Written by Pete Forester (@pete_forester)
Don’t even bother reading this, just get mad in the comments.
The flurry of entertainer sneaker deals that’s been announced this past year haven’t been surprising. First there was Kanye, then there was Drake, and most recently - Pharrell.
The unending avalanche has got everyone speculating about who would be next, and although there’s a long list of prospects, there’s someone who should be at the top: Macklemore.
WHAT?! (DISCLAIMER: Yes I’m that dude who wrote that Gay Sneakerhead piece, but although I do like “Same Love,” it’s not in my Top 10 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis songs and isn’t the reason I listen to them.)
2013 was a crazy year for Macklemore that rode clear into 2014 with his Best New Artist Grammy win with producer Ryan Lewis. Hip-hop culture seemed to largely tolerate him until that cold, January night when many claimed he thieved the title from Kendrick Lemar (and got embroiled in a non-scandal about Instagram and text messages). Macklemore still gets a lot of pushback from the hip-hop purists for some reason or another. But he’s still flourishing, not angry about it, and just keeps living. This is the kind of person whose shoes we should be putting on kids. Not someone who is comfortable rapping about date rape.
Regardless of whether or not hardcore hip-hop audiences roll with his tracks, Macklemore is an undeniably legit sneakerhead. He’s got more than a few Oregon Ducks Jordans, consistently crowd surfs in early pairs, and even threw his Red Octobers into the crowd in a gesture of New Year's generosity.
The biggest controversy that Macklemore has been embroiled in, at least when it comes to legitimacy, is the TV spot for the 2013 NBA All-Star game featuring his song, "Wing$." The problem? The song is entirely about how the thirst for sneakers is incredibly destructive, and how big brands are hoodwinking consumers to feed into the thirst. It’s a cycle that Macklemore has said he’s removed himself from. (See: Thrift Shop.)
This is the kind of person whose shoes we should be putting on kids.
It was a strange choice for the NBA to feature a song about the dangers of consumerism, and the league cleaned it up by removing the most critical lyrics. This created an awkward tension for an event so closely tied to the sneakers, and sets a base for what would be an awkward tension around a potential Macklemore sneaker deal. The artist took to his blog to explain that the cuts were done by the NBA and, if anything, the ironic adoption of the song by the NBA should be chalked up as a win – not “selling out.”
The most important thing Macklemore would bring into any sneaker deal would be his ability to turn personal experiences into a gift to for would-be consumers. Despite being a white dude from the Pacific Northwest, he has a background that rivals the most complicated artists. He was a drug addict and rapped about it. Got clean, rapped about it. Relapsed, rapped about it. He brings his audience into his dark and hidden rooms, but tries to turn the lights on so people don’t make the same mistakes.
His messaging is positive, but honest. He doesn’t try to change the truth, regardless of how challenging it is. That means that what he makes is personal, but always about providing a service.
We’ve only seen him create or work on, one shoe so far, and that was his Jordan Melo M10. It’s not the most creative, or the largest stretch in design in history, but it’s about bringing his story forward into this world. Collaborations should be with people, deals should be about personalities.
The interesting thing to see is which brand will be willing to do it (if anyone does) because Macklemore is unconventional, and always has been. That’s why people view him as corny or not hard enough. They see him as a tourist in an alien culture— all code for “he’s different.” And Macklemore moves with his producer, Ryan Lewis, as a unit. They're a package deal. Ryan's style isn't as blendable into the streetwear/sneaker scene as Mack's is - he's even more of a risk. (One that's worth taking.)
Maybe a reason why we haven’t seen any sneaker deal happen is because Macklemore doesn’t want one. Maybe he doesn’t want the limitations. Maybe he doesn’t want to be perceived as selling out. He already gets all the free shoes he wants – and can afford the ones he doesn’t get for free. He’s an independent artist, basically freelancing with companies on a much larger scale. Perhaps the sneaker deals offend his own sensibility, and that’s why we haven’t seen an announcement.
Until we do hear one, this is what I'm going to choose to believe.