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Popular clothing and shoe designer, Jeremy Scott, has found himself in hot water. In collaboration with Adidas, Scott designed a pair of sneakers featuring a cuff that goes around the ankle. Many supporters and critics of both Scott and Adidas took personal offense. Several claimed that the design was racially insensitive, as the cuffs closely resembled shackles, a symbol of slavery. As is common knowledge, shackles were used to confine captured slaves on slave ships in transit to America.
Several bloggers, journalists, on-air personalities and others have commented about the shoe and what the design implies. One such person is Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University, who had much to say when images of the sneaker were posted to Adidas’ facebook page. In an article for Your Black World, he states,
‘When I see the shoes, I also think about the ankle bracelets being worn by far too many men who are affected by the mass incarceration epidemic that the White House says nothing about. The black family has ripped itself apart because so many of our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons are locked away in prison, leading their children vulnerable to all the horrible things that happen when the man of the house is not away. I am offended by these shoes because there is nothing funny about the prison industrial complex, which is the most genocidal thing to happen to the black family since slavery itself.’
Dr. Watkins acknowledges that some would feel that he is overreacting; however, it would appear that there are more people who share his sentiments than those who do not. When the post was made on facebook, several users called the design ‘ignorant’, ‘offensive’, ‘inappropriate’ and a new way to ‘promote slavery.’
Adidas heard the angry cries loud and clear. In a statement, a representative for Adidas said that the design “is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery.” Still, the company has decided to cancel the shoe. In the same statement the representative goes on to say, “We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”
Jeremy Scott is known to be a quirky, fun-spirited designer. In previous projects with Adidas he has incorporated themes using Mickey Mouse and panda bears. Scott is, in his own words, heavily influenced by cartoons, toys and his childhood. For this particular shoe, he was inspired by the 90s toy, My Pet Monster. The toy is purple and orange and wears bright orange handcuffs around the wrists. The controversial shoe is purple and orange as well and has bright orange cuffs intended to go around the ankles.