No Biting Allowed

That’s what the sign on the door used to say…. but the way things are going, it seems as though everyone is doing the complete opposite.

So whutcha sayin’ ― there’s no such thing as originality? Nope – just that “No Biting Allowed” is supposedly hip hop’s first tenet. For vandals, biting someone’s styles or letters is some never-forgive action. And b-boys have nothing but disdain for those that imitate the moves of others.

So why is it no thang in music and the sneaker game? Cuz both are big business – and whatever sells is sure to inspire copycats. Art and (break)dance are not commodities – that’s why you don’t get paid – so originality and props are your motivation. Sneaker companies, though, are motivated by the bottom line: munne. And so, popular styles are doomed to be copied ad naseum.

Skateboarding/lifestyle shoes have made a cottage industry of this. Skate-shoe wearers (they aren’t skateboarders any more than someone wearing AF1s is automatically a baller) and extreme sport enthusiasts believe that they are being individuals and non-conformists by rocking DCs, I-Paths et al. Those cats prefer these skate brands to anything the mainstream has to offer.

The irony lies in the fact that most skate shoes are unsubtle knockoffs of old Nike designs. Every skate company existing has a Dunk-knockoff, and just recently I noticed an I-Path Dunkesque joint covered in an elephant-skin design.

Gee, wonder where I’ve seen that before? (Jordan IIIs, non-knowers) But they’re not alone – I can recall DCs modeled after Trainer Is, and another in the Dunk mold with a Jordan I colorway (white/red/black). And let’s not forget the Eric Koston signature, which has bit, in various incarnations, the adidas Stan Smith (both in perforated striping and tongue-embossed portrait) and Jordans (MJ’s number 23, for those who don’t live on earth).

But it’s not just skate companies that are guilty of these crimes. Reebok should be ashamed of themselves for putting out an AF1 bite, EVEN if that model was originally released in ’82 – but not as ashamed as the cats whut rock them. adidas is trying hard to prove they’re not lame – but things like the whole a3 technology don’t help. Am I the only one who sees this as an obvious bite of Nike’s Shox? It bears a striking resemblance at the least – and let us not forget that it trailed the originator by a large margin.

Of course, Nike is no innocent here, either. In the U.K., Stan Smiths – especially the velcro versions – are remarkably popular. So naturally, Nike put out its own white tennis shoes, replete with velcro straps and perforated swoosh. In fact, I believe every shoe company has a “Stan” (Smith, that is) – a casual tennis shoe with perforated logo on the side.

And how could I forget Phat Farm, whose horrific bastardization of the venerable adidas Shelltoe is, even now, proliferating like mice on Viagra across the continent. Of course, I don’t hold fashion labels to the same standard as athletic brands. Shoes are secondary for them, and given the trendiness of fashion it’s inevitable that hot styles get rehashed. DKNY and Fubu are just a couple that consistently bring thinly-disguised knockoffs of popular joints to an over-crowded market.

But I will not put down those bargain-brand “Air” sneakers – the modern day equivalent of skippies. These shoes are modeled after several different companies’ designs, depending on what’s out at the time. I have seen “Air” versions of 95 air max, Jordan XIIIs, Jordan XIIs, And 1s, air max CBs and Jordan IXs. If all you can afford is a pair of those, you certainly shouldn’t be judged on them, especially kids. Cuz moms somehow always gravitate towards skips. It’s when you can afford to know better – but don’t – that equates to a lack of taste.

I haven’t even mentioned the No. 1 culprit (in my mind), yet: BAPE (or A Bathing Ape) and their infamous BAPE-STARs. How can a company so shamelessly put out a sneaker that is a clone of the AF1? While the materials and colorways are certainly eye-catching, the inherent bite behind the BAPE STARs itself makes them the ultimate fashion victim.

It’s true that we live in post-modern era, where nothing is new and everything has been done before. But that doesn’t mean we should reward those that blatantly bite others. Strive for originality, or at least something not everyone else is rocking. Because the key to originality is to be yourself ― hopefully someone who still believes there’s no biting allowed.

Rick Kang

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