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Adidas Shackle Shoes

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Just in time for Juneteenth, Adidas announces a new shoe design scheduled to hit stores this August.  It’s a shoe with a shackle, so you too can experience a bit of the fun of serving on a chain gang.

The caption beneath the image of the shoe reads: “Tighten up your style with JS Roundhouse Mids, dropping in August. Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles.” An article on Indiewire.com suggests that the whole shackle and chain thing is potentially racist. I’ll take it one step further and say that the shoe with the prison-orange shackle is absolutely racist. Whether the use of the shackle is due to insensitivity or something more sinister, it’s ignorant and offensive.

The shoe is obviously being marketed to communities of color. And the irony of the timing of the advance marketing could not be more stark.

Juneteenth (June 19th) is, after all, Emancipation Day, a holiday celebrating the abolition of slavery. But the end of slavery opened a new era of neo-Slavery.

Soon after the end of the war, vagrancy laws were enacted throughout the South that targeted African Americans, especially men, criminalizing minor law violations, including simply being “idle,” as in, not in the employ of a white man. Thousands throughout the South were imprisoned under these laws and consigned to labor camps. Yup, the chain gang is a black thing, as in, a form of forced labor specifically targeting Black people. You can read more about it here.

Prisoners in shackles built much of the public infrastructure necessary to industrialize the South. Prisoners were also leased to corporations, including Northern businesses like U.S. Steel for whom they labored without consideration of their health and safety. The conditions were, in many ways, worse than they had been under slavery because there was little incentive to keep prisoners alive.

And because of fear of the chain gang, the Black population of the South was terrorized into staying under the control of exploitative employers. For every person enslaved as a convict, thousands more were scared away from changing jobs for fear of going unemployed and being accused of vagrancy.

This is the historical context for the new Adidas shoe. It may be unintentional, but it is nonetheless offensive. Until they take this shoe off the market, none of us should shop with them.

By Scot Nakagawa

Scot Nakagawa is a political strategist and writer who has spent more than four decades exploring questions of structural racism, white supremacy, and social justice. Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against authoritarianism, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism. Currently, Scot is co-lead of the 22nd Century Initiative, a project to build the field of resistance to authoritarianism in the U.S.

Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow, an Open Society Foundations Fellow, and a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Community Leader Award. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition,  and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Scot's political essays, briefings, and other educational media can be found at his newsletter, We Fight the Right at scotnakagawa@substack.com. He is a sought after public speaker and educator who provides consultation on campaign and communications strategy, and fundraising.

5 replies on “Adidas Shackle Shoes”

I don’t believe for one second that this shoe’s design was unintentional. This shoe is part of the signature Jeremy Scott for Adidas sneaker line—Scott is some pseudo-rebellious corporate darling fashion designer. The New York Times called him “Fashion’s Last Rebel” late last year.

Fashion hipsters like Scott deliberately create designs that they know will trigger controversy and outrage, which will create buzz and sell the product. What’s more controversial than a footwear product specifically targeted to Black/Latino men that symbolizes slavery and the prison industrial complex? I mean, really: “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles.” Could that get any more manipulative?

To add insult to injury, these 1980s knockoff sneakers with the cheap plastic prison-orange shackle cost $350.00. I predict that kids of all races will go into debt trying to buy these things. Corporate racism never looked so tacky.

Just in time for Juneteenth, Adidas announces a new shoe design scheduled to hit stores this August. It’s a shoe with a shackle, so you too can experience a bit of the fun of serving on a chain gang.

The caption beneath the image of the shoe reads: “Tighten up your style with JS Roundhouse Mids, dropping in August. Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles.” An article on Indiewire.com suggests that the whole shackle and chain thing is potentially racist. I’ll take it one step further and say that the shoe with the prison-orange shackle is absolutely racist. Whether the use of the shackle is due to insensitivity or something more sinister, it’s ignorant and offensive.

The shoe is obviously being marketed to communities of color. And the irony of the timing of the advance marketing could not be more stark.

Juneteenth (June 19th) is, after all, Emancipation Day, a holiday celebrating the abolition of slavery. But the end of slavery opened a new era of neo-Slavery.

Soon after the end of the war, vagrancy laws were enacted throughout the South that targeted African Americans, especially men, criminalizing minor law violations, including simply being “idle,” as in, not in the employ of a white man. Thousands throughout the South were imprisoned under these laws and consigned to labor camps. Yup, the chain gang is a black thing, as in, a form of forced labor specifically targeting Black people. You can read more about it here.

Prisoners in shackles built much of the public infrastructure necessary to industrialize the South. Prisoners were also leased to corporations, including Northern businesses like U.S. Steel for whom they labored without consideration of their health and safety. The conditions were, in many ways, worse than they had been under slavery because there was little incentive to keep prisoners alive.

And because of fear of the chain gang, the Black population of the South was terrorized into staying under the control of exploitative employers. For every person enslaved as a convict, thousands more were scared away from changing jobs for fear of going unemployed and being accused of vagrancy.

This is the historical context for the new Adidas shoe. It may be unintentional, but it is nonetheless offensive. Until they take this shoe off the market, none of us should shop with them.

I honestly thought this was some kind of hoax, but instead of finding confirmation on snopes.com I found an adidas press release saying they are now withdrawing the shoe. I’m not sure who looks worse: Scott for being so culturally blind or adidas for promoting his ignorance.

This may sound a little off the subject,but I just don’t get understand why people want to put their life savings in tennis shoes. I’m always amazed how long people will stay in line for those things. I often said that if I had to stand in line for some shoes, it better have sold gold and diamonds on them

Far as those shoes? those shoes does give off the wrong vibe. Even it wasn’t..ugh..Im sorry but as I just mentioned, unless it has some valuable jewels on them, I avoid them. I only by certain brand shoes( and I try my best to pay less for them) for sincere orthopedic reasons as I ‘ve always had problem with my feet.

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