The unsung hero of kicksology is indisputably the shoebox. More often than not its purpose is overlooked and worst still forgotten. It is accused further of hampering displays, incarcerating its contents and consuming space with little aesthetic reward. But this should all be forgotten and never dared to be mentioned again for what else is as capable to preserve and protect a sneaker better than a shoe box?
Since 1972 the Nike shoebox as a piece of design has changed little in style, size and colour. The formula up till the 1990’s had been a two-piece box comprising of a 6-panelled cardboard container and lid painted orange with Nike plastered on 5 out of the 6 panels. Post 1998 with the increased exposure of sneaker collecting the boxes used heavier and more sophisticated cardboard with additional extras of a beige/ orange and beige colourway paired with air holes for carrying purposes and the all important tighter lid seal. Those taking notice in the sneaker community were vocal in their appreciation of these latest minor developments. Much to their abhor and astonishment Nike were not finished just yet. The first two major releases to radically reinvent the shoebox aesthetic were the Nike Shox and the Air Jordan XVII’s. With the Shox it was the first time that Nike had moved away from the orange and beige colourway by decorating a larger than normal box in green, aqua and blue. The Air Jordan XVII’s on the other hand wanted nothing to do with the tradition of a shoe box thus starting afresh with a silver briefcase, investment banking style. Unforeseeably the reception of these changes was cold. A complete turnaround from the sneaker communities positive feedback of 1998. Thus since 2002 Nike has nearly always used a faithfully modernised version of the 1998 style.
It would seem that the future of the shoebox will always hold true to that wise old saying ‘if it isn’t broken then don’t fix it’. This is simply not and cannot be the case. The current approach of thinking about the shoebox is too anaesthetic and scientific, too concerned and overprotective over its function rather than its identity. Why cannot it be treated to like a record sleeve? An album record is no dissimilar to a particular sneaker release in that both are new products and concepts illustrative of new ways of playing music or designing shoes. Yet where the record sleeve has its own unique album art to distinguishing it from any other album, a new sneaker release is doomed to be hidden within the same box like its predecessors with only a sticky label to distinguish it from the crowd. The shoebox should be reflective of what it contains. This is not a radical way of thinking. After all it was once the case when you bought a pair of Nike Air Force One’s you got a complimentary poster that was a graphic illustration of what that specific shoe stood for. If the poster is gone then why cannot we have that poster plastered on our box? It is really an empty canvass that is waiting to be explored fully. I can even add that artist collaborations with certain models of sneakers never fail to drum up excitement. What is required is their artistic input should not be limited purely to the designing of the sneaker but should be visible on both sneaker and box.