There are some areas of sneaker culture where the generation gap isn’t much more than a crack in the sidewalk.
Take the silhouettes that are considered undisputed, all- time classics. It doesn’t really matter if someone has been replacing their favorite pair since 1981, or is discovering it for the first time, because the appeal transcends that particular boundary.
There are other areas of sneaker culture though, where the generation gap opens up to proportions rivaling the Marianas Trench. One of these areas is the role of athletics, as it relates to how shoes are consumed and appreciated by the public. It used to be that sneakers were more or less a direct offshoot of sports fandom and participation. Sure, there were certain, long established styles out there that were seemingly standard issue for casual wear, but the interest in and adoption of specialty performance footwear as fashion, that came from sports.
This wasn’t just a state of mind, the entire apparatus of marketing and selling sneakers was geared towards the athletic arena. Buying a pair of shoes involved heading to your nearest sporting goods store. New models touted their revolutionary performance features, and their supreme levels of comfort. (If the official slogan of the groundbreaking Reebok Pump was “Pump it up,” the unofficial slogan of parents across the country was “shoes don’t make you play basketball any better.”) Obviously aesthetics played an integral part, even back then, but the design considerations were still part of an overall package of looking good and feeling good.
So, what’s the point of this stroll down memory lane? It’s that seeing these technological marvels reincarnated as retro is always something of a culture shock. Add in the modern shift towards fashion as the primary lens through which footwear is viewed, and the original context of the shoe recedes even further.
That brings us to the present day, and the revival of the “chunky” runner.
From a purely visual perspective, the appeal of these shoes lies in the extra bold, outré sense of style that defined the 90s, from the post Cold War Day-Glo optimism of the early 90s, to the ‘XTREME’ middle of the decade, and finally, to the turn of the millennium futurism that capped things off. But if you’re only looking at a surface level, one shoe is as good as the next. At the risk of sounding like of those PSAs tacked onto the end of 90s cartoons, you need to appreciate what’s on the inside.
With its wavy build, substantial midsole, miniaturized branding, and mesh/leather upper construction Reebok’s Daytona DMX has the aggressive performance look of the era down pat, but the feature that sent people running to stores was the new, DMX cushioning. An interconnected series of chambers that allowed air to travel between them, in response to the movement of the foot, DMX was something that had to be felt firsthand, not just seen, to be grasped fully. That’s why the shoe’s original ad tagline was “are you DMXperienced.”
The odds are, in 2018, you’re not looking to the Daytona DMX to put in those early morning miles. That’s fine. Just remember, the next time you’re thinking about how that chunky sole would be the perfect accompaniment to a pair of baggy track pants, that you’ll never have to think about how the shoe is going to feel, because all that chunk houses the end result of countless hours of research and development, dedicated to the ultimate in state of the art cushioning.
Talent | Jenny (@jennylaflame) & Alex (@yobynp)