Donald Glover released the first shoe designs from his partnership with Adidas today, and they’re intended, per the press release, to be a statement about how "rich is a concept." The three low-top sneakers from the Donald Glover Presents collection—the Nizza, the Continental 80, and the Lacombe—are off-white with frayed edges, loose strings hanging off, and subtle Adidas stripes that look hand-stitched or painted. (Because who wants to buy Adidas if people can clearly see the stripes, I guess?) Glover also released a series of five short promo videos where Mo’Nique plays a motherly figure telling him to care less about his appearance. (Today is weird; get ready.) The collection, for all its admirable intentions, has some deep ironies to it.
Glover said in a press release: “I wanted to encourage people to think about how their stories can be told on their feet. Value isn’t quantified by what you wear, rather the experiences from them.” It’s kind of head-spinning, given that it's coming from a rich person accumulating more wealth via a shoe deal that challenges the concept of being rich. His line demonstrates the same impulse as other more extreme cases where brands like Saint Laurent and Golden Goose have sold luxury distressed shoes for around $500-$800, sometimes causing controversy. His shoes sell for less ($80-$100), but you're still buying a name brand in the hopes of looking less "name brand."
Beyond challenging notions of wealth, though, the tattered shoes are also supposed to encourage individuality. Adidas said the line was made “with a focus on the personal narrative that worn-in sneakers can hold,” and Glover added, “The partnership for me is about being able to exemplify what doing your own thing truly looks and feels like.” Fair enough, but it’s hard to see past the irony that the line is mass-producing a specific bohemian style to encourage individuality. Plus with the shoes fitting snugly into Glover’s brand as a beach-ready sandy sex symbol, it’s also easy to imagine fans buying the shoes to be more like Glover. (Maybe even the same fans to whom Adidas airdropped pictures of the shoes at Coachella where Glover debuted his beachy wonderland film Guava Island.)
Glover seems preoccupied with criticizing consumer capitalist culture in songs like This Is America and film projects like Guava Island. And the messaging around his sneaker line falls nicely into that broader pattern. But there's a friction between that message and the medium used to deliver it.
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