find ourselves talking about the latest drops, new colourways, who's been rocking what and so on. Every now and then the conversation might touch upon a piece of iconic sneaker history. This occurrence usually happens within the context of a retro re-release or such an anticipated calender event as Black History Month. This is not to say that within the finished product of the sneaker, important issues over its design improvements or modifications are not discussed. We just have to look at the controversy surrounding the Air Jordan "Carmine" & "Aqua" 6-17-23's. The language of design couldn't be more explicit than when broaching the topic of a new hybrid sneaker. Immediate issues of contention (though still grounded on an aesthetic judgement) revolve around such observations as which architectural traits have and have not been kept from each original sneaker. Though it might be obvious it is by no means lacking importance to remind the reader that in such an illustration it is not simply the case of splicing together half of one model with that of half the other. It should not be singularly, however, within such a limited scope of sneaker hybridization, that the overall aesthetic appreciation of the sneaker should include an active engagement and a conscious recognition of the shoe's design features, both past and present.