15 Highly Unconventional Sneaker Designs


From their modest beginnings as a rubberized alternative to hard-soled shoes at the turn of the century, sneakers have become big business: Companies are in a race for consumer dollars, and their increasingly elaborate designs have helped transform the category from a practical apparel business to a bonafide art form. As in any medium, some of it can be a little abstract. Check out 15 of the weirdest sneakers you’ll ever lace up.

1. Converse CT Thong Sandal

Who among us hasn’t been able to decide between a sporty sneaker and a beach-ready flip-flop? Converse introduced this hybrid circa 2011 for those who need some ankle support while lounging. A similar design, the Converse Gladiator, features a zipper for anyone who feels weird tying a pair of sandals.

2. Adidas Originals JS Bones


Adidas isn’t kidding when it comes to their line of Originals: You are not going to go unnoticed when sporting a pair of trainers that look like they came from the closet of Pebbles Flintstone. The bones are made of plastic, but that probably won’t stop your dog from destroying them.

3. Dada Code M

Possibly the only shoe to ever receive a review from, Dada’s 2007 kicks were engineered with a built-in speaker system and MP3 player.  The power button is located on the right tongue; the shoes also offer a wireless headphone option. The tech world’s biggest complaint with this “loudsneaker”? Not enough storage space.

4. Reebok Insta Pump Fury


Produced in Japan as a tie-in product for the popular anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Insta Pump Fury was designed to resemble the Tachikoma droid character from the show. The shoe company worked in collaboration with MegaHouse Toys for the release, which was successful enough to warrant a few follow-ups. Sadly, they’re only available in Asia.

5. Adidas SpringBlade


People on pogo sticks look silly. So why not take the benefits of spring-loaded locomotion and transfer it to a sneaker? The shoe debuted in 2013, promising to offer a bouncy heel and better cushioning; later models confined the springs to the rear. Runner’s World once took them out for a spin. Their verdict? Comfortable, but taxing: Each shoe weighs roughly 12 ounces.

6. Converse CT Clear

What’s the point of owning SpongeBob socks if no one sees them? Converse did novelty footwear a favor by introducing their Clear Chuck Taylors, which were made of plastic, in 2008.

7. Nike Dunk High Pro SB Papa Bear

Produced in conjunction with the Bearbrick toy line of Japan, the Papa Bears are part of Nike’s “three bears” line, each sporting distinctive colors and a furry exterior. Buyers who liked the layout but didn’t want their feet to look like the floor of a hunting lodge eventually got an “Un Papa” version, with the fur switched out for suede.

8. Saucony Shadow 5000 “Burger” Shoe

Inspired by fast food, Saucony’s burger shoe comes in a sparse, takeout-style box. The sneaker itself is designed to resemble a hamburger, with red (ketchup), tan (bun), yellow (mustard), and green (lettuce) colors, and the laces come in condiment packaging.

9. Nike Footscape Hideout

There’s a lot going on with this thing, so bear with us. Originally released with woven stitching that made it resemble a bit of a Frankenshoe, Nike and design firm Hideout then tweaked the edition so it took on the Livestrong color scheme while maintaining the horse hair exterior.

10. Onitsuka Tiger Okatabi

While the five-toed Vibrams caught most of the “What on God’s earth…” press upon release, Onitsuka was quietly cornering the lobster-claw market. The Tiger line is modeled after the Japanese tabi athletic shoes of the 1950s. Laugh if off if you like, but Shigeki Tanaka won the 1951 Boston Marathon in a pair.  

11. Adidas Originals Tassled Golf Sneaker


Feeling fancy? Or like one sneaker tongue isn’t enough for your next golf outing or job interview? These Adidas feature three tongues capped off by tassels. It’s like having a holiday party on your feet 365 days a year.

12. Nike Air Baked Mid

Sneakers can be a poor choice for winter wear—unless you grabbed a box of Nike’s fur-lined offering back in 2009. They were part of the company’s Matagi imprint, named after Japanese winter hunters who capture prey like serows (a goat-antelope mammal) without modern weapons.

13. Adidas Wings

Kevin Wu, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Too subtle? Consider the glow-in-the-dark version. Then consider going to a lot of raves.

14. Camper Himalayan

Designed by Bernard Willhelm, the Campers have become a fashion must for trendy urbanites. For the rest of us, it’s a bold choice, and one that makes the Adidas Wings look like a pair of Crocs.

15. Adidas Originals Teddy Bear


Getting beat in a pick-up game of basketball is bad enough, but imagine your opponent tears it up while two teddy bears are strapped to his feet and taunting you. Originally released in pink and brown back in 2010, the latter now goes for $1500 on the collector’s market.  

Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year

The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]


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