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Saving the World, One Pair of Sneakers at a Time.

As a long-suffering sneaker addict, I always feel pangs of guilt when I’m picking up yet another pair of over-priced limited-edition kicks I don’t really need. But sweatshop labor, environmental degradation and mindless consumption are apparently on the minds of more than few sneaker heads, because lo and behold, the invisible hand of the free market is responding. Sneaker companies are serving up shoes-with-a-message in increasing numbers, but without compromising on design, creating shoes that appeal to both hypebeasts and treehuggers alike. Here are few of the options available:

Nike Considered

Nike Considered Soaker Low

Nike began getting its green on in a very serious way two years ago when it launched the Considered range. The entire line is produced using recycled rubber, biodegradable materials, and without the use of toxic adhesives of any kind. Designed for ‘total component disassembly’, they can be easily broken down and recycled, and use only local materials from within a 200 mile radius of the factories where they are produced. That’s hot.

Even hotter are the designs, which have been consistently improving over the years. This summer Nike released the Considered Soaker Mid, also part of the ACG range, with one eye very firmly on the streetwear audience. The Soaker is a really comfortable, great-looking shoe, whether you’re wearing in the city or whitewater rafting. Captain Planet needs to cop a pair.

Hood Rating: 4/5

Hippy Rating: 4/5


Blackspots

blackspots

Taking its design cue from the Converse Chuck Taylor, the Blackspot is the sharp end of sneaker activism. Brought to you by the people who created Adbusters magazine, Blackspots are made sweatshop free by unionized workers in Europe from organic hemp, and were designed by John Fluevog. When you buy a pair, you also get shares in the Blackspot “anti-corporation.”

“Blackspots are a reaction to bogus, top-down corporate cool,” Adbusters and Blackspots Founder Kalle Lasn told me. “Behind Blackspots is a larger story, ethical companies, a new wave of businesses. I call it ‘kick-ass capitalism’. It’s a new kind of activism. People don’t hate logos. We are seeing a marriage of activism and kick-ass capitalism, an un-cooling of brands.”

The use of the situationist slogan “live without dead time” on the insole works really well, Guy Debord would definitely rock these. Its heart is definitely in the right place, bringing a lot of the manufacturing industry’s inconvenient truths home to roost. But after wearing them for a few hours, I did also have an inconvenient blister.

Hood Rating: 2/5

Hippy Rating: 5/5

Starburys

Starbury

NBA star Stephon Marbury’s line of cut-price sneakers is kicking up a storm. Marbury grew up in the projects of Coney Island, unable to afford $150 basketball shoes.

When he became an NBA star, he shunned the sneaker giant’s sponsorship money to go it alone and create Starbury, a line of shoes and sportswear that kids from low income families could afford. And just to prove his point, he even wears his shoes on court. Starbury isn’t about saving the environment or protesting globalization, but it is about the questioning the value we place in brands, and why.

Available only at Steve & Barry’s stores for the low price of $14.98, Starburys come in a range of styles and colors, drawing influences from other popular sneakers such as Bapes, Air Force Ones and New Balance 575s. Marbury’s message appears to be hitting home – there is a sign up at my local branch of Steve and Barrys: “Only ten pairs of Starburys per customer, per day.”

The shoes are incredibly comfortable, although I find they do wear out a little quicker than your average sneaker. Some have criticized the company for remaining largely silent on sustainability, how they are helping kids in the countries were Starburys are made, or why they have to be made overseas in the first place. There’s always room for improvement, but this is a great idea and Starburys undoubtedly are making a difference to how people think about the sneaker business.

Hood Rating: 5/5

Hippy Rating: 3/5

Fan

Fan sneakers

FAN is a new sneaker from London-based graduate Lusea Warner, who created the brand as part of her final project for Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Made entirely from old plastic bags, the shoes have the texture of leather, but breathe like they were canvas.

Warner’s intention is to bring the green movement to the forefront of urban culture. Looking like a wrinkled Chuck, the new-rave influence on the design is obvious, and they are apparently finding favor with skater friends of Warner’s too. More granola than grimy, but a definitely a step in the right direction.

Hood Rating: 3/5

Hippy Rating: 4/5

Simple ecoSNEAKS

simple eco sneaks

“Just because a shoe is planet-friendly doesn’t mean that it has to look like a hippie clod-hopper” says Simple’s website. Amen to that. With all-organic cotton canvas uppers and linings, soles made from old car tyres and 100% post consumer paper pulp foot forms (whatever they are), the range of shoes mange pack a mean crunch and come correct with some nice designs.

Hood Rating: 3/5

Hippy Rating: 4/5

One Response to “Saving the World, One Pair of Sneakers at a Time.”

  1. Retro Sneakers Says:

    I think Nike’s are going to the retro look now for the more casual crowd. Their athletic line is ugly, but I like the retro looking ones.

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