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The Release for Nike’s New “Boring” Sneaker Was Anything But

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The brand’s latest red-hot collaboration with Tom Sachs asks an important question: can you balance hype with approachability?

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Nike and artist Tom Sachs have come together for a new collaborative sneaker, and it is boring. Or at least that’s the way both the designer and behemoth sneaker brand described their new General Purpose Sneaker (GPS). In advertisements leading up to the shoe’s release last Friday morning, the shoe was described as boring, and copy suggested “​​your sneakers shouldn’t be the most exciting thing about you.” This, of course, comes from the brand largely responsible for making our sneakers the most exciting, treasure-hunt worthy, and enviable products in our wardrobe. With the release of its new shoe, Nike and Tom Sachs are trying to solve an impossible riddle: can a brand sustain hype and improve accessibility at the same time? It’s likely an impossible puzzle to solve, but the GPS’s release gives us a glimpse at Nike’s tight-rope-walking strategy.

Sachs is already on the Mount Rushmore of hyped-up, highly resellable shoes. His original Mars Yard shoe, released in 2012, sells for an average price of almost $8,600 on StockX. Still, it’s this shoe that he sounds most proud of. The GPS allegedly took 10 years to develop. “It took a decade to make a shoe this simple, as simple as can be and no simpler,” he said via Nike’s website. All-star designer, dramatic backstory, a shoe with every detail tweaked for maximum appeal—the shoe had all the makings of a smash hit in 2022: unobtainable at general release and a supernova on the secondary market. So why did Nike and Sachs attempt to back away from that?

Nike calling itself “boring” feels not entirely dissimilar to Patagonia’s famous “Don’t Buy This Jacket” advertisement. (Nike’s also takes plenty of design cues from Volkswagen’s “Lemon” ad.) For Patagonia, this is a strategy that’s been massively beneficial for the bottom line. When the outdoor brand sued former President Trump, sales went way up. Nike is searching for a similar pivot.

It’s probably not entirely coincidental that Nike and Sachs are releasing “boring” sneakers at this moment. Last fall, Complex reported on a presentation from an internal Nike meeting on frustration around the brand’s SNKRS app, which handles its most hypeful releases. “We are at risk of losing our most sneaker-obsessed consumer,” the presentation said. “High heat, hype is ‘killing the culture’ and consumers are migrating towards New Balance and smaller, independent brands.” Not only did Nike call its new hot shoe boring, but it also focused mostly on showing the shoe worn and dirty—anything but still in the box ready to be easily resold. 

The release of the General Purpose Shoe might serve as Nike’s blueprint for subtly maintaining hype. Pointedly, the shoes did not release on the SNKRS app. Instead, customers were asked to sign up through Sachs’s website and were notified within a half hour if their entry was selected (not all that different from the process on the SNKRS app). Naturally, the shoes went berserk and sold out right away. There have already been 768 sales on StockX, where they are reselling for an average of $573.

The kicker is that after all the pairs were claimed, Sachs promised more were imminent. “The General Purpose Shoe is designed to be a perennial,” he tweeted. “It will be restocked and accessible again, August 2022.” This way Nike and Sachs can have it both ways: a shoe that sells out right away, but with the mirage of accessibility not far off. The shoes are also rumored to be coming out in a second, mustard-y colorway. This way, the shoes will have plenty of chances to vex, excite, and antagonize customers all over again. Anything but boring.

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