The Kaiser Does Vans

In aiming to be hip, Vans has aligned itself with an octogenarian. Cool

Vans X KL teeBy Mao Shan Wang

The one thing that caught my attention and that I find intriguing in this latest Vans collaboration is one woman’s T-shirt. It has the up-to-the-torso photograph—although pixilated, still discernible—of the brand’s collaborator: Karl Lagerfeld.

This is not a symbol of the divine. It isn’t Jeremy Scott’s Jesus pants. Yet, the image calls out to me like some tua pek kong. This isn’t the traditional celebrity that we know; this is a force of fashion: narcissistic, omnipresent, inexplicable. Yet, it is Kaiser Karl reduced to a T-shirt, hilariously called the “Boyfriend Tee”! What would he look like in tumble dry mode?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Mr Lagerfeld deserves to be worshipped as much as Elvis Presley and Mickey Mouse. Except that one would expect the customers of Vans—girls in high school or in junior high, according to Dabney Lee, Vans senior director of global merchandising—to be worship-wearing the visage of Justin Bieber or Harry Styles or, if they like them a wee bit older, Nick Jonas. Or, if fashion icons are imperative, then the cartoon delineation of Karl Lagerfeld, now available in his own Karl Lagerfeld line.

Vans X KL sneaksThe main draw, I suspect, of the Vans X Karl Lagerfeld collaboration is the shoes. These are classic Vans, six of them, such as the Classic Slip-On, given a KL makeover. It is perhaps interesting to note that Mr Lagerfeld may not have had a hand in designing any of these kicks. According to the Vans senior footwear designer, “Working in close partnership, our teams designed the collection to reflect the unique histories of our respective brands.” And she went on to say something about “a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion DNA.”

Now, to me, this is the tricky part: Karl Lagerfeld’s own design DNA includes bouclé and quilting? Has Chanel been scratched out of the picture? What appears to be most true to his DNA is the all-caps KARL (with the man’s profile worked into the K) that peeks from between the flaps of the new Old Skool Laceless Platform. That’s DNA, legible and unadulterated.

But, who am I to say? I know the man not.

Vans X Karl Lagerfeld collection is available at Vans, ION Orchard from today. Photos: Vans

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Adidas Originals Goes Nude

Is adidas Originals’s latest collaboration a little belated?

It’s one tone close to the shade of our skin—unless you’re especially swarthy—and in that unmistakable vegetable-tanned leather: it’s Hender Scheme. Now, Japan’s premium sneaker maker has paired with adidas Originals to reprise three of the German sneaker maker’s most iconic shoes: MicroPacer, NMD R1 and Superstar.

Hender Scheme’s Ryo Kashiwazaki has divided sneakerheads with his creations even before this latest collab, when, in 2010, he created some of his favourite kicks strip-down the barest form, all constructed by hand. In particular, his take on Nike’s Air Force 1 high tops caught the fashion sneaker world’s attention. Some people call him a rip-off. Hender Scheme labels it Homage.

For the present salute to adidas Originals’s instantly recognizable styles, released worldwide on 1 September, Sneakerfreakermag calls it a “high-class overhaul”. We don’t see a real revamp with these shoes, but the high-end feel of the make is indisputable. But we’re not sure if these are any longer a class of their own when so many shoe brands have released—in homage, too?—their own take of footwear in unblemished, supposedly un-dyed leather.

MicropacerHender Scheme X Adidas Originals Micropacer

NMD R1Hender Scheme X Adidas Originals NMD R1

SuperstarHender Scheme X Adidas Originals Superstar

Truth be told, we have never tried the Hender Scheme, but we have taken into consideration online complaints (such as this one) that these shoes, spared of the tech used in their original versions, are not terribly comfortable to wear. It is, thus, not outrageous to compare them to raw denim jeans. You probably need some time (months?) to break into them. What struck us is the weight of the shoes. They’re by no means as light as the originals they are based on.

But to most, the deterrent could be in the pricing. These reiterations are sold at more than USD$900 a pop!

So do they, therefore, come with adidas Originals’s sole technology? Hender Scheme is known for complete handwork using very old-school methods of shoe-making. And Adidas won’t say if any of their technologies are incorporated into the collaboration. Looking at the collab’s NMD R1, it seems that it does not sit atop Adidas’s Boost sole.

Despite these shortcomings, shoe freaks are not going to miss the chance to cop one of these, even if only to re-sell them on e-Bay later.

Hender Scheme X Adidas Originals is available at Club 21. Photo: Adidas Originals

Cooking Aid For Feet!

When is a jelly mold not a jelly mold? When it’s a toe mount on Nike Air Force 1 dreamed up by Comme des Garçons 

CDG X Nike Air Force 1

By Shu Xie

I don’t know about you, but I am a little averse to anything with reference to food placed on my feet, or on ground level. Maybe it has everything to do with my mom telling me when I was a kid that although food does come from the earth, there’s no reason to serve it so close to the ground unless I wanted to make friends with germs. Now, germs were a real childhood fear: they kill, or worse, retard growth. I was told that once germs invaded my body, I won’t be able to grow up. What could be more frightening than that? I did not, I should add, have Google search to help dispel that fear.

Fast forward to the present, that fear has turned to dread. Although I am, seriously, not a hypochondriac, and I have, by most accounts, grown up, I still wouldn’t consume food or use a cooking/eating implement that has come near feet or grazed the ground. So, sneakers topped with what appears to be jelly molds—held in place by rivets—are just on the side of disconcerting.

We are, however, living in a time when things can be “re-purposed”, also known by those more enterprising than me as life hacks. When the design team at Comme des Garçons looked at silicon jelly molds, they probably weren’t thinking of the konjac jelly they could cast. The dinosaur shapes are, in their mind, the perfect crown to the Air Force I’s toe box.

I wonder how, in these shoes, does the wearer navigate a crowded MRT train? What becomes of these shaped silicone caps when an unseeing fellow commuter steps on them? Can they be popped back to shape? What does a flattened dinosaur jelly mold look like on the top of a shoe? A squashed agar-agar?

This is not the first time Comme des Garçons added something superfluous and wacky to the top of a Nike classic. As part of the Emoji collection for Holiday 2016, the Air Force 1 sported a band with the heart-smileys of Play stretched across the lacing. Can you imagine Air Force 1 wearer Mark Wahlberg shod in them sneaks secured with a strip of emojis?

Actually, Comme des Garçons did not restrict these dinosaur jelly molds to sneakers. They’re fastened to shirts and jackets, too. Perhaps next to the body, there’s less to fret about floor-level microbes!

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus X Nike Air Force 1 in black or white is available at Dover Street Market Singapore. Photo: Jim Sim

These Fraternal Twins

Onitsuka Tiger X Anrealage

Sometimes it’s more interesting if a pair of shoes is not identical. Sure, you risk making the wanbao headline, wondering if you’ve succumbed to some mental stress, or colleagues and friends speculating that it was still dark when you left your flat in the morning, but with everyone going for the same NMDs or Yeezys, wouldn’t that be a bit of fun?

And fun is, perhaps, the operative word for this Onitsuka Tiger and Anrealage collaboration. This pair (of two styles dropped, both known as ‘Tiger Monte Z’) is touted as the world’s first “augmented reality sneakers”.

Frankly, we’re not sure if AR for sneakers is any use other than some limited visual fun. We tried this pair but weren’t impressed by the AR component enough to download the app required to give it a spin. Somehow, we sense that our relationship with the digital link to the shoe would end up like that of Pokemon Go: no play.

But if you’re intrigued enough, this is how it works. Download the app (a surprising 300MB!), and through the screen of your handphone directed at the shoe (online reports state that only the left side works), the logo of Anrealage “pops”. As this draw your attention, mixed tape of music put together by the Hokkaido band Sakanaction is temporary replacement of your Spotify playlist. Yes, a little low on the excitement factor.

We’re, therefore, more enticed by the unalike uppers of this pair of ‘Tiger Monte Z’. True to Anrealage’s off-centre aesthetic, their kicks with Onitsuka Tiger is a step in the direction of the less ordinary. The sock-like shape with a pronounced tongue could be a truncated, Frankenstein cousin of the Chelsea boot.

What’s a boon to those who like to customize things is the lacing (not required to secure the shoe), which allows one to create any pattern on the gradated perforation. Perfect for boring plane rides?

Onitsuka Tiger X Anrealage ‘Tiger Monte Z’, SGD229, is available at Onitsuka Tiger, Suntec City. Photo: Zhao Xiangji

Yeezy Yucks!

Adidas and Kanye West’s love children, the Yeezy Boost sneakers, may have been an unusual silhouette at launch, but after three versions, it still is a seriously unattractive shoe

Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Creamy White

By Shu Xie

It’s easy to dislike the Yeezy. Well, it’s easy for me. Some things just don’t click at first sight; some things just repel. The Yeezies (Yeezys?) are definitely them. Firstly, I am not a fan of the knitted upper as I like firmer yet supple fabrics, such as leather. Secondly, I do not, with respect to the engineering and design team at Adidas, consider the Boost sole to be terribly original since Nike’s Roshe Run was way ahead with their minimalist, one-piece, no-visible-air-pockets Phylon midsole, as well as the Waffle-inspired outsole, which, according to the latter’s designer Dylan Raasch was meant to be evocative of the stepping stones of a Zen garden. Now, that’s conceptual heft.

From the first, the Yeezy 750 Boost, to the latest, the 350 V2, I have always thought the range to be a bit like footwear for abominable snow creatures. Sure, the 350 has become a hit, but they still look primitive to me. This has nothing to do with the fact that it wants to stand apart from the hi-tech kicks, and bombastic ones too, that the market is flooded with—Adidas boldly thinks it “transcends footwear trends”; this is to do with a form factor that does not make feet look attractive.

The ‘’Cream White’ version (because they can’t decide if it’s cream or white?) of what is officially known as Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design by Kanye West is launched worldwide today. According to media reports, people around the world have been queuing up outside official retailers at least a week ago, with some setting up camp to make the wait bearable. In Singapore, Adidas held an online ballot this past Wednesday and the lucky winners were able to pick up their prized 350 V2 at the adidas Originals store at Pacific Plaza this morning. Not too much to go through for a pair of shoes linked to a rap artiste with a reality-TV-star wife? Or, are they truly capable of inducing a dopamine rush?

I want to be fond of the Yeezy Boost, but it’s like falling in love with the first person you meet on Tinder: hard. None of the three versions has a pull that many other hot sneakers have. No matter from which angle I look at the 350 V2, I can’t see its aesthetic value, even when Adidas call it “classic”. There’s the roundish shape of the top, which, when you look down at it, makes the widest part of your foot appear even wider. Because of the sock-like upper, there’s the tongue that, together with the collar, looks like a truncated proboscis with a concave lip that has gulped down the ankle. And that cryptic code SPLY-350 that, for some reason, is utterly discreet in the ‘Cream White’, but still there, possibly to identify the wearer as belonging to the tribe that is besotted with anything remotely connected with the Life of Pablo. The ‘Cream White’ just looks like footwear that will delight the nursing sorority.

It comes with what Adidas calls “a security feature”: a stripe that runs down the middle that can only been seen in UV light. This, it seems, is to help identify the fakes. Such a measure is enough to make the latest iteration of this low-cut even more desirable, to the point that in Denmark, three days before the official launch, thieves relieved a truck delivering the 350 V2 ‘Cream White’ to a shop its entire content. See, you can deter the copycats, but you can’t stop bandits.

On the SG Adidas site, the announcement is clear: “Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Design by Kanye West Sold Out”. Photo: Adidas

Mad For Mud

PRPS Barracuda jeans

Unless you live in a cave that nature miraculously made free of dirt, you’d know that the dirtier the jeans, the more desirable they are. Despite the scarcity of cave dwellers, people are still amazed that dirty-looking—and actually dirty—jeans are available to buy. And expensive to boot.

Nordstrom, the American department store that dropped Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, was thrown into the filthy path of Twitter ridicule yesterday when shoppers spotted a pair of USD450 muddy ‘Barracuda’ jeans at shop.nordstrom.com and could not believe what they saw, particularly the accompanying price tag. A Twitter storm broke out (although the jeans have been on sale for quite a while), with one Tweet describing the five-pocket “perfect jeans for men who work corporate office jobs but still haven’t given up on their dreams of being a cowboy”.

Even news channels weighed in, with CNN declaring “dirty denim is the new black” and The Washington Post stating that “a few people with jobs that involve getting ‘down and dirty’ are pretty miffed”. They’re even joining the fun across the Atlantic, with the BBC informing us that Nordstrom was “castigated” for peddling those “mud-coated jeans”.

But making what we wear look like they have survived BMT field camp during the rainy season is not really new. Back in 2014, Adidas tried something dirty when they released a pair of sneakers—the ZX 750—with Japanese graphic/fashion designer Kazuki Kuraishi (under the label KZK ZX 750 RG 84-Lab) simply called “Mud”.

Adidas ZX 750 MudTo make the soiling really obvious, Adidas had the effect created on an all-white ZX 750. While no wet earthy matter was used, the effect was rather realistic and jokey enough that, for many sneakerheads, justified the asking price of USD175. Here is a pair of shoes you would not wear into anybody’s house without incurring the displeasure of the host. But those who bought a pair consider the sneakers a terrific joke. Let them think you’ve been running through a Kranji farm when, in fact, you have been cruising on your moped.

The humour and the tease are terrific—fashion is not always a lover of wit (and you didn’t think the Japanese have a funny side). But on the Barracuda jeans, by the New York denim label PRPS—founded by former Nike designer Donwan Harrell, the muddy stains seem too serious, too desirous to mimic what Nordstrom calls “Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action”. If you check PRPS’s offerings, they’ve made dirty and immensely soiled jeans a signature, closely reflecting their marketing tag “Bruised, Never Broken”—torn is equally favoured as muddy.

That Nordstrom got the flak rather than PRPS is a reflection of social media’s disposition for knee-jerk reactions: I see; I can’t stand it; I shoot. The Adidas ZX 750 ‘Mud’ did not get such a reception. In fact, by most reports, the soil-stuck soles were a hit and were sold out in no time. The Barracuda was criticised because most see it as an insincere attempt at replicating worn, bespattered clothes the result of much toil and grime for wealthy consumers who have never had to slog and be dirtied their entire life. This is clean, manufactured muck. Both sneaker and jeans are not coated with real mud; they’re all bluff.

Photos: Nordstrom and Adidas respectively

Is Puma Doing A Chanel?

If Nike can be inspired by the Bao Bao, it’s not so outrageous that Puma is equally influenced by Chanel. Interestingly, both brands take their design cue from bags. In the case of Puma, the Clyde Dressed Part Deux sneaker seems to take after Chanel’s 2.55 bag, so named because it was in February of 1955 that the bag was released.

Now that Chanel’s first bag (actually, the 2.55 was modified in 1954 from an earlier version that came out in 1929) is no longer restricted to women of a certain age and associated with a certain refinement that reigned 60 odd years ago, people are using the distinctive bag as they like, anyway they like. And since the 2.55 is as likely paired with a pair of heels as sneakers, Puma’s Clyde, now available as Dressed Part Deux, is quilted to play its part.

Puma must have known the potential of the upper of the new Clyde: the diamond-shaped pattern, complete with running stitch that resembles Chanel’s, which, apparently (no one is really certain), was inspired by the riding coats of jockeys (Coco Chanel was a fan of horse racing). Although Puma’s quilted upper could be a deception of personality, many women are indeed enticed by the leather surface treatment that is associated with one of France’s most storied couture houses.

Although Chanel makes the occasional sneaker, theirs aren’t exactly kicks women weaned on the likes of the Boost are inclined to wear.  The Clyde is, according to Puma’s own telling, born of the request by the ’70s basketball star Walt “Clyde” Frazier, who had asked for a custom-made pair in suede. Puma obliged. Like so many classic court shoes now brought back to life, the Clyde is given a fashion makeover—presently called “Dressed”, no doubt underscoring it’s likely life outside the court. It seems that the Puma Clyde Dressed Part Deux and Chanel 2.55 are a match made in heaven.

Puma Clyde Dressed Part Deux, SGD170 is available at Puma dealers. Photo: Puma

Nike Goes Luxe

It’s about time

Air Max 90 Royal

For too long, luxury brands have barged into sports shoes territory by outputting their own take of popular sneaker styles. Right now, we’re thinking of the persistent intruder Louis Vuitton. Then there are designers who put their spin on their favourite kicks under the invitation of sports brands. We’re thinking of Riccardo Tisci and Olivier Rousteing, both giving Nike shoes a makeover—the Air Force 1 and Free Mercurial Flyknit X respectively, just two among other styles that both have worked on.

Now, Nike’s fighting back. Last year, for Air Max day (which, this year, fell on 26th March, three days ago, with the campaign tag “kiss my airs”), the world’s most popular shoe brand released an Air Max 1 dubbed ‘Royal’ that sneakerheads were quick to call the most luxurious ever while the media hailed it a “stellar release”. Then, five months later, came the Air Safari, also given the Royal treatment. SOTD did not get to see the Royals until the end of last year, when we came face to face with the Air Max 90 Royal, not once but twice—in London, at Dover Street Market and Footpatrol.

As the name suggests, Royals receive a rather regal treatment when it comes to materials and finishes. Supple suede, as the main upper, is a material of choice and here, Nike made it one-tone (the Swoosh and other branding look embossed). This is further enhanced with leather details that truly augment the built’s premium feel and look.  Indeed, the Air Max 90 has never looked this fine.

Air Max 90 Royal Pic 2

The softness of the suede somehow tones down an otherwise hunky shoe, so much so that the normally thick tongue is now a thin skin that sits very comfortably atop the foot—even when you’re sockless. The typical padding of the Air Max 90 seems reduced too, which makes the Royal version rather streamlined. But more unique (and the pull is clearly here) is the quadrilateral that frames the visible air sole near the heels: it’s now in a piece of leather that goes right under the outer sole, sitting firmly among the grips. Perhaps because of this, the Royal is a tad heavier than even the leather versions: 6 grams more.

A piece of leather is also slipped between the upper and the midsole, forming a corridor, on top of which the quadrilateral sits and is top-stitched. The natural tan of both immediately brings to mind Hender Scheme’s take of sneaker classics, such as Nike’s very own Air Presto, in which designer Ryo Kashiwazaki re-imagines the world’s favourite kicks in hand-crafted, natural and unstained leather. The irony of this is not lost: even a giant such as Nike cannot escape the influence of the indie-shoe maker.

That Nike would forge a path alongside luxury brands is not surprising. Through the years, they have been releasing shoes that go beyond the USD200 threshold, culminating in the self-lacing HperAdapt, which was sold at USD720—not counting what you’ll find on eBay. In fact, since the introduction of NikeLab in 2014 (with only a few boutique-like stores around the world—last count six), Nike has been offering “exclusives” way beyond their typical price points. Sure, all eyes are on the Nikelab VaporMax—launched 3 days ago—but that being completely new is, as expected, sold out. The Air Max 90 is the most elegant in the Air Max family and a luxurious version is always welcome.

Nike Air Max 90 Royal Cool Grey, SGD359, is available at Limited Edn Vault, 313@Sommerset. Photos: Chin Boh Kay

They Do Feel Like Socks

Nike Sock Dart SE Premium

Which came first: the sock or the shoe? Fashion historians don’t always agree on that one. Problem is, early shoes, by appearance alone, could be deemed socks since they were basically a piece of fabric (mostly from pelt) used to wrap the feet. But since the enfolded hide may not be comfortable, they were stuffed with grass. The grass (presumably as dry as hay), to historians, could, therefore, be considered socks, which means, there is the possibility that shoes and socks came concurrently. If that were so, why couldn’t one dispense with the other by making footwear as durable as a shoe and as comfortable as a sock?

In the field of modern sneaker design, this conundrum has constantly interested and inspired sneaker makers since the ’70s. As one of many stories goes, the co-founder and serial innovator of Nike, Bill Bowerman, was on a mission to create a sock on a sole for athletes who suffered from blisters wearing the company’s stitched and seamed shoes. That led to the Sock Racer of 1985—an unusual sheath of a sneaker that was strapped down on the outer arch of the foot. There was, unsurprisingly, no stopping the evolution of that concept, and soon the Air Flow (1988), Air Huarache (1991) and Air Presto (2000) came out successively with much success.

The latest sock-sneaker to join the family of slip-ons at Nike is the Sock Dart. This is, however, not a new shoe; it first appeared in 2004, in six colourways, with virtually no hype about its strengths. It is not clear if the fist-gen Sock Dart was a success, and many now think it was not since the strange-looking shoe was discontinued. Then came 2014, when a limited-edition version was released as collaboration between the newly conceived Nikelab and Fragment Design’s Hiroshi Fujiwara. Nikelab, a new entity of parent Nike, basically creates fashionable styles of both footwear and apparel based on current or previous design ideas; it must distinguish itself from the main line with quality and the ability to set trends.

How did Hiroshi Fujiwara get himself involved in this? According to the story that circulated around the time of the re-imagined shoe’s launch in 2004, it was Mr Fujiwara who prodded Nike’s design master Tinker Hatfield to consider reworking the Sock Racer’s form factor into a new shoe. At that time, Mr Hatfield was reportedly exploring the possibility of a born-again Air Presto, as well as developing a circular knit construction for shoe uppers that were similar to socks (apparently, a prototype emerged that was based on a real sock). The latter, as we now know, is the Flyknit.

Nike Sock Dart SE Premium pic 2

When both sneaker gurus were pouring over the Air Presto—as early as 2000, Mr Fujiwara was presented a sample of the Sock Dart. As followers of game-changing sneaker fashion will know, Mr Fujiwara has quite a weakness for shoes with not terribly conventional, feet-flattering shapes. His enthusiastic reaction to the Sock Dart was probably enough for Mr Hatfield to consider the shoe’s post-Yeezy appeal and potential. This is, admittedly, speculation since we don’t know Nike was aware of Adidas’s design plans with Kanye West.

We will also not shy away from acknowledging that we did not immediately take a shine to the Sock Dart when it first appeared. At our initial encounter with the shoe in Tokyo in 2015, we thought that it was a little too formless and broad, a bit too low-tech, too orthopedic, in fact—which meant that we could not ignore its geek leaning. Truth be told, we were a little too preoccupied with the Air Max Zero, that unborn older sibling of Air Max 1 belatedly delivered that same year.

We met the Sock Dart again last year in the Sneaker Space of Dover Street Market in London. This time, the meeting was totally amiable.  The Sock Dart was a version that came suffixed with “SE Premium”. Despite its better-grade branding, this still looks like what we came across a year earlier. But now, the “sock-like mesh upper”—as Nike calls it, rather than the similar Flyknit—was a two-tone weave not unlike an Oxford cloth. That, paired with the speckled midsole, makes this Sock Dart especially appealing and an ideal companion to jeans. The oddness, this time, oddly just didn’t look so odd.

Once the feet went inside, the comfort level was indisputable. However, they felt like socks rather than fit like socks. Like regular sneakers, there was room between toes and the mesh, which wasn’t such a bad idea since the lack of snugness meant the feet could enjoy natural motion, and you might forget you’re wearing shoes. If you need the Sock Dart to be secure (for running, for instance), you can adjust the perforated silicone forefoot strap by pushing the small nubs on the bottom piece against any of the holes. With no lacing needed, this sneaker is always ready to be slipped into and go. Who does not appreciate such ease?

The Sock Dart SE Premium is unusual and quite unlike other Nike footwear such as the Air Jordan in its lack of blaring branding. The Swoosh does not appear as a massive smile along its sides, not even in the rear. Instead, Nike’s trademark is but a tiny tone-on-tone tick at the base of the forefoot strap and a little lick in white at the top of the tongue. To those unfamiliar with the Sock Dart, you could be wearing a pair of Muji shoes!

The Nike Sock Dart SE Premium, SGD225, is available at select Nike stores, as well as nike.com. Photo: A.B. Tan

NMD Madness: Time To Forget The Stan Smith

Adidas NMDSeen on a commuter on the MRT: Mastermind Japan X Adidas NMD XR1

By Shu Xie

Two weeks ago, in London’s JD Sports on Oxford Street, an unprecedented scene was witness by a friend who was holidaying in the city. Unprecedented because he has not seen anything like this in Singapore. Perhaps, as he conceded, he has not been in the right place, at the right time. There, at one of London’s biggest sporting goods stores, a group of Asian shoppers (possibly tourists; Thais and Taiwanese among them) were crowding a wall of adidas Originals NMD sneakers. “Jostling” was how he described the bunch, and “not a Caucasian among them”.

Just outside that group, a saleswoman with a stack of immediately identifiable blue boxes (seven, according to him) beside her was shouting out shoe sizes with the desperate hope that whoever had asked for them would come forward to claim the prize. The responsive ones were quick to grab their object of desire. At that precise spot, they would immediately try on the shoes, either standing or squatting. “There was not a bench or even a stool around,” my friend revealed, with no attempt at concealing his disapproval. “You know, I refused to pay £120 for a pair of sneaks and to feel I was shopping in a pasar—and this was no Borough Market!”

NMD Primeknit Tri Color.jpgAdidas NMD R1 Primeknit ‘Tri-Color’ Pack

 

Only yesterday, at Seek in Ion Orchard, I saw two guys asking for the NMD. I didn’t hear the first part of their request, but the sales guy’s response was audible: a vehement, nothing-more-to-say “sold out.” Will you be re-stocking, came the desperate rejoinder. “We don’t know. Adidas controls the releases. Our stock sold out within 30 minutes they were in the store.” So, it’s not available in Singapore, one of the shoppers plead-asked. “I don’t think you can find it anywhere here. Even if you were to buy at the Adidas shop, you would have to ballot for it first.”

At the time of this writing, the ballot is closed. The Adidas Singapore website was of no help: a line “There are no products matching the selection” was the response to an earlier search for the NMD.

nmd-xri-camo

One of the most sort-after the NMDs, the XR1 ‘Duck Camo’, released on Black Friday last year

 

Two days earlier, between 313@Sommerset and HMV on Grange Road, I saw a transaction between two fellows who looked like they would be sitting for their ‘A’ Levels this year. The object of the exchange was a pair that looked like an NMD XR1 in black. As soon as the recipient examined the shoes (that was when I saw them) and was satisfied with the pair, he handed cash to the seller, who, in the presence of pedestrians, immediately counted the notes: there were 11 pieces of fifty dollars. At online sneaker re-seller Saint Singapore, the cheapest pair of NMD is S$299 (the R1 Mesh Charcoal Grey), while the dearest, S$1,299 (R1 in collaboration with the street wear label Bape).

There’s no denying the NMD’s popularity. When you walk down any busy street and see a group of guys (women, too, in fact), chances are, you’ll see all of them in NMDs. Herd mentality of course, since many young consumers of sneakers approach the purchase of their on-trend pair the way many once grabbed the Stan Smith: ardently and indiscriminately. The NMD’s standing in today’s important kicks is further born out when Zara recently issued their version with nary an attempt to disguise it as anything else. Theirs came more than a year late, but who’s taking notes?

nmd-x-mastermindTotally high in demand (and sold-out) was the collaboration with Mastermind launched last year. On E-Bay, a pair can be had for as high as USD1,399 

What’s with Asia’s obsession with the NMD? I am not really sure, just as I can’t be certain why so many on the continent are mad about Gucci’s appliquéd denim jackets, but I shall hazard a guess. The NMD is sort of a follow-up to the wildly successful Ultra Boost (and the cousin the Yeezy Boost), a new silhouette in 2015, when it was considered something different from Adidas in a long time. The NMD, according to media reports at the time it emerged, is based on three of the brand’s old-time sneaks: the Boston Super, the Micropacer, and the Rising Star. Just as one assumed a retro style will materialise, Adidas launched a slightly minimalist, not quite bombastic shoe that is not dripping with pre-disco-era styling.

The NMD—an abbreviation of ‘Nomad’ but no allusion to a really itinerant existence—is also not marketed as a serious sports shoe, cashing in on the fact that most of the sneakers we own have not been put through the rigours of court or track. It’s a light and airy shoe, which is more and more preferred than the clunk of, say, the Superstar. This is especially appealing in Southeast Asia where the weather has been more on the side of searing. In addition, as street style is the dominant force in today’s fashionscape, the NMD, particularly the blacks, appeal to those who are weaned on the likes of brands such as Off-White.

nmd-x-bedwinAnother impossible-to-get style, the R1 conceived in collaboration with Bedwin & the Heartbreakers last year

Launched at the end of 2015, the NMD basically comes in two styles (if the less-seen City Sock version is not included) that are causing temperatures to rise and wallets to empty out: the R1 with the brand’s unmissable three stripes and the XR1 with the triangular frame on the side that holds the eyelets. The NMD is built on what Adidas calls Boost technology, essentially a micro-engineered sole that’s touted to be durable and shock resistant: a territory and look that the more critical could trace to Nike’s Roshe Run.

Personally, I prefer the XR1, maybe because of its lack of obvious parallel-lines branding. In fact, the all-black versions could be mistaken for pairs from a Y3 store. Sneakerheads are looking forward to the R2, the not-unexpected follow-up to what for some is the most successful sneaker style of 2016. I’m keen to see that version interpreted by White Mountaineering (first shown at the label’s SS 2017 show in Paris last June), more so after missing out on Masafumi Watanabe’s spiffy pin-stripe version for Bedwin & the Heartbreakers last year. The Japanese just know how to take something current and make it better.

Product photos: Adidas