Rachel Tension, our newest contributor, is an impossibly gorgeous multicultural style obsessive with a PhD in race relations from the School of Hard Knocks. Join us in reading her second piece for Styleite as she analyzes just what the hell happened to get the Jeremy Scott x Adidas Roundhouse Mid “Handcuffs” sneakers pulled from production.
Sometimes when a product is glaringly racist, the internet will get all upset about it and as a result that product will get pulled off the market entirely. That’s sort of what happened with Jeremy Scott’s newest sneaker collaboration with Adidas on Monday evening, except for the fact that Scott’s design wasn’t racist in the slightest.
Nevertheless, in a statement, the company clarified that the Jeremy Scott x Adidas Roundhouse Mid “Handcuffs”, which would have been standard sneakerhead fare were it not for bright orange ankle cuffs attached to the shoes by chains, was “nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery … Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, Adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”
How did it come to this? It was the shoes’ resemblance to ankle shackles that gave various news sites — as well as people on Twitter and Facebook — the gall to suggest that Scott was making some perverse statement about slavery, and soon the shoes were branded as racist. One Twitter user said, “any designer that’s nostalgic for slavery will Never have my support”. On Facebook, a commenter begged, “Please tell me this is FAKE. I am not wearing these Adidas Amistad Originals”, referencing the slave ship immortalized by a film of the same name in 1997. Another called the shoes “pure idiocy on the part of Adidas and even more so on those of you defending this”.
But the people defending the shoes as just, well, shoes, may have had a point. Long before any accusations of racism were leveled against Scott or Adidas, sneaker fans were able to correctly identify the inspiration behind the shoe: a ‘90s doll called My Pet Monster. Scott himself confirmed that the toy, which looks like a technicolor version of one of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things and comes with a set of bright orange shackles, is what stoked his creative fire. “MY WORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN INSPIRED BY CARTOONS, TOYS & MY CHILDHOOD,” the designer tweeted in all caps. He later added that the only controversy he’s ever liked is a seven-minute Prince song called, say it with me, “Controversy”.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that Adidas has pulled the shoe off the market, which I think is an unfortunate decision that says more about people’s propensity to 1) see racism where racism isn’t necessarily hanging around and 2) be really dumb on the internet, than it does about Scott’s shoe.
But let’s not pretend that Scott isn’t culpable here, too. Any present observer of the world can tell you that if you put chains around someone’s ankles, it’s going to look like they’re either in prison or indentured in some way. And that’s not a good look, no matter what race you are.