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Blackspot or No Sweat? A Tale of Two Sneakers

In December of 2003, it came to our attention that Adbusters was planning to sell a Blackspot sneaker that would be made ethically and would feature the anti-brand of a simple black spot rather than a swoosh. Intruiged both by the possibility of a return to ethical shoe manufacture and by the uncanny resemblance between the Blackpost sneaker prototype and the Chuck Taylor All-Star sneaker, we arranged for an interview with Kalle Lasn, who assured us that the Blackspot sneaker was not some kind of cute post-modern joke but an actual product to be coming out in the Spring of 2004.

In the wake of that interview, it was a great surprise to come upon yet another sneaker, looking exactly like the Blackspot sneaker (which looks exactly like the Chuck Taylor). This shoe also went by a catchy name, the No Sweat Sneaker. And yes, this sneaker too was collecting pre-orders and promising to be produced under fair trade conditions in the Spring of 2004.

Well, it's May 14, 2004, and that makes it Accountability Time. Let's check in and see how No Sweat and Blackspot are doing with their quest for the sweat-free sneaker.

The No-Sweat Sneaker

No Sweat Sneakers

This is an actual photo of my new pair of No Sweat sneakers, which arrived in the mail on May 12, 2004. They fit beautifully, feel comfortable to walk in, and have drawn spontaneous compliments from coworkers, friends, and my four-year-old son.

Along with the traditional invoice detailing the cost of the item to me came a decidedly non-traditional invoice. Called a CDLF (complete labor disclosure form), this invoice details the various forms of monetary and non-monetary compensation and union rights afforded to the workers who make the sneaker. Were each sneaker to arrive with such a CDLF, consumers would be able to determine which sneaker was most in line with their ethical standards. Indeed, No Sweat CEO Adam Neiman has challenged Nike CEO Phil Knight to provide the same. Knight, not surprisingly, has demured.

The shoes aren't just available to a web maven like myself. You can grab yourself a pair right here.

Now you have no excuse.


The Blackspot Sneaker

Is there a Blackspot sneaker in production? Apparently not. In March 2004, I received this e-mail:

"Six months of searching in Asia for the right factory to produce the blackspot sneaker have turned up a big zero. None of the recommended "union" shops we checked and visited in Korea, China and Indonesia met our standards for working conditions, shoe quality and overall excellence. We've now given up on Asia, and have reset our sights on Poland and the traditional shoe manufacturing areas of Spain and Portugal.

On the artistic front, an indie shoe company renowned for its cutting edge work is collaborating with us on the blackspot's design and production. They say there's a good chance of being able to use hemp and other earth-friendly materials to make it. Despite delays, the first blackspots should be on sale by September. Stay tuned for more updates in our quest to kick Phil's ass and revolutionize the sneaker industry.

A hot new idea just came from an email saying:

"Blackspot sneakers. What an intriguing idea. A non-brand. An anti-brand. Its own brand. A shoe whose only advertising is the word of mouth of its owners, and the impact of the image of its wearers.

But then, I thought, why stop there? Why be an organization marketing an anti-brand, when it can become so much more than just that? Why not turn blackspot sneakers into an anti-corporation? Fight fire with fire. Make the shoes' owners the company's owners. Whenever someone buys a pair of blackspots, he or she is buying a share in blackspot sneakers. A cooperative. An anti-corporation."

What do you think? Should we sell shares and hold shareholder votes on critical issues of design, production and how to spend the profits?

E-mail us!"

As of the middle of May 2004, the same statement is placed on the Blackspot Sneaker webpage, with no further update available.


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