Sneaker Counterculture: Sleek vs. Rugged (Part 1)

I love athletic shoe branding.

I am presently thinking of what sneakers to buy, and it reminds me of how much branding plays into my decision-making.

Out of the last…let’s see…10 pairs of sneakers or rubber shoes I’ve obtained (most I bought over the last 5 years, but 2 were gifts): 2 must have been Puma, 3 were Nike, 2 were adidas, 1 pair of Vans, 1 pair of New Balance rubber shoes, and 1 (which weren’t supposed to be for me), were from Urban Outfitters.  My favorite ones would be: a Nike Total 90 pair from 2005, black velcro Nike Air Jordans and a purple-and-yellow pair of Vans which I bought at a secondhand shop.

I don’t know how other people decide on sneakers/ rubber shoes, but, for me, it’s quite a complex process — the first step being what overall “look” or “feel” you’re trying to go for.  This is closely linked to what occassions you would wear it too and manufacturer style and branding.  And then, there would, of course be, factoring in the fit of the shoe into your present wardrobe, shoe price and its make or durability.

Right now, I am about to buy a new pair because the Urban Outfitter ones, sadly, did not last so long.  And, as much as people might not want to admit it, branding, or what exactly the product says about you and how it would make you feel, probably makes up 75% of that decision.

Take Puma, for example.  Whenever I walk into a Puma store, I acknowledge that it’s a sport lifestyle brand.  They make high-performance shoes (the trainers I bought in 2006 were sturdy and practical), but mostly they’re for, well, looking sleek about town.

What grabs me the most about Puma are two things — the way they name their shoes (I bought Ferrari “Speedcats” largely because I thought it would sound really cool saying to myself that my shoes were called “Speedcat”.  And were associated with Ferrari and had soles that were like tough tire treads), and the tongue-in-cheek tags they put on all of their merchandise tags and packaging.  The humor isn’t even really reflected in the store styling, nor inherent in their products — To get to the fun branding, you really have to purchase.

I’ll continue with the other brands some other time.  For now, I’ll just post images of Puma’s packaging copy.

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