Adidas pulls "shackle shoe" design

Adidas has decided not to sell this particular shoe design after a photo of it on their Facebook page generated quite a negative response.

Shackleeeee "The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a statement Monday...

The man behind the design responded days after the controversy broke. Jeremy Scott said it was never his intention to provoke that kind of response. His design, he said on Twitter, was inspired by a childhood toy.

"Adidas 'shackle' controversy: Artistic interpretation or insensitive product?"


  1. Not to mention the many people who live in slavery or bondage around the world right now. Subjugation of other humans has been a sad chapter in just about every culture’s history.

    The toy may be cute, but probably wouldn’t make it to the shelf in a modern store.

  2. The yellow chains actually do kind of look like the old My Pet Monster toy.  But, you know, I can see how that might not be the first thing everyone thinks of when seeing these shoes.

    1.  Sadly, my first thought at seeing the image was actually, “did they pull those things off a recycled My Pet Monster doll?” And they did.

      I think the wholly intentional message of “we can get you to buy pretty much anything through nostalgia” may be a bit worse than the unintentional reminder of slavery.

    2. My Pet Monster was the first thing that sprung to mind when seeing the image, even before reading any of the headline/post. I wonder what that says about me. 

    1. More awful than Wheelys, destined to give your kid a concussion when they slip backwards and hit their head? More awful than those shoes that squeak gratingly every time the kid takes a step?

      I think not. 

  3. At last, after decades of sneaker pimps (whose profit margins depend on near-slave labor) marketing conscience-free shoes to minority communities, a refreshing and breathtaking bout of honesty. Kudos.

  4. A great philosophical statement.  We are slaves to material things such as Adidas sneakers which are much more expensive than functional.

    1. If you think these are catastrophically ugly you haven’t seen many fashion sneakers. I mean, these are catastrophically ugly, but not nearly as bad as many that are out there – and people pay hundreds (even thousands) of dollars for these. People collect them – and the people you see actually wear them on the street are either incredibly rich and probably famous, or they stole them.

      Not all are bad. I liked the Nike ones that were posted here recently inspired by what a NASA Mars mission might look like.

      It’s kind of annoying to try to scroll through but here’s a 1000+ page forum thread for “Baller” sneakers – $300 minimum price at a random page with some ugly ones. Not only do ridiculously ugly sneakers exist, but people really do pay a lot of money for them apparently. This guy paid $835 for something that an old man in a wheelchair might wear although that might be a joke.

      I’ve seen people wear things like this, in NYC, LA and Toronto. They usually look ridiculous, but sometimes people with an equally-ridiculous “streetwear” outfit to go with it can sort of pull it off.

        1. Yeah. I was reading some of that forum thread and apparently there are knockoffs of even weird obscure sneakers. Considering how small the market is for these it’s strange that it’s worth somebody’s while to knock them off. 

          I contradicted myself too, you don’t have to be insanely rich or famous to wear these sorts of sneakers day-to-day (and reading the forum thread confirms this). You just have to have strange priorities. But everyone has their strange priorities with their money, and I’m not one to talk as someone with way more shoes and clothes than are necessary :)

    2. According to Jesse Jackson, the obvious target market was “black people”.
      Because only black people wear Adidas, right Jesse?

    1. Well, one wrong is perhaps something the average person can do something about and the other isn’t?

      Your comment is dangerously close to falling into the “your problem isn’t my problem so your problem isn’t important” category.  Not that I really disagree with you, but…  yelling at people for opposing something just because you think they should oppose something else? Really?

      I mean, personally, I would prefer people got mad at Coca-Cola over, say, their history of labor suppression, violence, etc.  But if they want to get mad because Coke is tooth-rotting endocrine-system-screwing nastiness, I’m okay with that too.  

      1. Except that the implications seems to be that people would be just fine with these sweatshop-made shoes if they didn’t have those offensive shackles.  Um, WTF?

        1. No, the implication is more akin to the fact that everything you buy  has at the very minimum components constructed in very similar conditions. Should we also refuse to buy mobile phones, computers or other electronics? What about products that contain lots of fiddly plastic bits, most likely produced in crappy factories that operate on 18 hour days? Any clothes that have been made in China or other similar third world countries?

          There are battles you can win relatively quickly, like this one; and there are battles that are so much bigger, that will take so much more effort, pressure and gradual change. Concentrating only on the later lets the former slip on by.

  5. re:”His design, he said on Twitter, was inspired by a childhood toy.”

    I guess I didn’t have the Playskool sex dungeon set.

  6. When I saw them, I made an immediate association with two forms of modern-day slavery for blacks, namely incarceration as a substitute for employment and advancement in our society, and the fact that many are deeply attached to their shoes, and the self-image that it brings with them.  

    1. Yeah me too. The shoes are a work of art, IMO. I love it.

      Popular black culture (I mean the kind on television and radio not, actual wonderful black culture) is consumerist, shallow, image centric, money obsessed, sexist – everything that is the worst about society. It completely destroyed American music, that’s for sure.

      In fact I think it is almost unfair to call it black culture because I really believe that it became black because black was branded as cool, not because black people are especially predisposed to any of those values. Case in point: youth in virtually every ethnic group in a region where American culture is dominant predictably gravitate to popular black culture and adopt all of these same values that go along with the image. You even have Inuit walking around with baggy clothes and cock eyed baseball caps. When I was a teen I was caught up in the same trend, because my friends were doing it and I wanted to fit in. I even remember wearing a little Africa pendant. Dear lord I was such a poser!

      I think that the American taboo about being critical of popular black culture because it might be interpreted as racist needs to give way to an honest discussion about what values we want to promote as a society. The people who are cranking out this shit for profit need to be called out.

      1. After this post I was thinking about the other examples of this consumerist culture with different groups and realized that this blog is pretty much dedicated to upper middle class hipster technologists. Holy irony.
        So consumerism is cranking this shit out for all shades and tax brackets, and really I have no right to be judgmental.

        1. No, you don’t and despite you’re attempts to claim otherwise you do come across as both racist and ignorant.

          Popular black culture has completely destroyed American music? FFS. 
          You think consumerist, shallow, image centric, money obsessed, sexist lyrics weren’t around, nor popular before the current rise in “popular black culture” (AKA hip-hop)?

          Don’t get me wrong, there are terrible artists that do offer nothing more than crap, but that has always been true and always will be.

  7. When I was a kid I liked any toy with real linked chain. That’s why I bought the Panthro figure from the Thundercats, his Cat-paw nunchucks had real links.

  8. Interesting how we tend to look at things through our own agenda, and assume everyone has the same point of view or else has to behave according to that point of view anyway (for respect, you know).
    The first thing that came to my mind when I saw those shoes  was “inmates” (the second and third were “Guantanamo” and “what an awful design”, if you ask).
    But I didn’t expect everyone to see the same, nor that the shoes should be banned so no one can wear it.
    In the same vein, days after 9/11 a group of USA citizens living in Santiago (Chile) asked the authorities to change avenue’s name “11 de Septiembre” (a main avenue here) because to them was a sad reminder (“them” being all USA people, according to themselves). By the way, that avenue was named to honor 1973 military coup in Pinochet times, and to this day keeps that name (for some in the original intention, for some others precisely to not forget such a sad day).

    1. They weren’t banned.  The designer company, realizing a bit late that they were in poor taste, pulled them.  They are totally legal to make, sell, and buy.  The designer’s major mistake here was not looking for a few critical perspectives before going public.

      The first thing I thought was “those are hideous, who would wear them?”  But it’s easy enough for me to see the various associations, which are pretty nearly all racialized (including anything focusing on the current application of “criminal justice”).

      1. Something similar happened 15 years ago when Reebok recalled 18,000 pairs of shoes which they had branded Incubus, completely clueless that an incubus is a demon who rapes sleeping women. It doesn’t really matter if everybody gets it; if a healthy chunk of your potential demographic (or their parents) looks at your product and says, “What the fuck were you people thinking?”, you pull the product.

        1. Yes, exactly. I mean, “oh crap, we didn’t make that association, but a whole lot of our potential customers are going to” is a pretty good realization for your company to have before it turns into a shit-storm, if at all possible.

          I would argue, just in general, for more diversity (of a variety of types) on their design teams. This is the kind of thing that will usually be caught if you have a wide variety of eyes on a product design in the early stages.

          So, yay, a perfectly rational capitalist argument for diversity in the workplace!

          1. I don’t actually have a problem with that, most of the time. I don’t expect giant corporations to be mass-producing things that will engage and challenge me. I expect them to make functional things that, well, function.

            I love art that challenges people, just don’t expect or need to see it via Adidas.

          2. I would argue, just in general, for more diversity (of a variety of types) on their design teams.

            It’s going to be a hard pull to get them to include demonologists in the design process.

          3. True! I might not go that far, personally, but have at it if you’re worried about making sure the demonologist voice is represented. :)

          4. You may not want your art from Adidas, but plenty of people do, and it sells. They might make millions of generic boring products that do nothing to challenge anyone, but they also produce a lot of interesting and original or mashup designs, and they make a mint off it.


            Just one example. Funnily enough, they add credence to Jeremy Scott’s claim that his designed are inspired by toys and his childhood.

          5. I actually believed his claim – why not? It was unintentionally racially charged, that’s all. It happens.

  9. People who, after having it explained what the intent and inspiration for the design, choose to remain pissed off and claim an association with Western slavery practiced on Africans are about as willfully stupid as the people who got all pissed off about the use of the word “niggardly” after it was demonstrated to be contextually appropriate. 

    The shoes are ugly trainers that wouldn’t actually work as trainers. They are no more or less offensive than a Hummer-type vehicle with no offroad capabilities.

    At some point it would probably be better for the whole of the human race if people just told wrongfully offended people “You’re stupid. Shut the fuck up. You’re no better than the morons who think gay people getting married somehow impacts your life, you’re just looking for some reason to be upset and you’re irritating the rest of us.”

    1. I was just scrolling down to find the post that says “I hate stupid people who get offended. You have no right to be offended.” Although, I didn’t expect to be quite as grossly literal as “you’re stupid. shut the fuck up.”

      You know what I really love? When people use the word “niggardly” just so that they can wait around for the inevitable reaction and then tell the “stupid people” to “shut the fuck up.”

      If you can’t see that a reasonable person might make the connection between shackles around a human’s ankles and actual real-world situations in which shackles are put around a human’s ankles, then that’s you’re own damn problem. It doesn’t make any difference if the designer’s inspiration was a plushy monster toy or a dream he had about aliens, any more than if he started selling gollywog toys and told them his inspiration was getting covered in soot and having his lips stung by bees.

    2. Hey dude. Please, continue to tell minority people about what they should and shouldn’t be concerned by. Because what would they do without your paternalistic supervision? The mind boggles…

  10. If he only made one pair and sold it it would be rightfully considered modern art. A commentary on consumerism and the corporate assimilation of black culture if you will.

    1.  you got my attention with the EPMD logo remix, so I follow your link and there’s nothing there.  ????

  11. My first association with these shoes was actually “Kingdom Hearts”. I think it has something to do with the colours and big and chunky design. 

    And they look like shackles… The things they still use in prisons today…. Maybe I’m too European to understand what the fuss is about.

    1. Well, depending on which European you are, your nation might have just as awful a record of slavery and racial oppression as the US does, and then again it might not.  However, you probably did learn something or other about the slave trade in history class, right?  Or are you “too European” to have studied history, somehow?  

      1. We don’t do the slave trade, well I don’t remember doing it, we only do queen elizabeth and the world wars and the tudor kings of england. ow and  any thing that makes france look bad. And I did history gcse. O and lets not forget the empire. History is looking back with rose tinted glass’s 

  12. I’m not sure how you get racial inequality or degridation out of these unless that is exactly what you are looking for. In which case you are going to find it everywhere in everything, regardless of the facts.

    My very first thought when I saw these was “Cool but why would they make My Pet Monster shoes?”

    1. I’m not sure how you get racial inequality or degridation out of these unless that is exactly what you are looking for.

      Did you sleep through your American History class in high school?

      1.  That may or may not be an apt response but I submit to you that once one is well-enough informed then there are damn few things that one can’t connect to some form of atrocity.

        At some point we become so cluttered with potential triggers that we can either be in a constant state of upset or rage or we can choose to look to intent to guide our reactions.

        1. I’m not sure that someone who has no good reason to be triggered should be lecturing those who do.

          1. Assumptions: LogrusZed has no good reason to be triggered.  Those that raised the stink do.  That LogrusZed is “lecturing” rather than just giving an opinion like everyone is entitled to.  Some of these assumptions may be correct, or not.

          2. You’re assuming that I don’t know enough about the people involved for those to be facts rather than assumptions. You’re incorrect.

          3. I agree that I may not personally have a history that would allow me to judge if these shoes are in bad taste* (politically) or not, but I do think that leg irons don’t specifically relate to slavery in America and to presume they do is quite US-centric.

            Adidas originated from Germany. This is not American Apparel or something. Not all product designs need to consider how the item will be perceived from the perspective of any one particular culture/nation. Since the US is probably one of their bigger markets it might be a silly move from a marketing viewpoint, but I don’t think it is deliberately malicious or politically incorrect.

            *From a fashion viewpoint these shoes are certainly in bad taste.

            When I saw them my first thought was: These shoes are so awesome they need to be chained to your legs so they don’t jump off your feet.

          4. @google-ec3f1deb639c8bee0150d4fed48dadb3:disqus : He’s the Lead moderator. He knows things.

            @tessuraea:disqus : My point was about this product as it relates to US history – the supposed reason that people got upset. It’s not like the shoes come with tiny showers and a bar of soap.

        2.  Everything you’re saying in this article could just be used, unedited, as a dictionary definition of privilege.

          1. Shhh, Travis!!! You’ve uttered the forbidden P-word. You know how effectively it summons the poor downtrodden white middle class hetero able-bodied cis-males out of their slumber to inflict a storm of mansplaining on us all! 

      2. Whoever wrote the statement about “three-fifths human” obviously did.  The compromise was there to prevent the South from using slaves to gain representation by counting slaves as citizens, all while denying slaves basic human, well, status.

      3. Hey A, I see what you are saying but its a big world and many of us are not American, or seeing the same thing you are apparently seeing in this concept piece. I see consumerism. In fact I didn’t even think BLACK until I read the thread.

        1. I see consumerism. In fact I didn’t even think BLACK until I read the thread.

          Are you, by any chance, white?

          1. Oh right, I forgot. We’ve covered this already. White people can’t have a perspective on race, and men can’t have a perspective on gender politics. Why did I bother…

          2. When you’re white and you say, “I didn’t even think BLACK”, all that says is that the issue is meaningless to you. It’s not insightful; it’s just blind to the reality of people who aren’t like you.

          3. We white people can totally have some perspective on race.  That perspective is extremely likely to be the result of our whiteness.  

  13. if the shoes were made of faux fur and had those chains, the My Pet Monster association would’ve been stronger, and maybe he could have avoided this whole ugly mess.

  14. Huh. My first thought when I saw the picture was far, far away from the American history of slavery. In fact it was all the way in Indonesia, where Adidas participates in something that isn’t called slavery, but might as well be. 

    I’m surprised that wasn’t everyone’s first thought.

  15. I’m all for civil equality but Jesse Jackson needs to pull that long pointy stick from out of his…
    The fact that Jackson thinks he can control black youth’s buying habits by declaring a boycott on sneakers is laughable and equating novelty sneakers with slavery seems a little off the deep end even for Jackson.  I have no doubt these would have sold well.  Now, whatever has already been produced of these will probably become ultra-rare, ultra-expensive collector’s items.

    1. Where did Jackson say he’s trying to control black youth’s buying habits?

      Odd how often non-black people put words into the mouths of black people.

      And btw, he didn’t equate novelty sneakers with slavery. He equated shackles with slavery. You know, shackles–those things used during the days of chattel slavery.

      1. IF you read more than just what was posted on BoingBoing you would know Jackson also stated that he and fellow civil rights activists would have held boycotts against Adidas in 50 cities.

        So I’m not putting “words into the mouths of black people” as you said.  Jackson (who is often known for that) is the one claiming that would happen.

  16. he has a picture of my pet monster and says thats the inspiration but my pet monster didnt have them on his ankles and to be grown and think of this country history from multiple stand points he should of never even thought this would not of been an issue… i think he found a figure that would closely tie in with what he was promoting and just in case the world didnt accept his dark twisted sense of humor/view he had a fall back to cover his tail…. america does this on a regular this is nothing new… the person who ok’d this shoe should of stated you know i really like your work but  i think this is politically incorrect lets lose the chains….. they wanted to see how far they could go with this before someone spoke up

    1.  please brother, the word is “have.”  it sounds like “of” when spoken–I say it, too–but we aren’t speaking, we’re typing, so:  “should’ve” and “would not have.”  I know I sound like a jerk, but you’re undermining your otherwise decent commentary. 

      I wouldn’t presume to say the designer was intentionally trying to make the visual equivalent of a racist joke and then using My Pet Monster as a fall-back, but then again that is possible.  I do agree that the designer should’ve been smart and/or sensitive enough to have made that connection, and Adidas HQ should never have co-signed on that design, for sure.

      My first thought, because the shackles are bright orange, was “prison style.”  Then again, the prison industry/criminal justice system is racist as hell anyway, so “six of one, half-dozen of the other,” i guess.

      anyway, no disrespect, sir.  welcome to BB.

  17. Seems to me the reason people thought of slavery/racism  so quickly is because we associate basketball shoes with African-american culture. So stereotypes believed by the complainers fuel the racism when racism ins’t present.

    Also, nice to see Jackson pushing the “3/5 human” every chance he gets, without realizing (?) that the slave-owning South WANTED slaves counted as 1 for 1 in the census.

    1. It’s way more complicated an issue than you seem to be implying. Counting slaves as full people would have been pretty beneficial for slave owners in a lot of different ways. Not the least of which being more political power to force slavery into new states and territories. Of course, with no benefit at all to the slaves themselves.

      1. i know its more complicated, as you describe.
        But Jackson’s soundbite is a severe simplification of the constitutional compromise. It has a lot of symbolic weight, but its not really an accurate account of what was going on

      2. Apparently, PBS disagrees with Jackson too

        ” It is sometimes wrongly said that the compromise meant the founders considered slaves as only partial human beings. In fact, the compromise had nothing to do with the human worth of the individual slave. States with slaves wanted to count all of their slaves in the state’s population because that would yield more representatives in Congress. The opponents of slavery, noting that slaves had no rights of citizenship including the vote, argued that slaves should not be counted at all for purposes of representation. In the end, the compromise was to count three-fifths of the state’s slaves in the total population. In another words, for every five slaves, three of would be added to the population count used to determine representation in the House of Representatives. “

  18. Over 200 years? I think you’ve missed the mark by a couple of orders of magnitude, Rev. Jackson. Why do you have to shoehorn this into a commentary about race? Constantly framing things as whites vs. blacks does little to help race relations, and it does a grave disservice to people who are in bondage today.

    1. Over 200 years? I think you’ve missed the mark by a couple of orders of magnitude

      Fun fact:  Unlike, say, the Romans and the Dacians, we live in the same nation, in the same society, under the same government that allowed Africans to be held as slaves to European settlers.

          1. Well, my imagination was severely seeded with images like this.

            But this image is reality.  And it’s a reminder that the 13th Amendment does not apply to prisoners.

    2. Okay, taking you literally, let’s consider this whole “a couple of orders of magnitude” thing.

      Original statement:  more than 200 years of human degradation

      So you’re saying that the more accurate statement would be either “more than 2 years of human degradation” or “more than 20000 years of human degradation.”

      Since the rest of the sentence was specifically about US history, it makes even less sense…  but even if your point is that slavery has existed a long time and still does, the existence of leg shackles 20,000 years ago is HIGHLY unlikely.  Can’t so much knap leg-irons from flint.

  19. Well, they did pull them at least. American Apparel would have gone all in and called them Kunta Kicks.

  20. I think JJ’s unspoken assumption is that these shoes could actually be popular among black youth, much like the “jailers took my belt away” style of droopy drawers that’s been haunting western fashion for the past two decades.

    1. Dude… really? The reason baggy pants are worn in hiphop culture has nothing to do with what you said. Did you just make that up?
      The idea is that the jeans are hand-me-downs from older brothers or cousins because there’s no money to buy new threads. The other aspect is the threatening suggestion of “My brother/cousin actually fits these, so if you mess with me you’ll soon be messing with them”.

  21. If i were a parent and my child wanted these sneakers i would give my child history lesson on oppression (including black slavery in the US, Gitmo, child labor in manufacturing, and metaphorical enslavement to consumer goods. I’d probably also give them an utterly embarrassing lesson on how to practice recreational bondage safely. And i would encourage them to build their own shackle-shoes that were less ugly.

    But calling anything referencing ankle shackles racist is a stretch. “My pet monster” was my first association even before creator admitted it. My second association was Charles Manson. My third would be the MAD magazine trope of bearded prisoners in dungeons. Number four would be a tie between black slavery, Frankenstein’s monster, the Incredible Hulk. and The chain gang scenes in “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”.

    Attacking ridiculousness like sneakers is what “liberals” do when a supposedly “liberal” president is in office but economic and racial injustice continues to grow worse. I remember this happening during the Clinton years too.
    Not a pretty sight.

  22. I would not be adverse to buying an attractive pair of black patent leather pumps with sleek swarovski-encrusted ankle-cuffs attached. Because that would actually look good.  
    But in this case- whether the slavery connotations were intended or not, these are just some ugly damn shoes. I say we strike them from the record and let us never speak of them again.

  23. I certainly think it’s good that Adidas pulled the shoes. Too much controversy, too many negative associations and too much room for offense. I also think they’re pretty damn ugly, and a long way from Jeremy Scott’s best work, or even nearly as cool/interesting/weird as most of his Adidas collaborations.

    All this said, I think there is a lot of “malice, when stupidity will suffice” being applied here. All of Jeremy Scott’s designs are outrageous, most of his collaborations with Adidas do mash-up outrageous sneakers and toys or other weird childhood memories. Believing that in this instance he was intentionally trying to be a racist shit, and using My Pet Monster as a cover up just seems odd considering his previous work.

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