In 2012 you could get so overwhelmed by the pre-release fever for anything—and that extends beyond sports footwear—that to wander into a store and get something for under $100 is a rarity. Shit, we're heading into seasons where getting something desirable for less than $200 could be cause for a street party. Looking at the Nike Sportswear Roshe Run as a case study, that shoe exited Nike WHQ without a campaign—no writeup on the new Nike INC site for the media, no video, no fancy story and no real performance promises. What it did have was a borderline budget pricetag, immediate visual appeal and lots of pretty colors on the sole. Nike's been preaching the gospel of less as more since the Bowerman days and after a few years of excess, the Presto, Mayfly and that Free 5.0 diet in 2004 brought it back. Even the Roshe's publicity was slimmed down, and this could have easily been another obscurity (remember the Sock Dart and Sabuku?) that got a little love then disappeared into the sunset. But somehow it amassed a cult following.
Who would've thought that, in 2012, people would buy a shoe to wear? Given the bizarre preoccupation with pristine shoes as self-proclaimed collectors bicker on YouTube and show off on Instagram—kids who paid big bucks for a pair of shoes with a 'NIKE AIR' rather than a Jumpman for bragging rights, creating new tiers of sneaker new-jack almost instantaneously, with the ability to feign veteran status with a parental credit card. The predictable queues of hopefuls formed for Yeezy 2s to stockpile and eBay, and while 2012 might be seen by many as the point where the whole sneaker thing became silly (anyone who's been hoarding for a while will recall a similar backlash around 2002—shit, even the backlash has been retroed), it's easy to forget that there's a massive audience who simply want something to break out. While New Balance booms, there's even a sense of snobbery towards that "movement" too—negativity towards a rise in US- and UK-made design classics? People will react against pretty much anything, but for every character feverishly ticking off an expensive checklist, several more are experiencing the enjoyment of a comfortable shoe that looks good too... just like you're supposed to.
There's something appealing about a shoe that doesn't need a preview, preview of the preview or closer look at already comprehensive coverage.
The shoe thing seems to have split into two packs—those with the toothbrush and cardboard shrines and those appreciating a shoe on the foot. The Nike Roshe Run as a case study is even more of an oddity because, traditionally, the unhyped shoe enters the arena by being co-opted and re-appropriated by a crowd beyond its original athletic intent—the Roshe never begged friends, but it was never built to put through its paces at a hardcore running level either. It's a distillation of the brand's current lurid sole success for a NSW-level consumer. It's a shoe built for casual wear, with shades of recovery shoe in its overall concept, but alongside that, shades of Lunar Racer, Presto, Moc, Chukka, Bermuda, Flow and even some Tailwind in that sole unit's heft, yet it doesn't feel like a response to anything else on the market. The decision to hone the footbed so it's ridged and even softer, and the zen-like art of turning less into a lot more all pays off, through seeing on the feet and biting the style (once outlawed but seemingly revoked in the early 2000s) and word-of-mouth regarding the comfort. Folk have been suffering for too long in devolved pleather retros, and that gives the Roshe a "detox for the foot" dimension. Did Nike envision this becoming so popular? Unlikely, but it perfectly encapsulates a slow creep from heritage, overuse of the term "crafted" and dressing like a 1930s train driver into something more progressive.
There's something appealing about a shoe that doesn't need a preview, preview of the preview or closer look at already comprehensive coverage. It's in that space that a shoe like the Roshe prevails. To bring a pair to some kind of "shoe battle" would be a knife to a gunfight—there's no reason with kids on an ill-fated swag-centric, excessively steezy mission to get those Tumblr and Instagram props. What the wearer gets, when they throw on these half-formed mesh sacks on a neon platform, is the instant comfort and a superior shape that's only apparent when they're populated. And all for 70 bucks? Stacking shoes like these won't make you an eBay trillionaire, but you can grab a pair without sleeping rough for a week, or becoming embroiled in some wild Twitter lottery where you disclose every detail just for the slim chance of getting the privilege of making a purchase. They're the Pepto-Bismol for the industry's current bout of cynicism. Just follow the checklist when you buy a shoe: Does it look good with jeans? Does it look good with shorts? Is there a slightly scarcer camo version? Let everyone else bicker and shout because they had to wear a wristband to qualify to shop.