by Gayatri Kishore AKA Chechi who knows her music in and out and can give anyone a-run for their money. In the class of 2012 at IIM Kozhikode she is the spiritual leader of the republic of chech-oslovakia.
In the epic war of coolness waged amongst branded, unjustifiably expensive sneakers, one name comes out untouchable and irreplaceable, inextricably linked to the mammoth musical movement, whose style, it helped create and define. A basketball shoe which made its appearance in 1969 and a musical revolution that started out on the streets of New York in the 1970s- such were the humble beginnings of the Adidas Superstar (now one of the best-selling sneakers ever) and the multi-billion dollar hip-hop industry.
This marriage made in musical, pop-culture heaven can be traced to the legendary hip-hop group Run DMC. Shedding the extravagant 70s-inspired clothing of their predecessors, a gangly group of young men from Queens, New York, introduced their own unique sound to the world, going against convention by appearing in their regular clothes- jeans and sneakers. The sneakers in question were, of course, Adidas, which they wore without laces and with the tongue sticking out (apparently in homage to American prison garb), sparking a trend that spread like wildfire. The new school of hip-hop which they helped define, eventually catapulted to mainstream success and hurled along with it into public consciousness were the Superstar sneakers, forever linked to its style and sound.
Decades have passed. Run DMC, an inductee into the Rock and Hall of Fame have pretty much faded from public view. But their impact on music and style remains strong to this day. In our own corner of the world, Bollywood songs infused with a potent mix of hip-hop beats top the charts. Look at any hip-hop artist’s work, the boisterous rapping, the socio-political commentary, and the bare, powerful drum beats that serve as the backdrop to the lyrics-these guys created that sound. Even the ubiquitous gold-chain, t-shirt, cap, jeans and white sneakers (almost always Adidas, without laces) look adopted universally by rappers, right down to today’s stars like Lil Wayne and Jay-Z pay homage to a style these guys defined, and which has since then, refused to go out of style. Not only was Run DMC cool, but their style defined cool.
But honestly, what IS ‘cool’-that indescribable, over-used and abused concept / emotion/state-of-mind that everyone aspires to achieve? I really do not know what it is or how it works. But whatever it was about those guys and the music they made, and whatever it was about those shoes, at that moment in space and time, it all clicked. The Gods of Coolness must have been smiling down on them. Because in an era when things stay trendy for what seems like minutes, a forty year old shoe design continues to remain stylish and effortlessly cool. How did this piece of footwear end up becoming a cultural icon? Sure, Nike has the instantly recognizable swoosh and ‘Just Do It’. Also star power and clever marketing in generous doses. But why the Adidas Superstar? Because its appeal transcended clever marketing techniques and awe-inspiring ad campaigns? Because it looked really good? Because it had a chart topping song written about it? Because thousands of fans waved these sneakers in the air during Run DMC concerts? Because it’s fashionable to wear it without laces? Because it’s sportswear and dancewear and club wear and for some, formal wear? I wasn’t too sure until I watched Run DMC being honoured by VH1. I noticed that the artists, who paid tribute by performing the group’s best known works onstage, were wearing white Adidas Superstar sneakers, with no laces and with the tongue sticking out. And slowly, I realised why. These sneakers, for better or worse, defined the music of a generation. And not a lot of shoes can do that.
Watch out for the highlight of the video @3:35