The Boston Renaissance Pt. 2
Carving Out New Hype
If New Balance is Leonardo, their Massachusetts compatriot Saucony is Donatello. Though name-recognition is there for Donatello, most people don’t truly appreciate how masterful a sculptor (or ninja turtle) he was. While Leonardo had the fame and multiple pursuits to his name, Donatello perfected classical sculpture; molding, carving, and casting gorgeous figures and scenes in stone, bronze, wood, clay, stucco, and even wax. Similarly, Saucony has mastered all things running, with their Originals team carving out a loyal niché following in the affordable runner/lifestyle lane. The past few months have seen Saucony Originals reinvigoration of their base. Saucony has been neck-deep in their archives and this deep-dive into the past has netted us returns of the Azura, Aya, and GRID Web OG. These releases have all come through Saucony’s masterful ability to retool, yet still recapture the 80’s & 90’s vibes the colorways of the three reissues have brought forth.
As with their cross-city competitor, Saucony managed to team up with some collaborative partners to make each reissue, along with a few current favorites, really jump off the shelves. For the Azura Saucony tapped hometown buddy Bodega who managed to create a black, red, and purple theme colorway dubbed “Lucky 13”. In a special “fans only” release, Bodega and Saucony released a very limited number of pairs at an in-store release in Boston. Blue denim, white mesh, over grey vegan suede, accented by orange hits helped to keep Bleu de Paname Azura ST subtle yet distinct. This limited Europe release brought overseas love to the Azura relaunch while highlighting Saucony’s new global brand strategy. Speaking of hiatus’, the Originals team was able to tap Ronnie Fieg and Kith to revamp the GRID Web. The Queens native opted for a minimalist summer vibe opting to accent two GRID Webs in summery orange and neon lime/yellow hits.
Although the focus for Saucony Originals in 2019 seems to be resurrecting abandoned models, that hasn’t stopped them from rekindling more current models like the Shadow 6000 model in OG purple/grey and navy/grey iterations. Revamps to the Jazz and Shadow Original included subtle colorways like Cream/Corsair and bold camouflage. These styles are consistently popular with Saucony faithful’s while offering affordability as well. A mid-May surprise restock of the “Summer Nights” Grid SD served as a friendly gift to those who missed out on the original release. However the main showcases of Saucony Original’s talents arrived with the creation of the “Saucamole – Avocado Toast” Shadow 6000 and their Summer collaboration with Sneaker Politics and Café Du Monde Shadow 5000’s. The 6000 dropped to much fanfare, garnering an insane amount of social media buzz and even several mentions in television spots including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Bright avocado green draped over brown leather and a pepper flake insole made this shoe an unforgettable hit. The start of summer was highlighted by Derek Curry & company’s duo of beignet inspired Shadow 5000’s. Draped in brown and white uppers and sporting a translucent green sole, the two Café Du Monde encouraged silhouettes caused a Nola’ sized stir on release day. Sneaker Politics, Café Du Monde, and the O’s bros perfected everything on this release from the green and white striped insoles to the beignet mix themed shoe box. .
Originals work over the past few months has been nothing less than impressive, making even the most particular sneaker enthusiast question when and why they ever forgot about the running centric brand. Saucony’s lifestyle team is very Donatello-esque in their ability to weave rich and cultured stories behind each of their creations. Want a sneaker based on a burger, drive-in, or pumpkin spice? Saucony Originals has got you. Relatability of themes has been largely overlooked by other brands. Luxury or city-based themes or collaborations will always have a strong lane, but ultimately kids in Missouri or Kansas may relate more to a food-themed shoe than the most-recent Versace crossover or New York-inspired story. Originals has consistently catered to the niché lanes in the sneaker community garnering a following by relying heavily on shocking colorways inspired by universally appreciated anecdotes. Their greatness from 2018 until now has evolved into a consistent theme of appreciation for the unappreciated.
Out of the Shadows
In 2017, unbeknownst to most sneaker enthusiasts, Reebok headquarters uprooted from Canton, Mass and moved south to the heart of Boston. While Reebok has long been a worldwide recognizable brand in foot and athletic wear, the last few years have seen the long-suffering British upstart fall somewhat far from the public eye considering parent brand, Adidas’ newfound light. But while the brand found new footing in Boston, it also was pursuing a redefinition of its place in the market. Like Michelangelo in 1505, Reebok is attempting to recreate itself in a big way.
Collaborative and celebrity partnerships are key to mainstream popularity and while Reebok has courted and snagged several big names like Beyonce, Future, and Rae Sremmund their biggest successes have come from the most unexpected partnerships. Enter Pyer Moss. With a string of successful launches, fashion designer Kerby Jean-Raymond teamed up with the Boston-transplant to release a series of capsules, including several new footwear silhouettes. Utilizing the DMX technology, Kerby’s rendition of the DMX Run offered simple black and white silhouettes adorned by a swath of criss-crossing lacing options. Next Jean-Raymond tackled the DMX Daytona, utilizing the various panels to offer three suede and nubuck rich “Experiment” models. Finally, The Pyer Moss team created a shoe dubbed the “Mobius Experiment” that offered shark teeth reminiscent wrap-around paneling on a basketball-esque silhouette. The Pyer Moss partnership has elevated Reebok’s status in a considerable way. Not only does Jean-Raymond’s brand add an element of cool to the Reebok name, but their pairing has done what Nike and Reebok parent-brand Adidas have widely been criticized for not doing; lacking creative diversity and minority representation at high levels within the brands.
While public hype has not reached the level of New Balance or Saucony for 2019, Reebok has released some compelling and awe-inspired footwear in the last few months which shows the brands promise and strength. Similar to other brands, Reebok has pulled out catalogs from the past to pull at the heartstrings of the Bok Faithful. The first notable resurrection was the Reebok Aztrek. Reebok teamed up with Japanese retailer Have a Good Time as well Packer Shoes to offer premium materials on two collaborative releases to help punch up their in-line offerings. Although the collaborative releases helped elevate the popularity of the General Release Aztreks, there seemed to be little to no need for the upgrades as the retro-colorways with their traditional 90’s reminiscent inspired colors to stimulate much hype on their own. Other silhouettes reintroduced and rekindled included the Instapump Fury, brought back in it’s OG colorway as well as in a few new colorway iterations, and the Club C, which saw a high quality OG-reminiscent collaboration with design greats JJJJound and a bright blue and green suede iteration with Pleasures. Reebok dug up the Aliens movie-based Alien Stomper for the films 40th Anniversary. Aside from Pyer Moss’s silhouettes, Reebok welcomed back the DMX technology across a broad strip of models including new running and lifestyle silhouettes. Their most recent DMX embrace occurred with lifetime endorsee Allen Iverson and newly minted menswear Rockstar Eric Emanuel in a reworking of the Iverson Answer V for Complexcon 2019. Additional collaborations came with Vetements and KANGHYUK, bringing upscale materials and new takes on existing Reebok shapes.
Reebok’s constant lane-changing can seem frustrating to the uninvested enthusiast. While numerous collectors proclaim to be “Bok Boys” during moments when the brand experiences an mainstream upswing of appeal, there generally is a sort of hit or miss feel to most of their releases. However, Reebok has the capability of finding brilliance in unexpected places. Their big success lies in their ability to take chances where other brands play it safe. Outside the box sneaker collaborations and reintroducing niché hits is Reebok’s forte. While big brother Adidas seemed content running the ultraboost and NMD silhouettes into the ground, Reebok was throwing out Ventilators, new takes on the Reebok Classic, and pairing new materials to the Club C and Workout. Thoughtfully pairing with not just the hottest designers but also the most outspoken and thoughtful ones helped spark a cultural reverberation within the brand. Reebok’s frenetic approach to sneaker releases may seem half-assed or undirected, but it’s not boring and safe. Their willingness to jump out of the window for a new project has long been underappreciated, but for 2019 it’s helping bring Boston to life.
Written by: David Blackmon