Negative publicity and charges of racism have forced Adidas to give the boot to the Y1 HUF shoe in its "Yellow" line. The backlash caused by the bucktoothed, slanty-eyed caricature featured on the shoe proved too racy for Adidas's young, hip and cool image-making.
In a statement released April 26, the company acknowledges it made a mistake. "We sincerely apologize for any offence our product has caused," it reads in part. "We deeply regret the misinterpretation of our intentions."
The intention, according the media release, was to offer up-and-coming artists the opportunity to flaunt their work.
Queen's University business faculty member Ken Wong says street-level creations (the Y1 HUF is designed by San Fran graffitti artist Barry "Twist" McGee) give products youth cred.
But high-level managers at Adidas should have known better than to adopt the image for its international market and not expect some sort of backlash, even if the shoe was meant for only a dozen boutiques around the world, each described by Adidas as "well-regarded within the street art community."
"For Adidas to do this, quite frankly, is phenomenally stupid."
Wong says that while issuing a formal apology was the honourable thing to do, he can't help but feel it was only an attempt by Adidas to divorce itself from the controversy.
Wong says he would be more convinced if the company contributed profits from the brand to a cause that raises some sort of awareness around race.
No word on whether Adidas will follow that course. NOW's calls were not returned.
But while the shoe is off the shelf, pairs are still available for sale on eBay, where they're going for $380 (U.S.) compared to their original $250 (U.S.) price tag. Inintended or not, the shoe looks like it's destined for collector's-item status.
Talk about a rebel sell.
If there's any solace to be found in all this, it's that little boys in China were spared the indignity of stitching caricatures of themselves into this shoe for Third World wages. These kicks were made in Indonesia.