When Big Tobacco and the Sneaker Industry Collide

Everyone is familiar with the company “Nike” at this point, and I am sure you have heard your fair share of controversial opinions regarding their fair-trade practices, as well as other minor disputes through the company’s history. Another big company I’m sure you are all familiar with is “Newport Tobacco.” A couple things that both of these companies have in common include their questionable morals, marketing strategies, and mass appeal.With these notions in mind, one artist named Ari Saal decided to design a sneaker that represented these two companies. Upon the sneaker’s introduction, Saal states, “This sneaker is dedicated to the two brands who have taken the most, and given the least.” The shoe Saal designed was called the “Nike Menthol 10.” The sneaker embodies a pretty standard Nike shoe design, but the swoosh is flipped upside down, which is where Saal incorporated the Newport logo into his design. The best part of the shoe is not even on the shoe itself, it’s the fact that the box the shoes come in is literally a scaled up version of a pack of Newport cigarettes.

When Ari Saal set out to design the shoe, he had no intention or expectation of producing more than a few thousand, and he was not doing it for the money. Saal simply wanted to make a statement against two major companies that employ what some may consider to be malicious methods in pushing their products. Right after Saal released the shoes, Nike and Newport both found out, and neither were happy. Both companies went after Saal legally, and assumed he was conspiring to produce many more than he actually was. Nike demanded he stop selling them immediately, and that he “destroy” every remaining pair. The Menthol 10’s immediately became the talk of the sneakerhead community, and they are still almost impossible to acquire. If you try and find a used pair online, you should expect to spend around 10,000 dollars, since there are so few pairs out there.

It is evident that Ari Saal had no desire in profiting off of his design, and definitely lost money after all of the lawsuits he faced. Saal simply wanted to conduct a case study involving two brands he felt were taking advantage of their consumers. His goal was to challenge each company’s morals, and force them to reflect on their practices. Saal never expected either company to be happy with what he was doing. Another goal Saal had was to show the sneakerhead community that sneakers can be worth money, even if they aren’t made by one of the hyped companies. Saal has talked about how he lost his mom to cigarettes, and that he actually despises cigarettes. He refers to the moment on his mother’s deathbed, where she would take off her oxygen mask to continue smoking, as the pinnacle moment that inspired his plan. Ari Saal’s only motive with this shoe was to catalyze a dialogue that would not have otherwise been started. His message is simply to be a conscious consumer, and he executed this message perfectly when he dropped the “Nike Menthol 10’s.”

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Lucas Becker-Lipton

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