Retrogression

So the year is 2014, Nike Free is 10 years old and a lot of people are frothing over Presto’s, Rifts and Pump Furys… Wait what? Right now it seems that the weird footwear is having a resurgence in popularity, to the point that they’re doing much better now than when they were new.

While we’re on the topic of early 2000s we’ll also consider that a lot of the stalwart retail locations opened along with many brands starting to push the retro agenda. Sure there’s been a host of “re-issues” over history but not until the naughties was it a dedicated wing of each brand to seek out and re-release a silhouette playing on it’s heritage and significance to our lives. Air Max 90s, adidas’ first Torsion ZX’s, Reebok Instapump Fury, even New Balance was doing some of their early 99x series, 576s and the 1300 (for Japanese collectors). At the same time U-Dox was giving birth to Crooked Tongues and Sneaker Freaker wasn’t far off either.

bjork

The Pump Fury garnered some solid interest from the world’s “out-there” artists in ’94 (Steve Tyler and Bjork both repped them to the delight of its designer Steve Smith), with King Karl notoriously employing some interlocked Cs and two fantastic colourways to the model for his 2001 Spring show giving it a new lease on life a decade later. The shoe had it’s time in the sun with the super-rich football wives and Hollywood illuminati whilst weird was in (remembering Nike’s Alpha project dropped at a similar time). Jump forward to present day and; low and behold the Pump Fury has been enjoying success and popularity never seen (outside of Japan). Then we’ve got the Free retro (a shoe that released in ’04) and the subsequent hype inducing “Geneology” black pack along with some insane footwear from the adidas collaborations with Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens and Raf Simons along with all the luxury brand’s own interpretations of the sneaker.

The Huarache has after some fevor for a shoe that at the time nearly didn’t even make shelves. Tinker Hatfied mentioned that the initial booking for stores was around 50 pairs until Tom Archie ordered 5000 pairs to put in the Nike booth at the NY Marathon. They subsequently sold out and a legend was born.

It seems that the hallmark oddball creations from the last 20 years have become the most lusted over silhouettes as the new generation of footwear aficionados move past their first stint of typical favourites. For people that have been around a while it’s understandable, I mean who doesn’t love the Presto or the Footscape Wovens but since when were people who would normally be ducking down to Colorado (RIP) for some nondescript boat shoes calling up their local boutique to find out when the new triple-black Huarache drops? Or how about a customer in a sharp suit talking about Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Pump Furys?

So now we’ve come to the situation where the new kids on the block are just discovering these weird and wonderful shoes and their new approach to the sneaker “game” of “BUY BUY BUY, MONEY MONEY MONEY” is taking a hold. I never thought that I’d struggle to get a pair of all-black Nike Air Rifts on release day from a mate in NYC at $100rrp but here I am writing this piece as an obvious knee-jerk reaction. Of course I’m not that phased, I know that at some point in the next 10 years the trends will move on and they’ll be $30 on Ebay again but that doesn’t stop people paying two to three times the original price of a pair of black Presto’s or some technicolor Pump Furys.

At the same time there’s still a huge market for the more conventional classic sneakers, Air Max 1s are enjoying a huge resurgence along with Asics and their GEL range and it’s good to see Saucony, Diadora and ROOS getting some love recently as well. So now we’ve got a huge market of people who all are buying old designs; stuff that was developed 20 years ago or more.

Add into it all the (other) current trend of high-tech running footwear having it’s place in trends with the likes of Flyknit and now there’s so much stuff to try and keep a track of that you might be getting a bit confused. Remember though that this is all speaking about things from a purely hobbyist perspective (and not touching on Basketball). I’ve not even begun to consider actual performance developments, so you can be forgiven for being a bit overwhelmed when trying to grasp just how many different products that would encompass. Think about what looking on the Nike or adidas online store set to “view all” entails.

What seems commonplace to us now, wasn’t even a consideration 20 years ago when these shoes that we all have such strong emotional ties to were actually being created. Nike wasn’t focused on retroing the Tailwind in 1987 when the Air Max 1 dropped. Adidas weren’t thinking about the ZX500 when the Equipment range was about to change people’s perceptions and I’m pretty damned sure Reebok didn’t give a crap bout the Aztec when the Pump Fury was ready to blow people’s minds. The only reason New Balance kept models in their range once they were superseded was to keep the runners that had grown accustomed to their favourite shoe and were too stubborn to move on (a notorious trait).

So instead of being in a race to create the best, most advanced performance footwear it feels like we’re stuck in a loop where these brands are trying to please everyone which might just be compromising their ability to do what they were created to do best. I mean do we really need 10 different ‘lifestyle’ shoe options from each brand? You need only look at the amount of colourways each new flagship runner comes in to see that it’s less about the performance and design and more about palette-ability. Remember when you could get a mens and (maybe) a womens colour and that was it?

Sure I’m happy that the EQT range is back, that I can buy a new pair of 997s and that the Rift gets a bit of love but if it’s at the expense of making the very best running footwear then is it really worth it? Would Adi Dassler really care about the shape on the new EQTs? Do you think Bill Bowerman would’ve considered the quality on the last Jordan VI something important to Nike? Performance comes from moving forward, not retrogression. They might look like they’re from the future but it’s a design that’s probably older than your car. At least we’ve progressed into the last decade but I’m not looking forward to the Flyknit 10th anniversary Tier 0 release in 2022 and all of the “OG” heads complaining about the shape and quality…

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