Uh oh. Nike’s wearing the Black Hat again.
This fall, the apparel giant plans to unveil a limited-edition sneaker, the LeBron X, that will retail for $315. The shoe, replete with gold-plated swooshes, will be equipped with an electronic component capable of measuring vertical leap and attractiveness to the sex of the wearer’s choosing. All in all, a pretty high-tech affair for the foot. Some, like the National Urban League, are particularly outraged at the sneaker giant for being so irresponsible as to release a shoe so expensive. Others, like myself, kinda just shrug and wonder what the big deal is.
Should people spend that much money on a pair of sneakers? It’s hard to say; such arguments leave us on the merry-go-round of what constitutes a worthwhile use of money. I can go out on a courageous limb and say that it’s probably not a good idea to buy $315 shoes (or a car or a house) if you can’t afford such things. If you can? Knock yourself out. Or don’t. You’re good either way.
Beyond that, I find myself puzzled by the harangues against the LeBron X. Is it because they’re footwear? I mean, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christian Loboutin and countless others make shoes well north of $315 and have for longer than Nike has been in existence. Is it because they’re sneakers and these individuals see sneakers as the provenance of the proletariat? For the better part of twenty years—and particularly in the past ten—sneakers have become boutique and collection-worthy. The LeBron X is just another in a long line of unique, hard-to-get, limited-edition sneakers that fans and collectors alike covet. That “limited edition” part is important, as the regular edition of the sneaker costs an expensive, but (sadly) not outrageous, $175.
But…but…Nike has a responsibility!
Word? So Nike has a responsibility to make money and make sure knuckleheads don’t waste their money on things they can’t afford/don’t need? So, Nike is suddenly our kinfolk and them? And let’s not equate this to screwing consumers: This isn’t oil or health care or education: This is about a basketball shoe that no human on planet Earth needs in any conceivable way.
But Nike is preying upon the weak. They’re irresponsible for releasing a shoe that will whip people into a frenzy and cause them to waste money!
That’s the thing that bugs me about those protesting a bit too much. While I understand finding such prices repugnant, demanding that an apparel company be more responsible with its price points is mildly ludicrous.
But people look up to Nike!
Right. A business that engaged/engages in some tawdry business. A luxury business that derives power from whatever value the consumer assigns to it. Nike is a golem of our own creation, so when we rail against them in this manner, we often shirk much of our responsibility and cede much of our power. It is tantamount to saying
“We have lost so much control to you, Nike, that it is your responsibility to save us from ourselves. No; we can’t voice our disapproval by taking our money elsewhere. You, Nike, must stop the madness.”
Why are we launching into impassioned polemics about a luxury company’s responsibility when we would likely be better served by placing the onus on ourselves to be financially responsible?
Nike is going to be Nike. They, and many other companies like them, have dedicated Marketing departments that are paid handsomely to influence consumers. It is a job they do well as none of us can say we are beyond any and all persuasion.
Still, their power is not without limit. A consumer still has power and the vote they cast with their wallet is likely more influential than any they will with a ballot. Juggernauts though they are, corporations are rather more like sequoias than mountains. They are rarely swayed by the winds of protest, but rather, by the gales of unmet profit margins and poor quarterly reports.
“$315? Nah, I’m all set. Nike gonna have to do better than that.”
All power to the people.
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