Maybe These Adidas Shoes Are Racist. They're Also Almost High Art

Adidas’ new Roundhouse Mid "Handcuffs" shoe was just meant to be a retro. Instead, it went back 150 years.

In retrospect, they weren’t such a fantastic idea. But Adidas’ ridiculous, shackle-infused Roundhouse Mid "Handcuffs” no doubt started as a nod to a 1980s children’s toy.

My Pet Monster was a stuffed animal with an edge. Undoubtedly thought up to sell plush toys to boys, My Pet Monster was about caging something untamable with a toy shackle. It was a carefully marketed toy. It didn’t come with metal handcuffs for a reason. The very mechanism that alluded to violence was marked in innocuous bright orange plastic, just like the tip of a cap gun.

In a shoe, the idea totally worked (in theory). The tagline was “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?” The sneaker became the powerful entity that needed to be chained down, and a subtle allusion to a beloved childhood toy. To designer Jeremy Scott, the orange shackle no doubt had a flashy retro kitsch that no one could take seriously.

Then the controversy started. Shackles were reminiscent of slavery. Adidas denied such intent--of course no company in existence is out to make an overtly racist shoe--but eventually, Adidas pulled the product for good measure.

Ironically, while the Roundhouse Mid Handcuffs won’t make it in the consumer market, couldn’t you see it in a modern art museum? Sold to the masses, it was deplorable. But as some vague, pseudo-intellectual statement about the socioeconomics of professional sports, it would be, quite literally, placed on a pedestal. Some NYU masters student would write their thesis on it.

Could Adidas have mass-produced a cultural commentary and gotten away with it? Could any company pull off such a feat? I wonder what Adidas will do with the warehouse full of these shoes that will never go to market--if they’ll burn the stock in a tire fire, or try to find some market on the globe so remote that Daily Mail reporters can’t spot them to recoup the loss. You wonder too what would happen if someone actually got a hold of a new pair. If Kanye’s shoes can go for $80,000, what would these hit?

[Hat tip: HuffPo]

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13 Comments

  • nearly norm

    my first reaction was that they were an amazing statement about how this society is crushing kids of color ....your choice ~play ball or go to jail both literally abs metaphorically . The shackles represented the prison system not slavery in the historic sense, but that's just me. The art is in the reaction and commentary. Isn't out sorry of post racist that these were even thought

  • DB1285

    Shackles on a sneaker? No matter the original intent, the symbolism is overtly offensive to any race who suffered through the age of slavery. It's understandable that some of you don't appreciate that negative symbolism.  This shoe for african americans is as offensive as baseball cap with a swastika as the logo would be for Jewish people.  How about a mass produced line of tee shirts with slurs about white people born in texas?  If you're Jewish or white and born in Texas you'd find these products offensive while anyone else would dismiss it as well intentioned mistake.  

    Improve your cultural and social awareness. Expand your perspective around racially sensitive topics.  Seek to understand rather than project your perceptions on matters like this.  In short, evolve.  Then just maybe, products like this won't every be conceived and the idiotic commentary below would cease to exist.

  • Barry Quinn

    How are they racist? They don't speak to any one race in any way? They make no claims about a race, they put down no one, they have no intent to hurt anyone. They don't appear to a comment on slavery, but if they were, slavery might have a strong history in America, but EVERY race on earth has ben enslaved with shackles. So would it be racist against everyone? Is it worse to wear depending on your race?

    Besides, even if it was quoting slavery, what would it be saying about it? What would the comment be that would be racist? Is it saying slavery was good? Is it saying slavery was something people deserved? 

    The real crime is how ugly they are.

  • whatbagley

    Fast Company's readers surprise me again with its surprise! conservatism. You all suck.

  • Kh333

    I am appalled at the comments left by readers.  Is it no wonder that  people of color are always thinking about racism with comments like: "boy, do they have "let's make everything racism" mind in their head or what?" being left by someone who probably has never had to experience a minute of racism in their life?

    "Look how they kill each other now over drugs and cash."  Who is this "they?"  Americans? The poor?  No, you automatically lumped killers, and drug abusers with those who have suffered from a history of slavery.  THIS is why racism is still alive.

    Mark Wilson, fantastic article by the way, thank you.

  • Guest

    No, racism is still alive because people are still using the color of their skin to get what they want. The prominent figures in various races crying wolf whenever someone makes a mildly politically-incorrect statement do just as much damage as the average Joe lumping people together into stereotypes. To truly kill racism, we need to treat all of our fellow humans equally and stop letting people use skin color as a means to an end or as an excuse for their actions. 

  • 2FUTURE

    People need to get over history already. 50 years later we'll be avoiding such innuendos once again.

  • SharkS

    I thought the world was at its worst when Sesame Street was politically corrected, I was clearly wrong.

  • Jonathan

    Shackles automatically lead to racism? boy, do they have "let's make everything racism" mind in their head or what?