Black History Month sneakers have been a huge event for the sneaker community since 2005. It all started with Nike releasing their Air Force One celebrating African American Culture. Fourteen years later it’s been pretty commonplace for both Nike and Adidas to release BHM collections every February. Before we go any further, let me say as an African American I think it’s amazing to have these large brands celebrating Black heritage. But I do have one question…has it been executed correctly?
There has been much commercial success with Black History Month sneaker releases, and I must admit there have been some pretty nice silhouettes throughout the years ( I clearly wrote about the 2012 BHM Air Force One a week ago). But (I know there’s always a but), how much thought was actually put into these sneakers? Every year we get some variation of the same design or colorway (Black & White, Black & Gold, Red/Black/Green). I have to say that the Kente cloth designs on everything is getting old; I don’t see a story just lazy designing and planning. These packs seem to have become a way to capitalize on the consumers’ connection with Black History Month. Let’s be perfectly honest, would those “Equality” Jordan 1 Mids have flown off shelves without the “BHM” logo attached? I’ll assume your answer is no.
Another perfect example of the lack of thought comes from Adidas. As most sneakerheads and normal consumers may have heard, the brand has come under a bit of fire as of late. This bad press came from the preview of the Black History Month version of the UltraBoost for 2019. This sneaker sported an all-white upper with insole branding reading “CBC” (Celebrating Black Culture). I’m sure you’ve already seen the social media backlash (It wasn’t good for them at all). This backlash led to the brand canceling the release. Now my personal issue is that we have at least five versions of triple-white UltraBoosts to choose from. So why in the world would this be time for a new one? This level of laziness irritates me. The assumption that you can associate Black History Month with anything and make a dollar off the culture.
At this point, I’m sure I have readers who agree with me and others that don’t, but that’s the beauty of the sneaker community.
Now that I’ve pointed out the flaws of these releases, let me offer a solution. Why don’t brands take their sponsored athletes, who are Black, and let them design sneakers and apparel that represent inclusion, progression, and historical moments in their history. A lot of these athletes inspire people of color and this could be a perfect time to use their platform in an uplifting way. Heck, I think the “I Promise” LeBron 16 should have been a Black History Month sneaker release. It showcased an amazing moment for a Black athlete and the Black community. All I ask is that brands don’t take this moment for granted, this is a perfect time to use your brand to inspire a large community.