LeBron James. He is a man of many things. Man of Basketball. Man of Charity. Man of shoe brands. But would you believe me if I told you he has become… a man… of WOMEN’S shoe brands?
Here they are. A LeBron, designed for women, by women. They are a little busy, they have a lion eating shoelaces on the heel, performance shocks, and a strap of leather around the ankle that resembles a belt. I wondered, upon seeing them, if they would capture the imagination of the women’s shoe buying public. So I spoke to a bunch of women I know and I asked them if they might wear the shoes.
“Even if someone just gave them to me, no.” Said Dana Cox, an artist and comedian from Los Angeles, when asked if she would wear these shoes. “The gold circles. It doesn’t look like the laces are actually going through them. Those are, like, decorative rings?”
Rachel Floyd, a food systems analyst from Kingsburg, California, couldn’t bring herself to go that far. “I have one bad ankle, and these shoes give the illusion of offering ankle support, which I am interested in?” But ankle support from low tops? “Well they have the illusion because they have that strap," Ms. Floyd said. "I think it gives the illusion of ankle support, I don’t think that that would actually offer any support. I feel like it’s trying to get me to use the word fugly. But I can’t, 'cause there’s clearly, like, design behind it.”
“If someone gave me these shoes and they were my size, which is hard to fine, and they were comfortable and I wasn’t going to work, I’d wear those.”
I pressed Ms. Floyd.
“Ehh. Now that I’m looking at the other angle again. Arrrrggg…” A longer silence. “Yeah. Because I try not to care about what people think of me?”
“If they were completely free and I couldn’t find my other tennis shoes to go to the gym, I would wear those.”
Baylie Freeman, a sketch comedian and a nanny from La Center, Washington, was of two minds:
“They’re a little intense for my taste. Like I get it, because... “
“Yeah they’re just… it’s a lot. It’s a lot.”
Emily Lever, a journalist and writer who has written about basketball shoes, says that she would not wear the shoes. “These appear to have been designed with several competing visions in mind, I guess? You know It looks like a Yeezy but then the shoelaces are tied around at the ankle like the fucking… Chuck Taylors and then there are those, these Nike Boost situations."
“And then… these ankle straps are completely insane. Not only would I not wear them—I don't think anyone should wear them."
“If I were to go through all the sort of, like, fashion sneakers that I’ve seen, I think that there are like… shoes like this but where the ankle strap is better integrated into the shoe…”
“Yeah,” I injected. “I guess it’s kind of like an Air Force One, right?”
“I guess that is what it’s referencing, maybe? It was giving me, like, ancient Roman gladiator vibes. So I think like, sure, have an ankle strap, but have them be of the same sort of material and feel of the rest of the shoe. It’s just so bizarre.”
“That is not a flattering shoe silhouette at all. (The belt) is going to cut off the leg in a way to make your average woman look a little stumpy.”
Caitlin Obom, a comedian and writer from Kent, Washington, is more charitable, or, perhaps, just more self loathing. Would she wear the shoes?
“The fucked up thing is, I would.”
“Okay. Practically, probably no, when I’m thinking about it. I like them as objects, because they’re insane. Like the heels look like the necronomicon mixed with The Neverending Story. That’s a venn diagram I can sort of support if it was like one fifth of a shoe.”
“Here’s the thing: it kind of looks like someone made these specifically for cosplaying? And I don’t know what they’d be cosplaying. They look like they’re FOR something. And so I think my instinct is to say I’d wear them for that. Like, 'I’ve been to a Ren Faire.'”
I tell her they are basketball shoes.
“Yeah. But are they though?”
“Here’s my problem with it, when you get right down to it. The design from the ankle down, is not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I like the ambition of the back detail, I guess. But the whole cuff thing,” says Ms. Obom, referring to the leather strap, “they’re sort of reminiscent of a gladiator sandal. You’re forcing everyone from the ankle bone down to, like, be reminiscent of cold marble, alabaster stone and then above the ankle bone they’re just like someone’s dad at, like, a farmer’s market wearing socks with their sandals. Like there’s no way to make the ankle look good. I mean have you seen a Birkenstock, with a...”
I interrupt, asking if she’s saying the strap has a Birkenstock vibe.
“Yeah. And also like, why would you go with that specific color of leather strap for a white shoe? Doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Ms. Obom says the leather strap is very horny. “These are horny-ass shoes.”
Tasha Norton, the pastor of The Church of the Wandering in Olympia, Washington, would not wear these shoes. “I don’t really like it when my shoes have a lot of things. And these shoes have so many things. First of all it looks like there’s a watch… here’s what’s weird, here’s what’s weird: It looks like there’s a watch/belt buckle holding the shoe together. But it also looks like you also have to tie them behind your foot? So now I have to deal with tying my shoe behind my foot, and clasping my large belt buckle thing? It’s too many things.”
Ms. Norton says she hates the strap, but she likes the color, and thinks it would be interesting if they integrated the color into more of the shoe. She also remarked on the redundant lace holes. “God, these look so complicated to tie.”
Maureen Hoff, a writer who responded via letter, was more than a little incensed. “Okay, so first of all I just want to say that I don't believe that these were designed by women for women because why would they then heavily feature a belt, an item we all know to be a patriarchal device to make women look smaller and feel constricted but also these are the most impractical tennis shoes I have ever seen. What activity do you do in them? They look specifically designed to break your ankle.”
Sarah Austin, a friend of mine for more than a decade, also would not wear these shoes. “High tops make my ankles swell up. And also I’m really kind of weirded out by the belt thing. I do really like the lion feature because they are a little bit Gryffindor-esque,” referring, of course, to the noblest house in the popular Harry Potter book series, the house that James would be drafted into. “I would like them on someone else…”
I ask Ms. Austin who she would like to see these on?
“Uhh. Hmm. Okay so, like, if I was going to spend the day in Seattle and walk around in Seattle for the day and the guy I was with was wearing these shoes, I would be like, 'cool.'”
“Are you sure?”
“No. I’m not sure.”
Bridget Sievers was probably the most charitable member of the woman’s shoe buying public with whom I spoke. “There are so many different shoe ideas in this shoe. It felt like someone discovered every pitch that they’ve thrown away for shoes in the last two years, and they made them all one shoe instead of making maybe four perfectly good different shoes? If the Lion was on its own shoe, I think that would be pretty fucking sick. The leather band, on it’s own, could be really fun. But all of these combined with this quilted texture that looks almost like it should be on, like, some kind of… Martha’s Vineyard sailing accessory.”
“I could imagine the belt working on a very sleek shoe were you’re really playing with the two kinds of men’s wear.” She thinks that maybe there’s something in combining the high/low aspects of leather belts and fancy men’s clothing, with the more casual, athletic-wear stuff that men tend to wear around the house and at the gym. She mentions ad campaigns by Gucci that are looking to do this, and says the belt could be stylish, but it’s not done right here. I tell her about the origins of the shoes, that they’re for women, by women. She is a little unnerved.
“I could never imagine a woman wearing these. I think they’re men’s shoes. The lion is like the Leo symbol; its very prominent, it’s very powerful. That’s a man. That’s a dude. That’s a very masculine symbol, whether we want it to be or not. It might have great hair, but it is a maaaaan.”
Her final thought:
“I really think it needs to be four different shoes.”