Adidas and Allbirds Sneaker Collaboration Reveals the Ugly Truth About Sustainable Fashion

Sneakers, sneakers, runners, pancakes… whatever you want to call them, they are an essential part not only of modern sport, but also of modern fashion. The sneaker culture has never been so dynamic or pervasive, and the competition between the major sportswear brands of the world Nikes and New sales of the world – is fierce.

One of the latest frontiers when it comes to sneakers is durability. Making sneakers is an extremely CO2-hungry process, and sneakers don’t last as long as other clothing before they need to be thrown out, especially if you’re an athlete.

“Globally, nearly 24 billion shoes are produced each year, 90% of them likely to be thrown away within 12 months. That’s nearly 22 billion pairs of shoes each year, ”says Juney Lee, speaker, designer, researcher and marathoner.

RELATED: The Looming ‘Environmental Catastrophe’ is a Big Issue for the Running Shoe Industry

So when we heard the news that the German sportswear giant Adidas is associated with a sustainable sneaker brand Allbirds on a collaborative sneaker that claims to have “the lowest carbon footprint ever”, we were thrilled. Until we saw what it looked like.

the FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT is the first performance shoe from Adidas and Allbirds that produces less than 3 kg of CO2e per pair to manufacture – 2.94 kg of CO2e to be exact. While this is technically impressive, and without a doubt a comfortable sneaker to wear or run, we can’t help but feel that it looks a bit… Same-y. Some might even call it ugly.

And that’s a big deal.

Sustainable fashion often falls into the trap of not being fashionable. Concrete example, hemp shirts: they have been around for ages, they are really comfortable and they are good for the planet. But they usually make you look like a hippie that’s why you can’t see the Pradas and Louis Vuittons of the world that makes haute couture hemp.

RELATED: Why Your Gucci T-Shirt Could Be Greener Than Your Recycled Hemp T-Shirt

Aesthetics are especially important when it comes to sneakers because – perhaps counterintuitively – most people buy sneakers almost entirely on aesthetics as opposed to comfort. Take the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star. It’s a design that is over a hundred years old; they are nowhere near as comfortable or practical as modern sneakers. Yet, they remain incredibly popular because people love the way they look. People buy Vans despite being just as uncomfortable and not planning to skate with them. And when was the last time you saw someone play basketball with a pair of Air Jordan 1s?

All of this to say that there is no point in having the most eco-friendly sneakers in the world if you can’t inspire people to put them on.

And that’s the problem. The FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT has put all of its bullets on durability and apparently none on style. Indeed, the only real aesthetic touch – the printed logos and the 2.94kg CO2e graphic on the midsole – is arguably what really ruins it. This makes them generic; a little late, actually. Take it off, and you’ll probably save even more CO2, as well as improve the design… Even then, it’s a boring sneaker.

Nike Space Hippie Collection. Almost entirely made from recycled materials, these extravagant sneakers don’t try to hide the fact that they’re durable – they made them an aesthetic selling point. Image: sneakernews.com

Boredom is bad. You want people to be excited about a collaboration like this, rather than turned off. It’s weird because the existing Allbirds sneakers, like their Tree Dashers or classic Wool runners, are very beautiful shoes with impressive environmental good faith. They are both distinctive and stylish, unlike FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT, without compromising their core mission of sustainability.

Ironically, the worst part about them is that they probably aren’t ugly sufficient. Nike’s ultra-durable Space hippie The sneaker collection, for example, may not be for everyone – but at least it’s distinctive. They take advantage of their recycled construction and make it an aesthetic selling point. FUTURECRAFT.FOOTPRINT, on the other hand, don’t make enough noise and don’t look normal enough to convince normal buyers to give them a chance.

RELATED: From Ugly to Awesome: Nike’s ‘Pandemic Proof’ Sneaker Is a Touch of Genius

Maybe we are just too cynical. If you look Allbird Instagram, you’ll see a lot of love for the new sneakers – some people think they at least look good. On top of that, they’re still just a proof of concept, so there’s a good chance they’ll refine the aesthetics of the shoe before it hits the market.

We just hope that Adidas and Allbirds choose a stronger aesthetic direction with them. Either go completely ugly or avoid completely ugly. We love the vision, but when there are so many eco-friendly sneakers on the market, we feel like these aren’t pretty enough that we can bite the bullet… yet.

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