Iâ€™m not a political guy. Donâ€™t get me wrong â€“ Iâ€™m against global warming, Iâ€™m all for equality in terms of race, sex, sexual orientation, etc. â€“ but most issues just donâ€™t make it to my attention.
But as a sneakerhead, two political/ethical controversies constantly arise: a) sweatshop manufacturing, and b) expensive-ass prices. Most shoe enthusiasts skate past both, and Iâ€™m usually no different. But you can only profess ignorance and indifference for so long. So whutâ€™s the fuss about?
Sweatshopping (just do it)
Most sneakers cost under $5 to manufacture, and thatâ€™s being generous. Nowadays, almost every sneaker, regardless of brand affiliation, is manufactured in China. Why? Shit is cheaper.
In the â€˜80s, South Korea was the manufacturing hub of the sneaker industry. But as time progressed, the industry (and Korean industrialists) started outsourcing the manufacturing to even-cheaper labour markets in Asia (such as Singapore and Indonesia). When political activists challenged Nike on this, the Swooshâ€™s tepid response was that it was their international manufacturers that were outsourcing work to the cheapest of Asian labour-forces, not the Swoosh themselves. Blame the middle-man every time, yo.
Nike pledged to change its labour-practices, but Iâ€™m skeptical that anything has changed. Now some cats argue, So Whut? Their point: even if itâ€™s pennies an hour, at least now these sweatshop-workers are making money. Without the Swoosh, theyâ€™d be making zero.
The counter: Nike could pay these workers more than the pittance they now receive. Yes, any sum is greater than zero, but that donâ€™t turn pennies into dollars. And, of course, Nike can afford it. Phil Knight and Co. could surely shell out a dollar-an-hour increase with their pocket change. But again, donâ€™t hold yer breath.
My stance? While Nike is certainly culpable for their labour transgressions, Iâ€™m not going to stop buying their product. Nike is just one of the myriad businesses making money off broken backs. Thatâ€™s whut businesses do. Outrage at the Swooshâ€™s practices seems petty in light of the horrendous atrocities committed by industries daily. Get over it, or stop buying sneakers. Shoes are an industry, not an art form.
Why do sneakers cost so much? If making them only costs $5, whereâ€™s the other $150 going? R&D takes its chunk, as well as administrative costs, but over 50% (likely 80%) is spent on marketing. Those sweet Lebron ads donâ€™t make themselves â€“ nor do they show up on expensive television programming without mucho dinero changing hands.
On this front, NBA baller Stephon Marbury has taken matters into his own hands. Teaming up with a local Brooklyn retailer, Steph has lent his name to the Starbury, which sells for a mere $14. He did it for all the kids that aspire to shoes far beyond their means â€“ and especially for their parents. And, putting that NBA money where his mouth his, Marbury also sports them in games.
Me? Shit IS way too expensive â€“ but Iâ€™m a grown-ass man. I can afford it, so I will. And I commend Stephâ€™s gesture, but donâ€™t hold a pair for me. Still, I sympathize with parents whose eyes bug out at the price tags accompanying sneakers today. But I should also add, my folks never bought ME Nikes.
The solution is this: be a smarter shopper. From just one outlet in the greater Toronto area, Iâ€™ve seen niceness such as AF1s, Dunks, air max â€˜87s, â€˜91s and 2K4s, not to mention Hurache 2K4s and AF2s, go for half price or lower. Not just mutant-big sizes either, or crazy-horrible colorways â€“ Iâ€™m talking legitimately nice joints (albeit, with limited sizes).
But if you MUST have the latest Jordans/Lebrons/whatevers, the choice is simple. Save yer money and ante up â€“ or donâ€™t buy â€˜em and shut up.