Shoes as Cultural Icons: Citrus and Neon Colors on the Streets and Athletic Fields

10 October 2012

Lens:

I. Cross Country Tournaments and Invitationals

1. Athletic Shoes, Nikon DSLR, October 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

2. Athletic Shoes, Nikon DSLR, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

3. Athletic Shoes, Nikon DSLR, October 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

4. Athletic Shoes, Nikon DSLR, October 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

5. Athletic Shoes, Nikon DSLR, October 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

6. Athletic Shoes, Nikon DSLR, September 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

II. Store Display

7. Store Display, iPhone 4s, October 2012, © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

8. Store Display, iPhone 4S, © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

9. Store Display, iPhone 4s, © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Let me know which is your favorite.

Pens:

It’s so curious–this proliferation of citrus and neon colors pushing themselves into my visual space. They pop, scurry, prance, leap, pose, decorate, parade. They pump up the  landscape with such pizzazz that it startles. Athletic shoes have become more than attire for sports, they’ve become part of the popular culture and everyday life; they’ve also morphed into a surprising blend of fashionable Pantone colors.

Now athletic shoes are noticeably covered in brilliant hues. Is this addition to the everyday wear a fad? Or will this trend stay, lingering and giving more dazzle to daily life?

While it is natural for females to decorate with bold colors, this tendency is new for males. I remember the first time that I saw a businessman wear a pink tie, which was a distinct splash in unfamiliar territory. Now men’s fashions use all shades of the rainbow.

It’s 2012 and all ages and both genders are strutting color; it’s a commonplace sight. Since I live in a college town, it’s even more evident. Twenty-thousand students wearing unrestrained-colored sneaks through campus and downtown–well, it’s simply invigorating. It’s especially fun, and even comforting to see a seventy-something person displaying  shockingly neon colors.

What really cemented my attention was the proliferation of these sassy colors across my grandson’s cross country meets. High school boys and girls running with shoes that are getting as much attention as their strides. My lens was anxious to record the spirit of the trend. I couldn’t help but keep shooting variations on the theme. All the photographs in the Lens section are images of teenage boys either wearing colorful athletic shoes or ones  waiting to be worn by them.

How does a fad edge its way into the mainstream? What provides staying power? What gave teenage boys permission to don such jazzy colors? It’s a mystery I wanted to solve?

High fashion has sifted its way downward, becoming more available for all of us. It’s no longer just for those who attend the catwalks and buy the next season’s styles. Now we have knock-offs, discount stores and Target (commissioning well-known designers to make a line for their stores and at accessible prices). Then current styles become dotted across cities and towns and the world.

There is little evidence that haute couture pushed itself into the athletic shoe industry. Bold colors have slowly creeped into the mainstream clothing productions for years.

“Footwear Insight,” for Spring 2012. Sept-October 2011 issue

Was the introduction of citrus and neon footwear another ploy by manufacturers to make money? Or was it inevitable that bold hues would move into the mainstream of popular culture? Oh, and boxes stacked into closets of females and males.

Here’s the scoop. The tipping point seems to be the Summer Olympics where Nike cleverly infused the games with its neons. Jolly ol’ England got a blast  of the company’s advertising power–it’s ability to change the playing field (literally).

“Advertising Age,” August 20, 2012

Think of the numbers of viewers that witnessed swaths of Nike’s Volt shoes: a glaring neon yellow against the red field. Some teams were entirely clad with them. While others sparkled as they stood out among traditional shoes. That color choice–a citrus yellow-green–seems the perfect ploy to grab the crowd’s attention. And that’s exactly what happened.

In their September-October 2011 issue Footwear Insight advertised these bouncy colors for spring 2012. Thanks to Martin Lotti, Nike’s global creative director for the Olympics, the Volt was made for 2012 teams to wear: to get that extra splash in the arena.

Nike’s campaign made the switch for consumers a bit more palatable. And with crazy speed the colors were everywhere and with most brands. It is a contagious innovation.

I love that all ages can strut their stuff with real flair; comfortable and stylish shoes have a way of boosting one’s energy, invigorating the soul. Nike’s campaign to incorporate this new fashion across genders was a brilliant strategy for new business and for inclusion.  Everyone can walk with a sense of choice: whether to wear the sedate or the dazzling.

Go multi-colored or two colors with lemony yellow or citrus green or fuchsia pink or Southwest turquoise or orangey tangerine or deep red… And if you are too traditional to make the plunge, you always can add a pair of colorful shoe laces to awaken your quiet footwear.

Athletic shoes are made for function, but they have become cultural icons. They signal a quest for healthy living and a more leisurely lifestyle.

Now you can create a style that is completely individual and yet part of the whole, giving each of us license to say much more with sneaks that we wear on the streets or on the fields.

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of this blog. If you want to read about Pantone colors, click here. This company began in 1962 to serve the cosmetics industry. Now fashion trends are based on the Pantone color choice for each year. In 2012 it was tangerine. They are known as the company that provides color cards for designers, and also create new colors to spice the advertising, clothing, cosmetic, print and various other industries.

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12 Responses to Shoes as Cultural Icons: Citrus and Neon Colors on the Streets and Athletic Fields

  1. marialla says:

    QUITE THE PHENOMENA – THIS COLOUR THING – BUT WE HAVE TO GO SOMEWHERE NEW WITH FASHION. WE’VE PRETTY MUCH EXHAUSTED THE TOP HALF OF THE BODY, WE MAY AS WELL SEE WHAT NEW GROUND WE COULD BREAK WITH THE ABSOLUTE BOTTOM TIP!!!! THANKS FOR THE FUN STUFF YOU PRESENTED!!!

  2. I would have to go with the first – red ones given a choice! 🙂

  3. Northern Narratives says:

    I like the colorful shoes and those pink/black socks.

  4. Nancy Gray says:

    That is so darling, I love them all and the comments that boys and young men are wearing bright colors. Good for them, they might be stuck in dark suits and conservative ties in their work lives for years.

  5. Exciting , vibrant colors . A great way to be inspired to run and be adventurous. Fun post!

  6. A great idea for a blog post. Loved all the colorful shoes. You must have had fun looking for and photographing all of the shoes that make such a bold statement.

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