The athletic apparel behemoth is releasing a new version of its SB Dunk Low, a popular casual shoe. It is black and tan-colored. And since we're getting close to Saint Paddy's Day, the shoe has a nickname that is apparently beer-inspired - the Black and Tan.The whole thing is wonderful and strange. First off, the idea of doing a beer-inspired athletic shoe is psychedelic. I have to think that the local beer culture seeped into the Nike campus and infected the minds of the shoe designers there. But that's not all: Nike has a version of the shoe with a tie-in to Guinness. It is, predictably, black, brown, and head-colored (what, beige?). The ultimate in cross-marketing, pulling in beer drinkers, sporty types, and holiday celebrants. Throw in March Madness and you've got the superfecta. I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed. (Actually, I think they're pretty righteous sneaks. "Righteous sneaks"--is that what the kids still call them?)
Brian Boyd [of the Irish Times]: "It has certain historical associations. The Black and Tans were a ruthless auxiliary force of the British army before we became independent in the 1920s. They were responsible for wide-scale massacres, butchering of people. You would not - we don't even - for example, in the U.S. you may go into a bar and asked for a drink called a Black and Tan."
By the way, while I would fault Nike for being boneheaded enough to let this shoe go out without having done a Google search to find out if "black and tan" meant what they thought it meant, I am going to exonerate them on the following point, voiced by that Irish Times reporter:
It's how the Americans view Saint Patrick's Day and view Irish culture and history. And it's the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body.Look, Americans are culpable for an almost infinite number of sins of ignorance against other countries. We regularly insult vast swathes of the globe and should be held to account. But we get to celebrate St. Patrick's Day however we wish. St. Patrick's Day is now, as celebrated in America, fully American. Every culture gets mangled when it comes into the American melting pot, but that is our culture--a hodgepodge of reinterpreted traditions from around the world. So no dice on the you're-doing-it-wrong argument.