Once, we wore footwear to protect our feet from the hostile influences of our natural environment. But with the replacement of our natural environment by a world of design, the function of our footwear changed along.
From a purely functional piece of clothing, the shoe became a desirable aesthetic object and a status symbol. Many people (at least in the western part of the world) believe that he shoes you wear, kind of make you who you are…
IT’S REALLY HARD TO WALK IN A SINGLE WOMAN’S SHOES – THAT’S WHY YOU SOMETIMES NEED REALLY SPECIAL SHOES! – Carrie, Sex and the City
If that’s true, than shoes are important symbols in our production cycle of meanings. They are Reality Machines. Maybe this goes a little extra for sportshoes, or sneakers as you wish. In itself, sports should be seen as a significant co-effect of Next Nature: with the replacement of our natural environment with an artificial environment, old patterns (like a hunter/ gatherer lifestyle and physical labour) disappear while others (like division of labour and division of work and leisure) emerge. Sport is behaviour designed to cope with an important consequence of our designed environment: less physical excercise. But for now, that let’s not go to deep into that. Let’s get back to sneakers.
Sport as a Next Nature spinoff
While ‘normal’ shoes can be seen as part of our designed environment (or ‘culturally emerged nature’, what is basically the most proper definition for Next Nature), ‘sport’ shoes are predominantly designed as a reaction to (the side effects of) this designed environment and should be understood likewise. Sport shoes don’t really protect you from a hostile environment, as sportclubs and gyms can hardly be called that way. More than that, they make you run faster and excercise more comfortable so that you don’t hurt your spine when you’re jogging in the park. So in essence, they protect you against protecting yourself from the side effects of your environment!
But it gets even more complex. In our post-Fordist society, physical exercise becomes a leisure activity instead of a daily routine. And with that comes the appreciation of sports and sportswear aesthetics, resulting in many brands targeting sportswear not at sportsmen, but at the cool kids on the block. Again, your shoes make you who you are.
WE TRAVEL ON GRAVEL, DIRT ROAD OR STREET /
I WEAR MY ADIDAS WHEN I ROCK THE BEAT
– My Adidas, Run DMC
My AR Adidas
Now, Hiphops’ favourite sneaker brand takes things one step further, buying into one of the technology trends of this time; Adidas Originals is launching the first Augmented Reality experience in footwear. Their shoes are not longer only a status symbol for the cool kids, but are becoming an essential element in the creation of an urban life-style and all the symbols that go along with that.
“The foundation of augmented reality lies in adding a layer to the real world,” says Chris Barbour, head of digital marketing for Adidas Originals. “That’s what we have done. We have taken a real world item and added a fantastic virtual world on top of that”.
The adidas Originals AR Game Pack is a set of 5 shoes, each printed with an AR code on the tongue. When you hold the code in front of your webcam, you’ll gain access to a virtual version of the adidas Originals Neighborhood.
“We are not trying to mimic a real-world look, we have a more stylized, pop-up book creative approach,” says Barbour. “The neighborhood is displayed on a two dimensional computer screen, but you can use your shoe to control the angle and depth of view and zoom in and out, giving a 3-D sense of perspective.”
From Natural Environment™ to Brand Environment™
Over the next few months, Adidas plans to introduce three augmented reality games developed by game developer xForm into the virtual neighborhood. The sneakers will then serve not only as the key to get in, but also act as the controller for the games. Among those available will be a skateboard game, where the sneaker acts as the controller to navigate the virtual city’s alleys, a Star Wars-like game with the sneaker and a music-based game. The shoes with the augmented reality codes will cost between $65 and $95 and will be available starting February.
It seems that shoe wear evolved from a somewhat one dimensional protection from our natural environment to the creation of a complex symbolic environment. This is a beautiful symbol for Next Nature Thinking; ‘the environment’ has shifted from something that is fixed and has to be dealt with (The Born), to something that is constantly being produced and reproduced (The Made). Or simply put: natural environment becomes brand environment. Now where are my wooden shoes? I’m in for a walk in the dreadful dutch rain!