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.

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

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]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.