words & images // Brian Moughty
4Cent Friday is a weekly design blog on SoleCollector.com written by a member of the 4Cent Design team. Subjects may range from discussing rendering skills to design inspirations, to thoughts and opinions on the state of footwear design as a whole. For more background on 4Cent Design, check our interview here.
First off, I want to say that this isn't meant as a shot at Reebok, or any of the designers behind John Wall's first true signature shoe. I am just stating my opinion.
Now that that's out of the way, Reebok had a perfect set-up. It was big news when they signed the sensation that is John Wall. He's expected by most everyone to be a big star someday. For Reebok, the timing was great, as they had a brand new technology with Zig Tech and were currently revamping their basketball line already. How perfect of a torch pass from Iverson to Wall?
Unfortunately, after seeing initial pics of the proposed John Wall signature shoe, I think they REALLY dropped the ball. This was a huge opportunity for them, and so far it doesn't look like they seized it. They have not been the same powerhouse they were in the basketball market years ago, and with proper direction, they could have made a huge splash, much like Converse did with their initial Wade model.
When I think of a signature shoe, it must stand out from the pack, especially if it is the player's first. This was Reebok's opportunity to showcase Wall with a bang and really introduce him to the shoe world. I know that the industry lately has gone for the safer, more casual look, but like a famous quote that you often hear in the industry, "When they zig, you zag." No pun intended with Zigtech, but this is what Reebok should have done.
By just putting out a safe looking and generic design, it won't capture anyone's attention. John Wall's signature shoe should be something that sticks out on the shelves when a consumer goes into a store and wants to go pick it up and look at it. This one will get lost in the shelves, as it doesn't stand out from the pack. A leap of faith was needed, as risks need to be taken at times. Even with pictures leaking online a bit earlier than is ideal, there has still been no chatter or anticipation for the shoe, which should raise a red flag.
The Question was iconic, during the time of its launch and now more than fifteen years later, but nothing about the Wall comes close. His style of play and personality alone should have been enough of a spark to create something different from the rest. Reebok needs to also show Wall why he chose them. The shoe should be a warning to other shoe companies, instead of a white flag. The hard part should have been signing Wall, capturing a shoe for him is the fun part.
All in all, I don't know if the design was doomed from the start, thanks to politics, management and direction, or maybe someone just didn't push ideas hard enough. This debut shoe though, just doesn't make you excited for his second shoe, and what they will eventually do next. It leaves you with a feeling of "Oh..." instead of a "Woah!"
Because I am clearly not crazy about the first Wall model, I decided to try my take at a John Wall debut shoe. It is just one rough idea, and with more time, of course, I could include even more experimenting. I wanted to really introduce one element that would catch the eye, which would be the floating ankle piece in this case. I wanted to give Wall a bit of a hybrid shoe, with a lower cut than we saw on the at-times restrictive Zig Slash, but then also a molded ankle piece. The rest of the shoe has all clean and simple lines, but there should be a key piece that stands out from other products, and makes people want to pick it up off the shelf. When you take a risk with construction or design, of course, sales could be negatively impacted, but you also give yourself more of a chance to make an impact with a lasting design cue, like the Question toe, or an iconic piece, like the floating heel collar seen here. The goal is to bring Reebok back as a monster in the basketball industry, and perhaps they need to take more chances in design to get there.
Look out for more entries every Friday from my fellow 4Cent Design members, and be sure to check out our site 4CentDesign.com and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. If there are any speciifc topics you'd like us to discuss, please leave some suggestions in the comments section.