Nike is awesome, and we talk about them a lot. They’ve collaborated with artists and designers to produce everything from apparel to architecture installations (their global director of design actually majored in architecture). That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. Last year, the company out-awesomed itself when it came out in support of gay and lesbian athletes in a major way, releasing sick-looking, geo-specific shoes and hosting a summit to abolish homophobia in sports that coincided with pride month. And even though that was just last year, so much has changed.
Jason Collins came out. Robbie Rogers came out, moved to LA, and played a game of soccer. These events along with Nike’s support of out sports people feel like enormous news. It’s easy for that enormity to overshadow the fact that Nike still makes shoes. For pride month this year they have updated the #BETRUE campaign by doing what they do best: making great shoes. Shoes that look great, but are also built for performance, and shoes that you can buy without having to exercise your credit card all the way to Portland, San Francisco or New York.
Last year, the city-specific shoe strategy made perfect sense. The shoe designs for the gay athletic community were all about communities, and as such you could go to each of the three cities to buy the shoes. This year, Nike expanded the #BETRUE tribe by making the shoes available online. And I do mean tribe. The design of the shoes prominently features the spectrum wrapping around the heel of the shoe while a monochromatic tribal print surrounds the rest of the foot. The tribe motif is also part of the flip-flops and apparel, which led the newnownext blog to ask if the tribal print was “some secret lesbian code?” It’s not. The detail wasn’t that surprising since tribal prints are showing up a lot of places, and it makes sense when you’re designing a shoe that’s about a group of people who have something in common.
It’s a shift of focus from place to people. All the while, Nike is taking very visible steps (it’s hard to miss those shoes) onto turf where it seems few are currently willing to venture. But if they’re nervous stepping up to the plate, it isn’t apparent.